Resolving Parenting Disputes in Mediation: Three Families Consider the Options

In our last post, we discussed the documented benefits of child-focused mediation and child-inclusive mediation in divorce. In our next few posts, we will present the stories of three divorcing couples, each of whom decides to approach their parenting disputes in different ways. These families are fictional, but their stories are derived from various real life scenarios. One family will go through a court process, one will go through mediation with a child-focused approach, and the third will go through child-inclusive mediation. These examples may help give you a clearer idea of the differences among these approaches. All three families use “child specialists,” but in very different ways. Today we will introduce the three families:

Alan and Cherie

Alan, 45, and Cherie, 43, have been married for 15 years. They have two children, 9-year-old Mike and 11-year-old Alexis. Cherie is a small business proprietor. She keeps flexible hours and has generally been able to fit her business commitments around the children’s school schedules and extracurricular activities. Alan is an executive for a fast food restaurant chain. He works regular but long hours, often from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Cherie and Alan own a home together, but Alan has recently moved into a separate apartment.

Cherie is adamant that Alan should have the children only for alternate weekends, as she does not see how his schedule could accommodate anything more. Alan, on the other hand, is fighting for equal time. He is looking into options like cutting back his hours or working at home for one or two days a week.  Cherie is afraid that if he pursues these options, it will affect his income, possibly reducing a budget that will already be too tight to adequately maintain two separate homes. She is also worried that if Alan tries to increase his parenting time, he won’t be consistent and the children will end up being left alone for long periods. She claims that Alan has never been an involved parent and insists that equal time would not be good for the kids. Both Alan and Cherie have consulted aggressive attorneys about their parenting dispute.

Megan and Derek

Megan, 39, and Derek, 37, have been married for 10 years. They have two children, 5-year-old Ally and 3-year-old Jessie. Both parents are dentists who set up a practice together soon after their marriage. They are now in the process of figuring out how to divide this practice between them. The practice has been doing well. Both Megan and Derek would like to keep it, but they don’t want to continue working together. Adding to the stress of this dilemma is that they both still have high student loan balances to consider. They have agreed to go to mediation to discuss the issues surrounding their dental practice.

Derek and Megan have had few discussions about custody and visitation. They currently have a full-time nanny, but they don’t know if they will be able to afford this after the divorce. They bought a townhouse together about eight years ago. While neither parent has officially moved out, Megan has been spending a lot of time at her parents’ house. The house is only a couple of miles away, and the children frequently stay there with Megan on the weekends. Both Megan and Derek are willing to sell their townhouse if necessary. Both parents tell the mediator that they would like to be the primary parent, but they also want to be sure to do what is best for the kids. They ask the mediator for advice on how to proceed.

Jeff and Yvonne

Jeff and Yvonne are both 44 years old and have been married for 20 years. They have three children, 15-year-old Kyle, and 12-year-old twins, Katie and Kayla. Yvonne is an IT professional who works a regular 9-5 schedule. Jeff is a high school teacher and basketball coach. His schedule varies. He is generally at the school from about 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., but during basketball season he works longer days as well as weekends. During the past few summers, he has worked at a science day camp for about 6 weeks.

Although Yvonne and Jeff have decided to divorce, neither of them is willing to move out of the family home. Both parents want primary custody of the children, and mainly because of this, both also want possession of the house. So far they have been coping with their dilemma by sleeping in separate rooms and alternating dinners with the children. Unfortunately, they now barely speak to one another, because they don’t want to fight in front of the kids. They know this situation can’t go on for much longer, and they are looking for a way to resolve things that will not cost them the children’s college funds.

In our next post, we will see how Alan and Cherie approach their parenting issues and what kind of result they eventually achieve.

If you are considering using private mediation to resolve your parenting disputes, the experienced and compassionate mediators at Weinberger Mediation Center can help you construct a process that is right for your family. Contact us today for an initial consultation.