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As other New Jersey parents who have gone through a divorce can tell you, one of the most important issues you will address is what happens to your children. Regardless of your personal relationship with your future former spouse, you recognize that the children you share need both of you in their lives as much as possible.

When coming to this realization, you gain the ability to avoid a courtroom battle over custody. You could decide together to resolve this matter through mediation instead, which gives you the right to retain control over how you and the other parent continue providing love, security and support to your children well after the divorce is final. 

Should you consider mediation?

Since you and your future ex-spouse are willing to take whatever steps are necessary to lessen the impact of the divorce on your children, the simple answer to this question is yes. Research shows that when couples use this alternative to the courtroom, they tend to adhere to the agreement better since they had a hand in creating it.

Mediation also provides numerous benefits, not the least of which is the fact that it will probably save you money when compared to taking this matter to court. You can address issues such as child support, visitation and parenting time schedules during the process, along with much more. You can also consider so-called “outside the box” resolutions that a court may not have the freedom to do. You and the other parent serve as the architects of what your family will look like post-divorce.

What happens if you refuse mediation or it doesn’t work?

Now that you have decided to use mediation for your child custody matters, you may want to express this intention to the other parent in writing. This gives you the ability to show the court that you were willing to work out a solution outside the courtroom should mediation efforts fail and you end up in court.

If you do not want to participate in mediation, you also need to communicate that to the other parent. You should include your reasons for not wanting to go this route so that the judge understands why you did not want to move forward. Unless the court ordered you to participate in mediation and you refused, which could have significant ramifications for you, refusing to do so does not count against you.

However, that does not mean that the other parent will not attempt to make you look uncooperative or unreasonable in court. You just need to be prepared to respond to these allegations.

What happens if both of you agree to mediation?

If you both want to move forward with mediation, you will attend at least one session with a neutral third party, the mediator, to work toward an agreement. In preparation for your meeting, you would benefit from outlining what you want to see happen, what you may compromise on and what you see as not negotiable.

This gives you, the other parent and the mediator a place to start. Once you come to an agreement, you can present it to the court for approval.