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The mediators who work at the Circuit Courts of Maryland may not be available during this COVID-19 crisis. Therefore if you are in litigation and/or have been ordered to mediation, Nancy Caplan, Esquire will honor the fee schedule charged by the Circuit Court in which your case is tried until the Courts return to normal service. Ms. Caplan will require basic information about your litigation including case number. If you are represented by counsel, I would prefer that counsel make the request for mediation even if counsel does not intend to participate in the mediation.

Child Custody During Covid-19

We all long for the day when conversations about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic are behind us.

Couples with children, who have been unable to agree on custody and/or child support after separation and/or divorce long for the day when their conflicts are behind them.

In a recent article in The Washington Post, a District of Columbia attorney was quoted in part:

“…Cases involving custody agreements have also started to inundate court systems already backed up because of the coronavirus… I’ve been advising clients do as much as they can without the courts…”

Imagine having both problems occurring at the same time. Couples who are facing high conflict child custody disputes during the Covid-19 crisis deserve our compassion and Nancy Caplan, Esquire, Mediator for almost 15 years, provides compassionate child custody mediation focused on problem-solving. The strongest child custody settlements arise from the parents themselves and are tailored to meet their needs and the needs of their children. Successful mediation is based on self-determination of the outcomes of disputes which self-directed resolutions create more satisfaction with the results. Having greater satisfaction with your child custody dispute in Maryland is the first step in re-building your family co-parenting model for the future. A listening child custody Mediator helps the couple find the resolutions to the disputes plucked out of the sometimes unfriendly interactions of the parents.

Of course, not every angry utterance of one parent to the other in a child custody matter is a seed for settlement, it may be the opposite. With child custody mediation in Maryland, the child custody Mediator may offer the parents an opportunity to provide a confidential pre-mediation statement to the Mediator which confidential pre-mediation statement is not shared with the opposite co-parent. Even co-parents who are in high conflict usually want to reduce tensions relating to child custody, so a parent may wisely edit his/her feelings and information shared in child custody mediation in the hopes of getting to settlement. This is a worthy goal, but without keen insight into the parents’ conflicts, the Mediator works in a sterile vacuum incompatible with tailor-made child custody settlements. Therefore in child custody mediation with Nancy Caplan, Esquire, where child custody appears to be a high conflict subject, the opportunity to provide a confidential mediation statement before or during the mediation often relays information about settlement possibilities to your child custody Mediator. The child custody Mediator will ask a parent which parts, if any, the Mediator may share from the confidential mediation statement during the joint mediation session. A child custody Mediator may artfully re-phrase the complaints of a parent to convey the message while avoiding inflammatory information which may cloud the path to settlement.

Here’s a common example: One parent conveys the several conflicts had with the other parent in a confidential mediation statement. The pattern of conflict occurs during transition of the children from one party to the other at the home of a party; in other words, a “driveway conflict.” No conflicts are reported at school functions, or birthday parties, etc., This is important information to the child custody Mediator. The resolution arises from the conflict; namely parent-to-parent contact in a private setting. A logical resolution may require a child-exchange in a public setting, i.e. the local courthouse; or in the most highly conflicted child custody matters, sometimes child exchanges where an outdoor recording is made via a security system at a retail establishment to create a deterrent for the parents’ conflict. Another resolution might be an agreement that pick-ups and drop-offs occur at the school or camp outside of the presence of the opposite parent. Either of these resolutions may have occurred to one parent or both, however, at the height of the conflict between the co-parents one co-parent is a poor messenger of almost any message to the other. Hence child custody mediation may be a better messenger of obvious resolutions that feel impossible to accomplish without a compassionate and neutral third party greasing the wheels of logical settlement solutions.

Why is compassion of the child custody Mediator so important? Parents are often embarrassed by their lack of self-control in this emotionally-charged dynamic and people who have never experienced the trauma and drama of sharing precious children in this difficult moment of their lives may not be able to comprehend the impact of trauma on behaviors. An experienced Mediator or therapist may intellectually understand it, but someone who had experienced the same difficult circumstance brings authenticity and insight into the resolutions. Nancy Caplan, attorney and Mediator has experienced divorce and shared child custody with a co-parent. This experience translates to compassion for people with similar trauma. Child custody mediation with a Mediator who parents sense is not judging them when they are at their worst, most unproud moments can shift focus on feelings of shame to focus on a path to resolution. It is harder to find resolution when protecting oneself from judgment of others.

The added layer of Covid-19 piling onto the already-fraught challenge of high conflict child custody resolution is unprecedented. Mediator Nancy Caplan’s approach to settlement is unchanged. The idea is to address the details unique to the challenges in the written agreement. For example, if a parent’s employment during Covid-19 requires him/her to be exposed to the public and therefore at higher risk of Covid-19 a detailed provision may address the reasoning and intention of the parties relating to a child custody schedule which provision also commits the parties to a return to normalcy upon substantial resolution of the Covid-19 crisis. While Covid-19 throws a substantial wrench into co-parenting, other child custody circumstances following separation and/or divorce can be similarly temporary requiring “phases” of child custody. One party may be able to find patience if the language in the Agreement or custody order reserves his/her desired ultimate outcome without further judicial intervention.

There are other examples of temporary situations which might delay the ultimate custody schedule. The parties may separate while a baby is nursing and very commonly a post-separation financial crisis temporarily requires one party to live in circumstances where having a child or children overnight is not practical. Such agreements require thoughtful contractual provisions to reduce parental fears which lurk in the heart of co-parenting conflict. The parents take comfort and maintain hope where their mutually accepted ultimate goals are contractually laid out. Such provisions create a feeling of knowing the future, which reduces fear. Reduce fear and child custody sharing becomes less stressful. Less stressed-out parents are less reactive to a negative interaction (i.e. being late for dropping off a child.)

The child custody Mediator during the Covid-19 pandemic should encourage parents to allocate online-learning responsibility; should seek a way to balance what has and will occur with child custody during and/or following the crisis; and may attempt to address the possibility that we may not return to normal, and instead return to a new normal.

Challenges to co-parenting are not new; each child custody situation is as unique as a snowflake. The Covid-19 challenge is new but finding solutions to temporary disruptions is not new. Families facing these challenges are deserving of a compassionate Mediator to help them reach their shared goal of peace for their families.

Call Nancy Caplan, Esquire to be your child custody Mediator in Maryland. (410) 296-2190. All mediation appointments are occurring by Zoom teleconference due to the Covid-19 crisis, so long-distance is no longer a barrier to enlisting Nancy Caplan, Esquire to be your child custody Mediator in Maryland. Covid-19 does not have to be a barrier to your finding your solutions. Email child custody Mediator, Nancy Caplan, Esquire at mediatedivorce1@gmail.com to schedule your appointment today.