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Parental Mediation and Child Custody

In some instances, parents disagree about proposed custody and visitation, but choose to use mediation rather than litigation to attempt to resolve those disagreements. This may occur when the couple chooses to use mediation to resolve all divorce issues, or it may occur within divorce litigation where both parents recognize the importance of working out an agreement that is best for their children. Psychologists can offer expert intervention regarding the impact of divorce, custody and visitation issues on children. 

A divorce mediator may ask a psychologist to meet with a couple to work out custody and visitation issues, or the court may require it during litigation. In completing mediation focusing on custody and visitation issues, a psychologist may meet with the couple together and separately, and may also meet with the children, with or without their parents, to assess parent-child relationships, and to identify the conflict areas in the custody-visitation decision making process. Psychologists are split regarding their role in this mediation process. Some psychologists act only as negotiators and moderators. However, the advantage of having a psychologist work with a couple in developing a custody-visitation plan, rather than only meeting with a legal mediator, is that the psychologist possesses knowledge about the needs of children post-divorce, and can help the couple identify ways to encourage the best possible post-divorce relationship between the parents, and between the parents and their children. Thus, the role of the psychologist in parental mediation is to help the couple develop a custody and visitation plan that will allow the children to maintain a positive, close emotional relationship with both parents, and which will help the parents work together in parenting despite their divorce. As such, the psychologist may need to educate the parents about the impact of divorce on children, and alert them to potential problems that may develop later as they attempt to co-parent following divorce.

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