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  1. n today's society, conflicts or disputes seem to be present in all human relationships, particularly in family and divorce situations. Mediation can assist parties confronting a conflict or dispute to reach a mutually acceptable agreement by negotiating with each other. Mediation is a process that recognizes that parties trying to resolve a conflict or dispute may be encountering difficulties initiating the negotiation process or may have reached an impasse after beginning to negotiate on their own. Family and divorce mediation is the process that assists a couple in working together to make decisions needed to get a divorce and, if appropriate, establish a parenting plan or parenting agreement for the future needs of their child(ren). The mediator's role is to get both parties in conflict to take a careful look at the issues, options for resolution, and work together to construct an agreement that is fair to both parties and makes sense for the parties and child(ren). It is not unusual for parents to be quite surprised at how time consuming and emotionally draining the working out of a parenting plan can be. This is a key reason why parents choose to use mediation early in their negotiation. The mediator's role is to supply the format that includes the questions, information gathering, and sharing that allows the parents to establish a parenting plan that meets their needs. When parents are confronting a divorce, they are required to cover parental duties and privileges that now need to be examined individually. When parents are going through a divorce (and this also applies to unmarried parents), they are required to analyze parental responsibilities and future matters involving their child(ren) that would have occurred over several years had they remained married or together. The parenting plan or parenting agreement is the most important document that parents will create. An agreement must be worked out between the parties and approved by a court before a divorce can be granted. If a couple cannot work out an agreement on their own or with a mediator, the court will be forced to decide for the couple. The mediator's role is to assist the parents in examining all the decisions they need to incorporate in a parenting plan and to help the parents in sharing the information necessary to make informed decisions. When parents complete the long and demanding process of a parenting plan, they have a document that they can be proud of. The parenting plan sets forth a commitment to the family, the child(ren)'s needs, and establishes a family continuity for both the parents and their child(ren). It is not unusual for parents to allow their child(ren) to read the parenting plan. The parenting plan is written in simple language that can create a calming effect upon the child(ren) and establish a sense of security by showing that their parents are committed to working together on their future. Ultimately, the mediator will help a couple to structure a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The MOU will address numerous issues that the parties agree make sense in the mediation process, and will specifically cover property distribution, parenting plans, and financial matters. A copy of the MOU will be provided to each party and each party's attorney. In most cases, the MOU will be able to be incorporated into the legal filings for the divorce, or be adapted with only minor changes by the parties' attorneys.
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