One of the most contentious parts of a divorce is usually child custody. Both parents have a high stake in the custody arrangements for their children. While they may agree the marriage is over, they still both want to have a relationship with their children and desire to be consistently in the children’s lives.

Because custody matters can be volatile, North Carolina law requires mediation in any custody case where parents cannot reach an agreement on arrangements. The North Carolina Judicial Branch says the Custody Mediation and Visitation Program provides a way for parents to work through custody issues in a guided manner. The court can waive mediation, but in most situations of contested custody, it is a requirement.

The two-step process

The program requires parents to attend a class that will prepare them for the mediation process. The second step is the mediation session. There is one session they must attend in which the mediator will help them identify issues and discuss solutions.

The mediator role

The mediator is not in charge of the session nor is he or she a judge of the situation. His or her role is to facilitate meaningful conversation and to help a couple focus on the children and their needs above all else. The mediator will not take sides and should remain neutral throughout the session. He or she cannot make decisions or force a person to agree to anything.

The goal

The goal of the mediation session is to help parents focus on what is important and to put aside emotions and other issues that may hold them back from creating a parenting plan. The main target is to create a parenting plan through the session that addresses where the children will live, sets up visitation schedules, determines decision-making for the children and details information on anything else related to the needs of the children.