When child custody is disputed, there are alternative methods to court that can help parents resolve outside of a courtroom. These alternatives focus on promoting effective communication, cooperation, and the best interests of the child. If child custody is an issue, consider some possible alternatives to court as explained below.
- Mediation: Mediation involves a neutral mediator. This mediator encourages a dialog between the parties to help them reach a custody arrangement that satisfies everyone. The mediator assists in identifying common goals, exploring various options, and finding compromises. Mediation allows parents to maintain control over the decision-making process and encourages cooperation and communication.
- Collaborative Law: Collaborative law is a process in which each parent retains their own collaboratively trained attorney. Both parties and their attorneys commit to resolving the custody dispute without going to court. The parents and their attorneys work together in a series of meetings to negotiate an agreement that meets the best interests of the child. Other professionals, such as child specialists or financial experts, may be involved if needed.
- Parenting Coordination: Parenting coordination involves the assistance of a qualified professional who helps parents resolve conflicts and make decisions related to parenting matters. The parenting coordinator helps facilitate communication, provides guidance, and, if necessary, makes recommendations to the court regarding custody and visitation issues. The goal is to reduce conflict and promote effective co-parenting.
- Arbitration: Arbitration is a more formal process where an arbitrator, similar to a judge, listens to both sides of the custody dispute and makes a binding decision. It provides a private and streamlined alternative to court proceedings. The arbitrator's decision is enforceable by the court, and the parties agree to abide by the outcome.
- Parenting Plans: Parents can work together, with or without the assistance of professionals, to create a comprehensive parenting plan. This plan outlines the details of custody, visitation schedules, decision-making processes, and other important aspects of raising the child. Creating a detailed parenting plan can provide clarity and structure while promoting cooperation and reducing conflicts.
Naturally, the appropriateness of these alternatives may vary depending on the complexity of the custody dispute and the willingness of both parents to collaborate. Some parents find that a combination of the above methods can be utilized, such as starting with mediation and moving to arbitration if an agreement cannot be reached.
Consult with an attorney who specializes in family law to understand the specific options available in your state and to determine the best approach given your circumstances.
Reach out to a family law lawyer to learn more.