Divorce mediation is not only for married couples. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more than four out of 10 children in America are born to unwed mothers. In many of these cases, the mother and father are unmarried domestic partners. Other times, the parents live apart from each other. Whether you are in the process of breaking up with a domestic partner, or you never lived together in the first place, it is important to sit down together and create a plan for how the children will be raised and provided for.
Paternity mediation is a subset of divorce mediation that caters to the millions of American parents who are not married and trying to raise their kids. The primary purpose of paternity mediation is to work out the terms and conditions of child custody arrangements, parenting plans, and child support when unmarried parents are not together.
As with divorce mediation, paternity mediation is a non-adversarial, collaborative process that requires cooperation from both parties. This does not mean you need to agree on everything going in, it is perfectly fine if you don’t. It just means you need to be willing to be flexible work with your ex and work toward an arrangement that is beneficial for all parties involved.
An increasing number of unmarried parents have been coming to me for mediation, and it is easy to understand why. During mediation, the parties negotiate directly with each other under the supervision and direction of the mediator. Sessions are kept confidential, so all pertinent issues can be discussed openly without the fear that they will end up becoming part of the public records.
This type of open dialogue is especially beneficial when it comes to the children. My goal is to help the parents develop a plan that not only works for them, but more importantly is in keeping with the best interests of their children. Together, we are able to look at more creative ways to structure an agreement that you would not necessarily have access to in a court setting. This helps establish a foundation for cooperation, which makes your life easier and gives children the benefit of having both parents actively involved in their lives.
Custody, parenting, and child support arrangements are not always the only issues that unmarried parents need to address. Some domestic partners also have co-mingled property, such as a home, vehicles, bank accounts, etc. that need to be divided when they split up. These areas can also be fully addressed during your mediation sessions.
The agreements you come up with through mediation must be agreed upon by both parties in order to be valid. This is another reason it is so important to go into the process with a willingness to work with the other party. After you reach an agreement, it can be formalized by the courts, or simply remain an agreement between the two parties.
Raising children is never easy, and it becomes further complicated when the parents are not together. Through mediation, you can work through important parenting issues together, so everyone is on the same page and the children have a chance at a brighter future.