Voluntary Parenting

Mediator Sandy Balick of Consensus Point Mediation LLC discusses leaving a marital legacy by creating a child–focused and future–oriented voluntary agreement.Last Sunday’s New York Times carried an article on the importance of voluntary parenting (custody) agreements between parents (whether unmarried or not). Reporting on his 2001 study of child custody conflicts, University of Virginia Prof. Robert E. Emery, comparing litigation and mediation, “found that six hours of mediation caused huge improvements in family relationships a full 12 years later.” This is a perfect example of what I referred to in my last blog as a positive marital legacy – a voluntary agreement that is child–focused and future–oriented.

In a ringing endorsement of the mediation process (and its variants, collaborative mediation and the use of parenting coordinators in a less formal mediation setting) Emery emphasized that: “(w)e must make these our primary methods (of child custody dispute resolution), not alternatives (to litigation).”

Although the question was beyond Emery’s immediate focus, parents will reasonably ask, just what about the mediation process makes it such a favorable alternative to litigation.

A number of factors combine to favor mediation:

  1. Mediation plays out in the privacy of the mediator’s office. What’s said in the room is subject to a confidentiality agreement and the parties’ bargaining positions may not later be introduced in court in the event that things break down.
  2. Mediation accommodates the input of experts on financial, legal and parenting issues.
  3. Parents need to be parenting and not diverted by the necessity to prepare for and give depositions or attend trial. The high emotional toll of these activities is diminished in mediation.
  4. While it’s true that considerable parental effort is important to a successful mediation, the outcome is more than worth the emotional investment.
  5. Another compelling reason: there’s a widely felt belief that adherence to voluntary agreements is much less fraught than is the case with court-imposed solutions. The parents’ generally superior knowledge of what’s best for their children is best honored in a voluntary agreement.
  6. The process tends to be much less expensive than a work-out process routed through the court system, even though the majority of cases are settled well short of trial (cost avoidance should not be a primary motivation for resorting to mediation).

Nothing here should be taken to diminish the role of the courts, but the diversion of disputes to mediation could go a long way towards freeing court dockets, allowing judicial resources to be focused on the truly intractable cases, such as where domestic violence must be addressed and the like. The result is beneficial to all.

Sanford (Sandy) Balick, Attorney & Mediator, NY Sandy Balick signature
Sanford E. Balick, Esq.
Founder & Principal Mediator
Consensus Point Mediation, LLC.

Phone: (646) 340-3434
Email: ConsensusPointLLC@gmail.com
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