In many divorces, the most heated arguments between parting spouses concern who will have the children. This is as true in Tennessee as it is in any other state. Sadly, a long-lasting and stormy child custody dispute often leaves children with permanent emotional scars.
To address this issue and minimize the effects on children, Tennessee’s judicial system recommends that parents attend child-custody mediation sessions with a court-appointed counselor before they appear for a final hearing before a judge. Any parent seeking child custody should take this mediation seriously because the courts attach considerable importance to a mediator’s recommendations when it comes to making final decisions about a parenting plan.
Considering the importance of this mediation, parents should be thoroughly prepared before they attend mediation, partly because parents are not allowed to bring in extra materials. The need to be clear about desires and concerns becomes paramount.
A parent may also choose to consult a professional adviser or lawyer who can help prepare for the session. In some cases, parents who can let down their guard may find it beneficial to talk to former spouses or partners before mediation sessions to help resolve issues that may affect decision making in the middle of mediation. If both parents can do so by setting aside their feelings about one another, the mediation process has a higher chance of finding a better outcome.
A parent should also remember that reaching an agreement regarding child custody and visitation rights at the mediation table is not mandatory — especially when a parent is not comfortable with the proposed outcome. A parent can also ask for more time to think about the custody plan instead of making a hurried decision. A child’s best interests need to be served in a parenting plan, and a hurried decision may not fulfill that requirement.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Divorce Confidential: Preparing for Child Custody Mediation,” Caroline Choi, May 22, 2014