Just about any aspect of a divorce and family law case in Arizona can be challenging personally, financially and emotionally. One of the most difficult areas to navigate is child custody and parenting time. Even in cases where the parents are on good terms and want to serve the child’s best interests, there will be obstacles and disagreements.
While many situations need court intervention and a decision to be made for them because they cannot agree, others are more flexible. In these situations, mediation could be a viable option to get on the same page.
Arizona has conciliation court where it will use mediation to craft an agreement that the parents have negotiated in good faith and for the child’s welfare. Mediation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) can be used if there is a disagreement between the parents over decision-making rights and parenting time. In some cases, the parents can agree to private mediation. Otherwise the court will assess the situation and decide if it is appropriate. Both sides can file a motion to request these services.
During mediation, the sides will discuss their issues and try to find common ground. The communication will be private and not shared with outsiders. The parties are required to attend these conferences. Both parents can meet with the mediator together or they can meet individually. This will be done so the mediator can assess the case and decide if mediation might be effective to settle the dispute.
Once the mediation is completed, the mediator will inform the court of any agreements that were reached. If there are remaining disagreements, that too will be filed in the mediator’s report. If the entire process fails, the mediator will inform the court of this. When there is an agreement, it must be in writing and detail exactly what the parties are agreeing to. The sides will have 30 days to sign or object to it.
Experienced assistance can be key
There are obviously cases where mediation will not be appropriate nor is it likely to be effective. Others, however, do have common ground where the sides can put aside their differences, analyze their position and will realize that they are largely in agreement on fundamental issues – specifically the child’s interests. With this area of family law, it is vital to have experienced assistance with the process. Negotiating can be complex and for those who are thinking about mediation and ADR, consulting with professionals with extensive knowledge of the process can be beneficial.