1

Understand about the types of custody

The two types of custody are legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of the child. Most courts have a strong preference for joint legal custody, except in cases where there are domestic violence issues or where there is little or no communication between the parents. Physical custody is a determination of who the child lives with. If each parent has a substantial amount of live-in time (generally 30 per cent or more, it is called joint physical custody. Otherwise the court can award sole or primary physical custody to one parent, subject to the noncustodial parent's right of visitation or time share. It is best to have a clearly defined visitation arrangement. Vacation times and division of holiday time should be clearly specified.

2

What the Mediator Does

The mediator you will meet with at Family Court Services is trained in the developmental needs of children and family problems. He or she will try to assist you to reach an agreement with the co-parent. Generally, the mediator will meet with both parents together. However, if you wish to be seen alone, tell the mediator you want to meet separately. Separate interviews are generally used when there are restraining orders in place. You can prepare for your mediation by making some notes and taking them with you. Be prepared to discuss the following matters: Present and past arrangements you have had for custody and visitation. The kind of custody and visitation arrangement do think would be best and why. Your future plans for caring for the needs of your child or children? Any special problems or concerns you have which might affect the child or children, such as domestic violence.

3

What the mediator is trained to do

The mediator you will meet with at Family Court Services is trained in the developmental needs of children and family problems. He or she will try to assist you to reach an agreement with the co-parent. Generally, the mediator will meet with both parents together. However, if you wish to be seen alone, tell the mediator you want to meet separately. Separate interviews are generally used when there are restraining orders in place. You can prepare for your mediation by making some notes and taking them with you. Be prepared to discuss the following matters: Present and past arrangements you have had for custody and visitation. What kind of custody and visitation arrangement do think would be best and why. We have a Parenting Plan information sheet that helps you cover all the appropriate bases. If you reach an agreement, a stipulation will be prepared, and you will be asked to sign it; if not, there will be further court proceedings.

4

Different types of mediation

You need to know which of two kinds of mediation is used in your county. (You can call Family Court Services in your county and ask which type of mediation is used in your county). Some counties have the mediator make recommendations to the judge and in other counties the mediators only report agreements that are reached. In the counties with recommendations, the mediators report to the judge what each party's contentions are, and what outcome is recommended. In the counties without recommendations, everything said is confidential unless the parties agree to provide certain information through the mediator to the judge. Some counties without recommendations have a second stage mediation where the mediator is asked to address certain issues and report to the judge.

5

What "Best Interests of the Children" means

Family Court Services mediators are trained to seek answers to the following issues - How children feel at the time of their parents' separation. - What makes the difference between whether a child does well or poorly after his or her parents separate? - Factors that enable a child to do well after his or her parents separate. - At the time of separation, how can parents be most helpful to their children. - The importance of each parent to be supportive of the child's relationship with the other parent. HAVE A PLAN o TAKE NOTES INTO THE MEDIATION o MAKE NOTES DURING THE MEDIATION