Mediation in family disputes

Many children are forced to be part of a divorce or separation between the parents and unfortunately also exhausting court disputes about e.g. custody, residence and access/visitation rights. The idea of the mediation is to help the parents find a consensus solution to the issues related to e.g. custody, residence and access/visitation rights, instead of litigating in court.

Mediation in family disputes usually takes place in the following way, with Gert as mediator.

Initially, an individual conversation of approximately two hours is held with the parents, so that, among other things, they will have the opportunity to separately tell what they want to achieve through the mediation and what they themselves can contribute to make an agreement possible. What the parents want to achieve does not necessarily only have to be about the disputed issues (which usually concern custody, residence and/or access/visitation rights), but it can also refer to how the parents want to relate to each other in the future (communication, cooperation, trust, etc.).

After that, joint meetings are held with the parents, usually several shorter or longer conversations, whereby the disputed issues and other things are discussed and agreed upon. Usually, but not always, the parents are then already in a court process, which is paused pending a consensus solution possibly being reached during mediation. When the parents finally reach an agreement regarding the disputed issues, they can have the content recorded in an enforceable judgment through the provision of the court. Other agreements, e.g. concerning communication, cooperation, trust, etc., can be attached to the judgment. In this way, the parents receive all agreements in the same document (judgment).

Discover constructive strategies

The parents’ respective lawyers usually do not participate in the mediation meetings themselves, but Gert usually communicates with them if the parents get stuck in conflicting positions, especially regarding the disputed issues. The aim is to get the lawyers’ help in finding constructive strategies for the parties to come to an agreement. Here, the lawyers can play a sometimes decisive role. In addition, between mediation sessions, the parents usually discuss the possible agreement with their lawyers.

Sometimes there is a need to – in addition to the mediator – also involve a child psychologist in the mediation, who sometimes speaks privately with the child/children. Note that this is not the same as child interviews during a custody, residence and access/visitation rights investigation, which is carried out by the social services. The purpose of the child psychologist’s child interview is instead to gain clarity about the child’s psychological well-being as well as an idea of what might be in the child’s best interests in the given situation, without the child having to take a stand between the parents. The child psychologist can also participate in the joint conversations with the parents, often as a professional “sounding board” for them.

The benefits

The advantage of mediation in custody disputes, compared to a court process, is that, during mediation, the parents are helped to focus on the child/children, instead of on the other parent’s shortcomings, and on the present and the future, instead of what has been. In addition, in mediation it is the parents themselves – and not a judge – who decide how the current issues should be settled in the best way for their children. This while saving time and money and improving the chances that the children will feel good and that the parents will have a better functioning parental relationship.

For general information about mediation and the mediator, click here.

For this reason, disputing parents, lawyers and other representatives in family disputes, as well as judges, are recommended to propose mediation, preferably as early as possible during the court process (or before such). Once the court has appointed a mediator, the Swedish state (the court) pays the cost of him or her (including the cost of any child psychologist). The mediator’s assignment usually lasts for four weeks, with the possibility of an extension if the parties wish and the district court approves it (which it normally does).

In family disputes with cross-border or cross-cultural elements, “co-mediation” can be used (see “Mediation in cross-border or cross-cultural disputes”).

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