When Divorce Happens – Does Mediation Work?

Has this ever happened to you or someone you know? The big “D” word. Divorce can be ugly and when children are involved, it takes on a whole new dimension. But does it have to get ugly and expensive? Have you seen situations where one parent carries more of the parenting responsibilities and disciplining children? Perhaps one parent lives in a neighborhood that offers more for the children and working together in the children’s best interests is vital. Maybe one parent believes he or she works harder than the other, so he or she shirks responsibility of transporting kids, helping them with their homework, and other tasks – preferring to spend “their time” with the children relaxing and having fun. Don’t parents have equal responsibility for caring for children AND taking care of the necessities? Or does divorce change the rules of parenting? When divorce is imminent, child custody issues often become a major issue – even when both parents really want to find an amicable solution. When high emotions, disappointment, and frustration are in play, an amicable solution usually requires outside help, and that help typically comes from high-priced lawyers and judges — and lots and lots of time tied up in the legal system with court proceedings, delays, and months of frustration. Isn’t there an easier and more mutually satisfying way? Navigating the legal system when it comes to child custody can be daunting, expensive, and frustrating. Litigation can take months and during the process, lives are often put on hold or tensions are continually building. Spending $10,000 or more in legal fees is not uncommon – and that’s incurred by EACH parent. That’s just one reason mediation services are becoming more popular across the country. Liza Hill of Mosaic Mediation, LLC knows about Virginia law because she is a lawyer. And she also knows that mediation offers a less expensive and often a more mutually beneficial outcome for everyone involved. Mediation costs are often much less than traditional legal fees and the process takes a lot less time – sometimes as little as 3 hours! Maybe you’ve seen this same scenario below play out for yourself or someone you know. Follow this case and let us know what you think. Jill and Ben at Odds

Facing divorce, Jill* and Ben* also have to consider the custody of their three children. To complicate matters, their third child is learning disabled which creates a greater need for focused attention and special activities to foster emotional and cognitive growth. He also attends a special school, which requires private transportation to and from school since the bus is not an option.

With their second child in middle school, she is involved in a variety of activities and her parents must ensure she is at practices and games throughout the week and weekend. Their oldest daughter is very involved in academics and is looking at advanced courses in school, which requires additional study time and parental encouragement. All of the children prefer living with their mother, reasons being unrelated to parenting issues but more about their peers and comfort. They just prefer to be with their mother in the comfort of their home where they have been raised during their early years. They enjoy the location and they want to stay close to their friends and attend the same school, rather than move to another school district with their father. Both of their parents want to make the child custody situation work, so the children visit their father on weekends and live with their mother during the week. Their mother also works and she has heavy responsibilities to transport the kids to and from school, provide after school care, and manage carpools to and from sports. She puts in lots of hours in the evening helping them with homework, preparing meals, and other parenting responsibilities. On the other hand, their father feels somewhat deprived of the time he has with them since he only sees them on weekends. He refuses to allow them to participate in activities, including birthday parties or sleepovers with friends, when he has them on the weekend. He believes weekends are “his time” to spend with the children. Different Viewpoints – Similar Goals While their father has some valid points, he is unable to see how this affects their lives in many different ways. He also avoids acknowledging that their mother has little time with them during the week, although she has them 5 days, due to their school, extracurricular activities, her job, and lots of homework. Jill is frustrated that Ben does not participate in transporting the kids and does not allow them to do anything on the weekend related to their friends or activities. She feels deprived of time with the children throughout the week because of all of the required activities. The courts or mediation? Lawyers and judges make the best decisions they can based on the facts they have. But lawyers for each “side” often plead their cases from a single perspective and this could mean even more frustration, anger, and disappointment for the children – and the parents. It often ends up in finger-pointing and humiliation for one or both parties. In the situation above, both parents really want to do what’s best for the children, but neither is able to understand the other person’s viewpoint – the good news is that they do have a shared goal of spending quality time with their children. Legal intervention is looming, but mediation may be a better solution for them. They are already trying to work together and a professional, experienced mediator with a background in Virginia law may be able to provide them with a greater chance of resolving issues amicably and quickly. And it will definitely be more cost-effective than paying lawyer’s fees and court costs. Is Virginia ready for this type of mediation service? Contact us and let us help you decide.   *Names were changed for confidentiality and privacy