As the years whirl on and I see more and more clients, I’m becoming acutely aware that mediation training needs to focus more on custody arrangements and parenting plans. This past year, I made a concerted effort to contact the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), to get the research for me and literature for my clients, to help in creating effective parenting plans.
When I started out as a mediator, I didn’t receive a lot of training about raising children and constructing effective parenting plans, based in part on the empirical research. For example, I didn’t learn about attachment theory, and how that plays into constructing an age appropriate parenting plan for children. If you don’t understand children’s developmental issues, you are really missing important information on how children behave. Understanding this allows you to construct parenting plans for children at different stages of their development.
The AFCC Journal dealing with overnights and young children would be a wonderful research tool to incorporate into a mediator’s training. The research is important because we often get parents arguing about parenting plans, not from a basis of knowledge and understanding of children’s developmental needs, but rather from what each parent wants based on their work schedules. Often, it’s more an emotional decision rather than one based on what really works for kids.
I want to emphasize that greater training for mediators in how children develop can have a really positive effect on creating successful parenting plans. I would like to see some of the basic mediator training incorporate child development research. This will give new mediators a basic understanding of the importance of this research in creating parenting plans.
A greater understanding of child development can only lead to parenting plans that benefit both the parents and the children, keeping couples from ending up in Family Court, arguing about custody and access to visitation for one of the parents.