I have lost count of the sad, sad stories I have heard about people who tried mediation but failed to reach an agreement. Sometimes I get really angry at one or both lawyers involved in the case. (This is not an anti-attorney rant! Many family law attorneys are really good people trying to help their clients reach reasonable settlements.)
I had one case in which both parents told me the other person was a good parent, even though they fought abusively with each other. Both were willing for the father to have three-day weekends with the preschool child.
Then, as if speaking for the mother, the mom’s attorney told the judge that “we” were not comfortable with the dad having any overnight visitation. So a war that I could have ended, went on for months of hearings and arguments and anger.
The mom’s attorney probably thought he was doing what was best for the mother and the child. Living in a war zone is rarely best for the child.
In another case, a dad wanted shared custody, but the mom wanted sole custody and would not compromise in mediation. The dad paid about 140 percent of his gross annual income to his attorney, putting himself deeply in debt for the next several years.
The mom probably paid more. Money that could have paid for two or three years of college left the family.
Even worse, the kids were in a war zone for more than a year. Both parents were anxious and angry. The kids never knew when they would be allowed to see their dad again.
In the end, the judge ordered shared custody. But in situations like this, much of the damage to the children is irreversible. The parents were so busy finding weapons they could use against each other and dealing with their own emotions, the kids had to take care of themselves much of the time.
Custody battles are hell for all members of the family. They do tremendous emotional damage to children and parents. Making compromises in mediation is almost always better for everyone, financially and emotionally.