The adoption of joint custody caused state courts and legislatures to take a closer look upon child custody and visitation laws. Some fundamental changes had to be made in order to adjust traditional laws to this new concept. One of these changes was to incorporate a mandatory process of mediation before filing a child custody petition.
Joint custody revolutionized post-divorce family laws. The concept behind this type of custody is that parenting does not end with a divorce and that children benefit more from having both parents participating in the critical decisions about their upbringing rather than just one parent making all the decisions. This collaborative effort of raising children in a partnership fashion after a divorce is known as co-parenting.
Co-parenting requires that both parents agree upon all major decisions regarding their children's upbringing. Courts tend to favor this type of custody because it leaves the future of children in their parents' hands, rather that on the judge's, and also because it tends to be less traumatic for the kids. It is also a way to protect the rights of both parents to participate in their children's life.
In order to promote joint custody, a mediation process is now required in most states before any spouse can start a court child custody fight. In those states in which the mediation process is required by law, the mediator's decision is adopted by the court and becomes the law regarding any child custody or visitation issues.
The child custody mediation process has proved to be a great tool for parents, children and the court system. Mediation can reduce the cost of divorce proceedings significantly. It favors the child because parents do not engage in an openly adversarial procedure, thus preventing the stress related to a court fight and for the court's benefit, it reduces unnecessary litigation. In those states where mediation has been incorporated as a requirement for a child custody case, the court provides all the services related to the process. In those states where mediation is not a legal requirement, parents have the option of undergoing private mediation. Private mediation offers the same advantages but they have to be financed by the parents. However, it still is a worthy investment compared to the costs associated with litigation.
In a child custody mediation process the goal is to reach a parenting plan or custody agreement. In this process the parents discuss and negotiate all issues related to their children's future with the help of a neutral expert. In the process both parents participate equally in voicing their opinions, presenting options and expressing their preferences. This agreement is both voluntary and binding. Once the agreement is signed by both parents it is presented to the court and it becomes the law upon which the custody of the kids will be governed.