As you prepare for mediation through the courts, there are a few rules you should be aware of:
- This is not an opportunity to do open warfare on the other parent. You need to focus all of your discussion on how you are going to support the children and the other parent’s (as well as your own) relationship with your children. The mediator/counselor is only there because you have children, therefore, your only job is to help the mediator figure out what is in the best interest in terms of child sharing for your children. When you attack the other parent and do not have proof of what you are attacking them for, you look like an angry kid fighting with the other parent. If you do not have proof, you will not gain respect from the mediator.
- Focus on solutions for your child-sharing issues. If you are struggling with a child-sharing plan, show the mediator how you can offer to share the children to get the children out of the middle. Reassure the counselor that you are mature enough to care for the children without having conflict over them. Conflict, whether it is in front of the children or is in a text or an email is still conflict. It distracts you from being “with” your children 100% of the time you are with them. Be ready in mediation with your proposal to present a fair child sharing plan of action and your reasons why your proposal is reasonable. Explain how your child-sharing plan will help to keep the children out of any conflict between you too and how it supports each parent’s relationship with the children.
- If you have a lot of conflict with the other parent, you will need to offer a child-sharing plan that will reduce as much contact and communication with the other parent as possible. For example, exchanging children before and after school means that there is only one parent picking up or dropping off the children. Eliminating face to face contact is critical so children feel safe during exchange times. Your children often dread exchanges where both parents will be present and both may misbehave in front of their friends or them. For example, do not suggest exchanges occur at ball games, if you know there can be a potential conflictual situation. Sports equipment, team pictures, uniforms and attendance are all huge sources of conflict between parents. Your child will have negative anticipation during this time, because they are worrying about what might happen before, during or after the game, or if they are even going to play or be taken to the game, or if their uniform or equipment will arrive… Eliminate the telephone contact, tighten up the court order to eliminate unnecessary communication that will erupt into warfare between parents.
- Show the Mediator that you are focused on doing everything you can to support the other parent’s relationship with the children. If the other parent is difficult, or has some significant parenting flaws, you still need to support their love and right to be a parent with the children. If your children are truly in danger during that other parent’s time, you will need to work on a proposal for that mediator that includes solutions to protect the children, while supporting the other parent’s relationship with the children.
- There is really only one thing that mediators will absolutely react too when it comes to conflict over the children, and that is when your child is failing in school. If they are truant, frequently absent from school, not turning in school work/homework or have poor grades, (and you can show these issues are totally issues that only occur during the other parent’s time), you may be able to get a child-sharing plan that supports you having more time with the children in order to square away these school failings.
You should attend coparenting courses that teach you new tools to disengage from conflict. Bring your certificate of completion, (I am suggesting my online coparenting courses) and attend individual counseling if it has been recommended, or you believe it will guide you in reducing your reactions to the other parent’s attempts to dismiss you or engage you in the ongoing custody battle. Read Divorce Poison, by Richard Warshak, if you are struggling a parent who is attempting to alienate you from your children. Learn how to stay focused on putting your children first, (which does not include berating the other parent even with significant flaws). It is important to manage your own case outside the court system with help from professionals than it is to keep duking it out in the family court system. You need to be filled with compassion, and at the same time outline your boundaries for behavior that will protect your children from further emotional or physical harm. (High conflict cases need additional help reduce conflict and more skills to strategize new ways to end the conflict besides just mediating).
If you are both at fault for these school issues and you have not worked directly with the teachers to help your children succeed (by getting them tutoring, improving attendance, making sure homework is completed and turned in… )you will also be blamed. You must work very hard to help your children succeed even on the other parent’s time, by figuring out creative ways they can succeed even if they are not with you in your home. If your only goal is to prove the other parent is defective in this area, you are not helping your children and you will be seen a destructive to your children too.
If your only complaints about the other parent are things like, they let the children see inappropriate movies, they let them stay up too late, they let them eat too much sugar, or you complain about the parent choosing to be in a new relationship with another person, you are wasting everyone’s time, because no one can prove these things are really a detriment to the children. They just keep the fight alive. You cannot fix these issues, no matter how angry or tearful you become. There are a lot of things you can do on your time to overcome these frustrating issues, but know that the mediator will have no power and will not be interested in recommending that the other parent shape up according to your standards, even if, in the normal world, parents would be appalled that a child is being raised with these bad choices, the court system doesn’t have the energy or the time to manage the way parents parent.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * These ideas are only small piece of what you should know to prepare for your mediation. If you have a lot of serious issues or yu know that the other parent is in generally a bad role model for the children, you are welcome to contact me and we can specifically look at how to strategize your mediation presentation and your children’s child sharing future.
If you are not in San Diego, you can still meet with me via Skype or telephone. Email me at Doc@DeenaStacer.com or call me at 800-980-0434 to decide what works best for a consultation with me for your case.
To learn more strategies on how to work with a high conflict coparent, take ongoing conflictual coparenting courses online. I look forward to helping you resolve your child sharing complaints and helping you learn how to manage your case so you can end the conflict and mediate your situation effectively.