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Is court better than mediation?


Your Question:
Is it better to go through the court process of establishing child support and custody?

My ex-girlfriend suggested going to a private mediator. She says the court will be more costly, that a court order will be less flexible, that the court doesn't know anything about kids, and so on. My attorney told me that a private mediator will actually be more money. In particular, he did not recommend the private mediator my ex-girlfriend suggested.

I think we would both agree to joint custody. My ex-girlfriend has verbally abused me and she won't address that. But she has been good with the kids. I just want to protect my children so they live part of the time with me.

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My Answer:
Hi,

Mediation is always preferable, if both parties come together in the spirit of compromise and cooperation. This is because the court has nearly unlimited discretion in family law, and there is ALWAYS a wildcard element when asking a judge to make a ruling, no matter how good your evidence.

In mediation, you're not asking an individual to make a ruling. You're asking an individual to help two people form an agreement that can subsequently be written up as agreed and entered as court orders.

Your attorney's self-interest is for you to go to court. He makes no money otherwise. Also, whether you win or lose in court, he still gets paid. Ignore his opinion on mediation because of this.

You may want to check if your local courthouse has a no-cost mediation program. Financially, you'll have no risk going such a route.

Because a mediator's job is to bring two adversarial parties to come to agreement, a worst case scenario is just wasted money. I believe that in most courts, if not all, what is discussed during mediation cannot be presented before the court if there is no settlement.

You'd probably want to enter mediation without any recommendations to be made by the mediator to the court. You'd definitely want both sides to agree that no mediation discussions are admissible in court.

You'd want to bring to the table (so to speak) a very clear understanding of three types of things within you (i.e., and don't tell your ex-girlfriend): 1) What you refuse to give up, 2) What you'd consider giving up if it gained you something, and 3) What you don't care about if you get it or not.

If you walk out of mediation, with an agreement that gives you all of the #1 items and some of the #2 items, then you've hit a home run, did it cost-effectively, and set the stage for a less hostile arrangement between you and your ex in co-parenting your kids. That would be awesome, no?

On the other hand, if you walk out of mediation without an agreement, you've lost nothing but time.

Once you start litigating, all gloves come off, shots start geting lobbed back and forth, and some possibly annoyed guy in a black robe, while enduring indigestion from his salami subway sandwich at lunch, then gets to arbitrarily decides who will get what... and you have no do-over from that. That is the least favorable approach.

Good luck,
Eric





This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.


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