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Torn between mediation vs litigation? If you are considering divorce, and children are involved, mediation is usually the best dispute resolution alternative for your family. This is especially true if you are the parent who thinks he or she may end up as the non-residential parent (non-primary custodian).
As a non-residential parent, your odds of building a strong and long-lasting relationship with your children -- by being a part of their lives while they are growing up -- is much greater if you opt for mediation over litigation.
Dr. Robert Emery, the author of the highly acclaimed book, The Truth About Children & Divorce, conducted a 12-year study which supported this claim. Dr. Emery followed numerous families, who were all involved in high conflict custody disputes, for a 12-year period. The study commenced at the parties' divorce settlement negotiations, continued through their divorce proceedings, and followed them through the remainder of the time that they were raising children as co-parents.
The families were randomly assigned either a mediator or a lawyer for the settlement of their case. Dr. Emery made two very interesting findings: In cases where custody disputes was at issue, the non-residential parents saw their children, on a weekly basis, at least 19% more than their litigation counterparts (28% versus 9%) and spoke on the phone with them, on a weekly basis, at least 38% more (52% versus 14%).
Non-Residential Parents: Mediation vs. Litigation
Dr. Emery’s study also found that, in cases where the parents mediated, the non-residential parents scored much higher in many areas -- discipline, grooming, religious and moral training, running errands, celebrating holidays, taking part in significant events, school and church activities, recreation, vacations, and child-related problem solving -- when scored by the residential parent (primary custodian). What does that matter? Tons.
The primary custodian is in a position of tremendous influence over your child. This often includes the child’s beliefs and feelings about the other parent. Poorly developed communication skills and negative feelings between the parents -- both of which mediation helps remedy -- can lead to difficulty for the non-residential parent in building and maintaining a solid parent-child relationship. The more the parents respect each other, the better the chance of a good co-parenting relationship.
Good communication skills and a positive relationship between co-parents, tend to help build the bond between the non-custodial parent and child. The process of mediation helps parents focus on their children and not on each other. Good mediators are able to encourage parents to respect each other (as much as possible) and support each other as parents. After all, most experts agree that children deserve and have the right, when possible, to have two involved parents in their lives. It helps them become stronger adults.
So while you may be torn about what's truly better for your children -- mediation vs. litigation -- remember that you only have one shot to raise your kids. Mediation truly helps you sort through the issues and make good choices for your children in your new life as a two-home family.