Child Custody Mediation

African American father and young son.

When to use child custody (parenting) mediation?

When parents divorce or separate, they need to decide how their children will be cared for and where they will live or spend time. These issues can be settled in child custody (parenting) mediation, as opposed to leaving these decisions to a judge.

The basic issues to be decided in parenting mediation are:

  • major decision-making responsibilities affecting the children (legal custody)
  • with whom the children shall live (physical custody)
  • the noncustodial parent’s share of parenting time (visitation)
  • financial obligations to support the children (child support)

Coming to agreement on parental responsibilities is an integral part of divorce mediation.

Parents who have never married but have children in common and who need to sort out the above issues can also use parenting mediation.

Even after divorce, parents may need a neutral environment and guidance to renegotiate parental responsibilities when their children outgrow existing arrangements with Mom and Dad.

The benefits of using parenting mediation

Any parenting issue you leave unsettled, a judge will decide for you.

Today, even the judicial system encourages parents to use parenting mediation, so that parents can self-define their roles and responsibilities in their children’s lives.

After all, parents know their children best.

Parenting mediation has the following benefits:

  • Unlike open court proceedings and court documents, parenting mediation is private and confidential.
  • It is collaborative. The parents cooperate to devise a parenting plan that suits both parents and children, including the parents’ work and the children’s school schedules.
  • The parenting plan can be structured to take advantage of your individual strengths as parents and to meet your children’s specific needs.
  • It is better for your children. By creating the parenting plan together and following through with agreements, you show your children that your divorce or separation is not about them; they are not caught in the middle.
  • If age appropriate, the children can be included in decision-making in a way that empowers them.
  • A written parenting plan provides the children and the parents with predictability and consistency and can prevent or reduce future conflict. Parenting mediation can be used in the future for parents to renegotiate parental responsibilities as their children grow and circumstances change.

What could be included in a parenting plan?

  • Parental decision-making authority regarding the children’s health, education, welfare, and religious upbringing
  • Where and with whom the children shall live
  • Day-to-day sharing of parenting time
  • Sharing of holidays, school breaks, vacations, and significant family dates
  • General agreement on routines, discipline, nutrition, etc., to provide the children with consistency between Mom’s home and Dad’s home
  • Responsibility for transporting children between Mom’s home and Dad’s home
  • Parental access to children’s school and medical records
  • Communication between the parents
  • Communication between parent and child
  • Children’s relationship with extended family
  • Health insurance coverage
  • Planning for future events, e.g., relocation of one parent, funding for college, etc.
  • Strategies for future conflict resolution.
  • Child support, including annual review, conditions for modification, cost of living adjustments, and emancipation events when child support obligation ends

Child support

Both parents financially support the children. The custodial parent does so by having the children living in his or her home the majority of the time. The noncustodial parent pays his or her share of financial support of the children in the form of basic child support (cash payment) to the custodial parent. In addition to basic child support, the parents proportionally (e.g. according to income ratio) share child-related add-on expenses such as unreimbursed healthcare expenses incurred by the children and work-related child care expenses.

How is the amount of support decided?

The amount of basic child support (cash payment) is determined by the noncustodial parent’s gross income after FICA tax has been deducted and on the number of children involved. For example, for one child, the amount of child support is 17% of the noncustodial parent’s gross income minus FICA tax.

How to share out-of-pocket medical expenses incurred by the child, childcare cost, and other major child-related expenses–such as summer camp, music lessons, or the child’s future college costs–are issues negotiated in parenting mediation.

When does the child support obligation end?

In New York State, child support obligation ends when a child reaches age 21.

In parenting mediation, however, the parents have the freedom to agree to extend their financial support, e.g. till the child graduates from college, or to work out a plan of providing financial assistance to the child as he or she transitions to adulthood.

Before age 21, the child becomes emancipated if he or she becomes self-supporting through employment, gets married, or enters military service.

Also see Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

This information is provided by Hudson Valley Divorce Mediation as a free educational resource, and does not constitute legal advice. You should obtain legal advice from a qualified attorney who is familiar with the facts and circumstances of your situation.

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