Mediation is ideally suited to resolving child custody and visitation issues. Simply speaking, custody and visitation is not a “one size fits all” issue where a “standard” schedule works best for all concerned. As the needs and circumstances of each child is unique, so to are the solutions for building a custody and visitation schedule that will be ideally suited to the best interests of the children while giving a nod toward the practical realities of modern parenting.
While tensions can get high during a custody mediation session, it always helps to keep the interests of the children the focus of the discussion, and not the emotions or egos of the parties. With both parents working together, it is possible to resolve issues of custody and visitation to enable children to maintain and grow their bond with both parents.
The best interest of the children are not served by parents inflexibly taking a position for example based solely upon a preconceived notion of how much timeshare a parent wants. Many parents, fathers especially, are concerned with paying a larger amount of child support if they do not have their “50%” timeshare and may focus inflexibly on that number rather than what is truly in the best interests of the child. Perhaps the party wanting “50%” works very late on weeknights and the child will be a “latchkey kid” or spend an extraordinary amount of time with a daycare provider rather than with the parent. What good is it to have time with a child for the sake of timeshare but not spend quality time with him or her? Parents keeping the best interests of the children in mind may come up with a custody and visitation arrangement that allows more weekend time for a parent who works very late on weekdays, even though the timeshare is not “50/50.” In reciprocation, the party receiving child support may accept a lower than guideline support order, or may be more flexible with granting the other parent unscheduled weekday visits.
While numbers and timeshares are important for establishing a suitable amount of support, parties should not be driven by an inflexible attachment to them. The negotiation process involves compromise and a willingness to give and take. One party may give on one front only to receive more on another front. In the end, what is in the best interests of the children is the custody and visitation schedule that the parents should settle on.