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Can mediation help in child custody disputes?

Family law courts in Texas are overextended, as are courts in most other states. As a result, many courts have begun encouraging parties to resolve their disputes out of court through mediation. This alternative dispute resolution system uses a third party to help facilitate negotiation between the parties, but the parties must come to an agreement on their own.

Mediation can be used in many aspects of a divorce, including in child custody disputes.

Typically, each parent comes to mediation with his or her own attorney. The attorneys can help prepare their clients before the mediation, and sometimes can help choose the person who will serve as mediator. During the mediation itself, the attorney can answer questions and keep the client focused on their goals. Finally, the attorneys can help write up an agreement and review it before the parents sign it. Once the child custody agreement is signed, the court must review it to make sure it meets the best interests of the child. If so, the court will sign off on the agreement.

Mediation isn't for every child custody dispute. Often, the parties are able to negotiate their own agreement, along with their attorneys, and don't need a third party. In other cases, even a mediator can't help the two sides reach an agreement, and a court has to step in to resolve the dispute. However, mediation can be very helpful for many parents.

Even when a child custody dispute looks impossible to resolve, there are options available. Texas attorneys with experience in family law can help parents to assess the different ways they can stand up for their rights as parents, and for the best interest of their children.

Source: Huffington Post, "Divorce Confidential: Preparing for Child Custody Mediation," Caroline Choi, May 23, 2014

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