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Child Custody Mediation in Colorado: A Step-by-Step Guide

Child custody mediation

When it comes to resolving child custody disputes in Colorado, mediation is almost always mandatory. The court will order the parties to mediate prior to having a custody trial. Your lawyer will prepare you for mediation and keep you in compliance with deadlines. If you don’t have a lawyer, then it’s on you to choose a mediator and prepare your case for mediation.

1. Why is mediation required?

Judges are authorized to order mediation in domestic relations cases and it’s almost always done. The theory is that parents should be encouraged to work together in the best interest of their children without having a stranger (e.g., the judge) decide for them. Mediation is helpful at helping you settle some or all parts of your case.

2. Benefits of Mediation

Mediation offers numerous advantages, including confidentiality, reduced conflict, faster resolution, less expensive, and a child-centered approach. Issues discussed at mediation cannot be used as evidence against you at trial. This creates a safe environment where parties are free to communicate without fearing that someone will use your words against you later in trial. There are no benefits to mediation when one or both parties mediate in bad faith.

3. Locate a Qualified Mediator

Begin by finding a qualified mediator who specializes in child custody matters. Each Colorado county provides a list of mediators through the Office of Dispute Resolution. These are often the most affordable options for mediation at $75/hr per party for a two hour mediation (i.e., $150/per party for 2hr mediation). Private mediator rates vary but are typically much more expensive. The cost of a private mediator may be worth the additional expense if they are qualified.

4. Prepare Relevant Documents

While you don’t need a lawyer in your corner during mediation, it is essential to come prepared. Gather all relevant documents, including your proposed parenting plan, financial documentation, and any communication or test or report that may be pertinent to your case.

5. Attend the Mediation Session

Mediation sessions typically involve both parents, their lawyers, and the mediator. The parents can be in the same room together or in separate rooms and it doesn’t matter whether the mediation is virtual or in-person. Nobody else should be at the mediation unless everyone agrees otherwise. You have the right to request for anyone to leave who is not a party or lawyer to the case. The mediator will facilitate discussions and guide you through the process and present options to both sides. Each session provides an opportunity to express your concerns, priorities, and desired outcomes which is why you should always come prepared.

6. Cooperate and Communicate

Approach mediation with a cooperative mindset and a willingness to communicate openly with the other parent. The mediator will help foster productive dialogue and assist in finding common ground, if any. Mediation is confidential; it’s like a mini trial where each party expresses their desires and reasons to support it. The mediator cannot give you legal advice, tell you what to do, or tell the judge what to do.

7. Create a Parenting Plan

Whether written on a napkin or a 30 page paper, come with a list of things that you think are in the best interests of your children. A good parenting plan is detailed accounting for both foreseeable and unforeseeable events. A basic parenting plan should at the very least include provisions that outline each parent’s: (1) Parenting Time; (2) Transportation expectations; (3) Decision-Making Authority; (4) Summer and holiday breaks; (5) communication; (6) school location; (7) school & medical expense expectations (including health insurance); and (8) child support.

8. Reach an Agreement

Your goal of mediation should be to reach an agreement that both parents find acceptable for the children. This agreement will be written by the mediator, attorneys, or a combination of both. Read the agreement carefully before agreeing to its terms. If both parties agree to the terms of the parenting plan then file it with the court and can becomes legally binding if it’s approved by the court. If only a partial agreement or no agreement is reached at mediation, then the judge will decide for you after a trial.

9. Formalize the Agreement

Once an agreement is reached, the mediator and lawyers will help you formalize it into legal document. This document will be submitted ot the court for approval. Once approved, it is an official order of the court and there are consequences for violating it.

10. Compliance and Follow-Through

After the mediation is over and the court has approved your plan, it’s vital to adhere to the terms of the agreement and continue to cooperate in good faith with your ex in the best interests of your child.


Navigating child custody mediation in Colorado is not only mandatory but also a practical and effective way to resolve disputes. With the assistance of a qualified mediator, parents can work together to create a child-focused parenting plan without the need for legal representation. By approaching the process with an open mind, cooperation, and the best interests of your child at heart, you can lay the foundation for a more harmonious co-parenting relationship.

Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions regarding how to set up child custody mediation.

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