Every teacher knows how hard teaching can be. The job carries the stress of dealing with administrators, regulations, unruly children and angry parents. No matter how hard you work to prepare your lessons and develop your relationships with your students, there's always some new conflict to resolve. The last thing you want is to compound your work stress with the stress of a nasty custody battle.
For this reason, you might be thankful that Illinois law encourages mediation. In most cases, the law demands that parents attempt to resolve their custody disputes in mediation. But to make the most of your time in mediation, you need to be prepared. That begins with realistic expectations.
Child custody is about the child
Research has consistently shown that children do best after divorce when both parents remain actively involved and work together to avoid conflict. Accordingly, Illinois courts tend to favor the involvement of both parents.
This does not mean that both parents will share custody or equal parenting time. Nor does it mean that, like some other states, Illinois starts from a presumption that parental responsibilities and parenting time should be divided as evenly as possible. Instead, the law aims to safeguard the child's best interests.
How do the courts determine your child's best interests? They weigh a series of at least 15 concerns, including:
- Your child's wishes
- Your wishes and those of your ex
- The physical and mental health of everyone involved
- The current circumstances of your child's residence, school and community
- The distance between your home and your ex's
- Any incidences of abuse, violence or threats of violence
- Your willingness to encourage your child's relationship with your ex
The main takeaway, here, may be that if you take your custody dispute into the courtroom, the court will review these issues. It will weigh them-along with any other issues it believes are relevant-to decide what's best for your child.
Mediation is a chance for the parents to negotiate
The court focuses on your child's best interests. Mediation gives you more of an opportunity to voice your interests and goals.
If you can negotiate a deal with your ex, you don't need to hope the court will view your child's best interests the way you do. As a teacher, your work schedule varies greatly from those of most other working adults. The courts may not give that fact the same weight you do. In mediation, you can pursue the parenting plan that you-and not the court-feel will best suit your child's needs. Depending on your goals, you might find some way to take advantage of your free summers.
Even so, there are clearly differences in the ways that people approach mediation. Some are more successful than others.