Should You Prepare for Custody Mediation?
The Jon and Kate divorce provided another example this week of what to do – and what not to do – in divorce situations. The Gosselins were ordered this week to attend mandatory co-parenting classes in Berks County. Allegheny County and most surrounding counties in Western Pennsylvania have a similar program. In Allegheny County, it is known as the “Generations” program.
The Generations program, part of the Child Custody Department, is a mandatory two-part process for individuals involved in a custody dispute. This alternative dispute resolution program includes an educational seminar for adults, an interactive group for children ages six through fifteen, and a mediation orientation session.
The adult education seminar of the Generations program is approximately three hours in length and offers parents/caregivers the skills to reach their own resolution on custody issues. The following topics are addressed:
- How to build a co-parenting relationship
- How to communicate and problem-solve
- How to help children cope effectively with their changing family
- Identify how parent/caregiver conflict can affect the behavior of children
- Understand that most children do best when they have the opportunity to know and love both parents
- General overview of the mediation session
The children’s group serves children between the ages of six and fifteen years old. Children are appropriately grouped by age so that they can identify and share with peers similar experiences in their families. These groups are facilitated with activities, discussions, art, music and play.
Later in the week, after being ordered to attend parenting classes, Jon Gosselin was spotted in a mall bookstore, reviewing a copy of Kate Gosselin’s latest book, “I Just Want You to Know: Letters to My Kids on Love, Faith and Family.” Perhaps he was looking for dirt to use against Kate in the mediation.
I generally advise clients not to go to the Generations mediation with a chip on their shoulders. It is really not productive to enter mediation with a laundry list of “wrongs” perpetrated by the other parent. It does not impress the mediator. Remember that even if the other parent confesses to a murder during the mediation, the mediator cannot be called to testify. Concentrate instead on telling the mediator what custody arrangements you want, focusing on how your plan will benefit the children. If you keep your focus on the kids and why your proposal is best for them, you are much more likely to get good results.