How to Keep Kids Out of Divorce Court
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Speeding Up the Process
Very often, program participants make just two court appearances, one of its main selling points. Assuming the mediation agreement is specific enough and can be enforced in court, the judge will almost certainly approve it.
“Part of the success of the program is that it has reinforced for judges that it’s the parties who have to live with their agreements, and the more comfortable parents are with them, the greater the likelihood that the children will benefit,” Kleiman says. The mediation process is voluntary, and potential participants can choose to have their cases remain on the court docket. In the past year, judges have referred, and the mediation program has screened, about 1,500 families; of those, around 850 have taken (or likely will take) part in it. An impressive 74 percent of the program’s mediated cases will result in agreements reached by the parents. “Hopefully, more and more parents will take advantage of the program, making it the medium of choice,” says Andy Schepard, a law professor at the Hofstra University School of Law and director of its Center for Children, Families and the Law. “Parents should try to control conflict and, whenever possible, keep children out of the court system.”
One Parent’s Story
Clarissa Espinosa, who took part in the Family Court program, couldn’t agree more. The divorced mother of two, and resident of Flushing, Queens, opted for mediation after her ex-husband refused to allow her to relocate their kids to Florida. “Our divorce was bitter and antagonistic and the children’s father and I don’t speak. Yet in mediation, we were able to speak as civilized human beings. The process shut out raised voices and slamming doors. It avoided the
mumbo-jumbo of some attorneys and the attorney’s fees.” Ultimately, Espinosa, who is now attending law school, didn’t move to Florida. Her ex-husband did. Using the techniques they learned through mediation, they mutually agreed that the father would relocate with their younger daughter while their older daughter would remain in New York. “Communication is understanding, and understanding makes peace,” Espinosa says.
To learn more about the program and the many other services offered by Community Mediation Services, call (718) 523-6868, ext. 266. Online, go to www.mediatenyc.org.
Divorcing parents who want to avoid court completely can pay hourly for a private mediator. Check with CMS to find mediation centers that mediate these cases outside the courts.
Lee Chabin, Esq. is a divorce mediator and collaborative divorce lawyer whose aim is ultimately to help clients end their relationships without going to court. He can be contacted at [email protected] or 718-229-6149. Learn more at www.lc-mediate.com.