What to Do When Mediation Doesn't Work

Know when it's time to end mediation and go to court

Little toddler girl watching on sunset
Svetlana Iakusheva svetlanaiakusheva.com / Getty Images

There are a lot of benefits to child custody mediation. A mediator can help you and your ex quickly come up with the best plan for your child while also keeping the peace. Sadly, mediation doesn't work for everyone. Knowing when mediation isn’t working—and when it's time to head back to court—can be tricky. After all, even the most successful mediation sessions can involve disagreements and raised voices, but there are ways to tell when it's time to speak to a judge.

Indications that Mediation isn't Working

The following signs may indicate that mediation isn't working:

  • You are talking about the same things over and over without any resolution
  • You have been in mediation for several hours and have not reached an agreement on any of the issues you came to discuss
  • One parent is personally attacking the other or both parents are making accusations against one another
  • The discussion keeps turning to topics that are not related to the children

Not Getting Your Way Vs. Mediation Not Working

If you are compromising on a lot of things, it can feel like you are losing. Remember, however, that mediation is not about winning or losing, but about reaching an agreement that best suits your child’s needs. If you are able to come to an agreement with the other parent, even if you have to compromise on some things, then the mediation is likely still working. If, however, you and the other parent are discussing the same issues over and over without coming to a resolution, this is a sign the mediation is not working.

What to Do When You Reach an Impasse

If you reach an impasse, consider taking a break and getting some fresh air. If the session has already lasted several hours or one or both parents are frustrated, ask if you can schedule another session. It is not uncommon for couples to need more than one mediation setting. 

If one or both parents feel that mediation is not working and do not want to continue the conversation, parents can always opt to have their parenting matters resolved by a judge in court.

How to Get the Most out of Mediation

While it's tempting to view everything between you and your ex as something where you will either win or lose this type of mindset will only hurt your child. If you agree to mediation with your ex, attempt to focus only on what is best for your child or children. Arguments about your history or current relationship can wait for another time. You should try to go into your meditation session with a willingness to compromise in order give your children the best possible new life. This also means you should leave name calling and accusations and other childish behavior at the door. Choosing a mediator that both you and your ex are comfortable with can help the process go smoother.