A parent voluntarily surrendering the custody of their child is a big decision that involves a lot of emotion and many different parties invested in the outcome. While elements of this process take place in the courtroom in order to legally achieve the end goal of a viable permanent placement for a child’s well-being and growth, the role of mediated sessions is a crucial one.
When the best course of action is surrender of custody, there are two routes from which to choose. The parent can identify a candidate for assuming guardianship and care of the child or they can agree to general surrender or allow the state to determine placement. In either case, the biological parent can utilize mediation to voice their concerns and preferences in a confidential and respectful setting. Mediation during a surrender of custody situation in Short Hills can also speed the process up compared to accomplishing the same through a series of court dates.
Any custody mediation in Short Hills involves the biological parent or parents, the DCPP’s representatives, and a neutral third-party mediator. Other parties may be invited to participate as well – such as relatives of the biological parents, attorneys, or potential adoptive parents in cases of identified surrender – but only with the consent of all involved and an understanding of the confidentiality of the proceedings. The process may only require a single session or a series of meetings; whatever it takes to get everyone on the same page and arrive at a beneficial resolution.
Mediation can sometimes involve other requirements (such as state parenting education programs and services, though they may be more often attached to separation custody mediation or as a means of achieving family reunification), but the goal is to find a solution through mediation in cases of surrendering custody.
Mediation can also be a particularly effective tool when the children potentially being surrendered to adoption are old enough to provide their own thoughts on the matter. Children may participate in mediation should they have the maturity and desire to do so. With adolescents and teenagers, bringing them into the conversation can be vital to the process as they have as much emotional investment in the matter and the means to speak their peace if provided the setting.
It’s vital to know what can and cannot be accomplished through mediation. Any agreements reached within a session or sessions can eventually be legally binding but must first be put into writing in a consent agreement which is then passed along to the court for review and endorsement. Within mediation, a parent can arrive at voluntary surrender of custody and make a decision between identified surrender (where the parent can choose who will adopt their child) or general surrender (where the state places the child with a foster family).
In Short Hills, if the prospective adoptive parents are present for mediation during a surrender of custody case, it’s not uncommon for them and the biological parents to discuss post-adoption visitation or sharing of information about the child (like sending photos of the adopted child or updates about their growth and well-being). However, it’s important to note that any agreements between the biological and adoptive parents are not legally binding in the state of New Jersey. The adoptive parents have no obligation to uphold post-adoption plans for contact or information sharing.
Above all else, using mediation in instances of a voluntary surrender of custody can explore all options in a child welfare case without the protracted and stressful nature of trying to achieve the same solely in court. Williams Law Group’s experience in this sector of family law is substantial. Our lawyers can both provide the guiding hand through mediation to arrive at the right outcome and the courtroom experience to effectively litigate what cannot be accomplished through mediated sessions.
The role of a lawyer in mediation during a surrender of custody case in Short Hills is a crucial one. Even though these sessions don’t take place in the courtroom, experienced counsel from Williams Law Group can be the difference between effective mediation and a parent leaving sessions wondering if there was more they could do. A parent’s lawyer helps them plan and prepare for mediation — what they want to achieve through it, defining their ideal outcomes, and understanding alternate plans of action should the ideal be unachievable.