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Newly separated mother has questions about mediating on custody before a court hearing


Your Question:
Need help! I am currently in the middle of a very, very nasty custody battle. Very high conflict divorce. State is California. We have three children- Ages 10,6 and 3. I have been a Stay at Home Parent since our first was born.

Soon To Be Ex was amicable at first. He is the one that wanted to end the marriage, had an affair, wanted to be with the women, etc. He makes excellent money, is in sales, and traveled frequently (15-20 days a month). The agreement between us was for every other weekend (EOW) and 1 night during the week for dinner. A second night for dinner on the week he does not have the children for that weekend. We agreed to not work with attorneys and were working with paralegals. However, he was playing me and behind my back was working with an attorney. He slammed me for 50/50 custody out of the blue one day- I was served and shocked. I scrambled to get an attorney. We began working together and all (attorney's with clients) sat down to talk. We left with an agreement. He was to get EOW Friday through Monday AM, and then 1 night during the week for an overnight (5 overnights a week). Coming to the table he wanted 6 overnights out of 14. I wanted to keep it as it is (the children are truly having a terrible time with this- I have been with them 24/7 since birth) with 2 overnights out of 14 and 3 dinners. My attorney said I showed extreme willingness to compromise and that was good. We had a deal! The attorney's wrote it up but soon to be ex would not sign it. He asked for even more time. He used this as a new level of negotiation. Now I got her here, I can get more. He wants 6 extended weekends a year (4 day weekends), the majority of all the children's school breaks (thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring) as well as the already agreed upon 2 week vacation block and 1 week vacation in the summer (3 total weeks summer vacation). Sorry if this is so confusing...

He refused to sign the agreement because my attorney advised me to not give in to him. My attorney felt the deal was very fair for him, and I gave a lot but to avoid court it was worth it. STBE decided we are going to mediation and then court. It is all coming so quickly!

Next week is mediation, court is the following week!

He has since switched jobs, and his commute each way is 1 hour (he had no commute before), however he travels less. He still does travel though. I have been keeping a log and it's about 2-3 two day trips a month. He also has quite a few business dinners a month. Plus the last month of each quarter he is quite busy working late. He still claims he can be flexible though.

Since he went back on the deal, we are still doing the same plan we have done for the last 8 months or so as listed above. He is going now for 50/50 custody.



My question is, what is the reality of that really happening? My attorney says we will probably end up with about what we agreed to, since I am home with the kids and have been the primary caregiver forever. He said I am showing I am more then willing to work with him and give him substantial time with the children (deal was 35% custody).

Should I prepare for 50/50 custody or should I believe in my attorney? I'm so terrified. Not just for me, because these kids are my job right now, but for the kids. They have much anger for their Dad, and they do not want to live with him 50/50. It was my goal to work up to this as the children were older.

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My Answer:
Hi,

Nobody can predict what will happen, so don't spend energy trying to figure it out.

At this point, your ex probably believes that a court will give him at least what you're offering. He may not be far from the truth.

It's likely worth it for him to roll the dice, if his worst case scenario is not much different than your best offer.

It's really going to depend upon the judge and what evidence each side has.

It's always best to avoid court, but if an offered settlement isn't acceptable (either to you or him), then court becomes the only option.

You may want to consider looking at your most recent offer and asking yourself, "Is there anything I can add that would convince him to take it?"

E.g., In mediation, what if you added "every spring break with dad" to your offer, and stuck to your guns with everything else?

He's not likely to get that from the court. That one thing (which is only one duration per year) may be enough to get him to sign it.

Whatever happens in mediation is not admissible in court. Once you're at court, gloves are off, and you push for what you think is best (even if it's less than your most recent offer).

Think hard about what you're willing to give with regard to what is best for the children (i.e., a different measure than what you think HE deserves). Don't go beyond it in mediation, period.

That's all you can do.

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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