If you have children and are facing divorce, you are probably concerned about how the process is going to affect them. The good news is that using divorce mediation to resolve parenting issues can prevent many potential negative consequences for children of divorcing families. New Jersey courts encourage divorcing parents to use mediation to address custody and visitation issues and to construct their own parenting plans. While New Jersey law requires child support awards to follow a formula, mediation presents parents with the opportunity to address factors that may impact application of that formula.
Mediating Child Custody and Visitation Issues
Parents with children often fall into the trap of viewing child custody and visitation issues as win-lose battles. Under this type of scenario, one parent is the victor who gets to parent the children and the other is the loser who gets to write the child support checks. It is hard to imagine a set-up more likely to generate alarm. Parents who are litigating their divorce are especially vulnerable to this kind of formulaic thinking. The result is accentuation of polarization, as parents find themselves negotiating from positions driven primarily by fear of loss.
Unfortunately, a parent motivated by fear of loss often instinctively resorts to attacking the other parent. Couples who are unable to work out a parenting plan together often feel that their only recourse is to present negative information about each other to the court. The result is a public record that shows the worst of each parent. Mediation, by contrast, allows each parent to present their best side and put the interests of their children first.
Couples who choose to mediate custody and visitation issues often discover that formulaic viewpoints about parenting are unnecessary and false. The possibilities for creative parenting plans that address the needs of both parents and all children in the family are virtually endless. Mediation allows couples to come together and understand each other’s deepest concerns, providing a safe forum for each parent to voice those concerns. This is simply not available in a court process. Judges do not have the time or the personal knowledge about divorcing families that are the necessary prerequisites to reaching the best possible solutions.
Protecting Children from Divorce Conflict through Mediation
Understanding exactly what your children may be going through is the first step to making sure that they continue to feel loved and supported throughout this difficult time in their lives. Watching parents separate can be confusing and upsetting. The profound loss of control divorcing spouses often experience is magnified for children. The security of their world is at stake and they feel powerless to affect the outcome.
What divorcing parents most need to know is that it is not the divorce itself that has the greatest potential for negatively affecting children; rather, it is the way that parents handle the inevitable conflict accompanying divorce. Parents who learn how to handle this conflict effectively are able to shield their children from damaging consequences.
Conflict presents great potential for damage, but it also presents the opportunity to process change constructively. It is natural for children who witness their parents in heated arguments, hurling harsh words and accusations back and forth, to experience high levels of stress. By contrast, children who see their parents coming together to try to make things better for everyone in the family continue to feel secure. It is possible to separate peacefully and also preserve your ability to co-parent children effectively. Mediation can help you do that.