Making Child Custody Decisions

Divorce can be very difficult emotionally. Powerful feelings can get stirred up when discussing custody arrangements or a change in custody. Getting into a custody fight can be one of the most expensive, emotionally draining and destructive things someone can do. That’s true whether it is an initial custody determination or a subsequent modification or change of custody. A custody fight is often as damaging for the children as it is for the adults. For those who want a more civilized means of resolving such disagreements, consider the following advantages of Collaborative Law.

1. Collaborative Law puts the focus on the real underlying goals of the parties. Sometimes people ask for primary custody when they really want something else, such as to be included in major decision-making, to get more time with the children or to have a different schedule with the children. There could be any number of truly important issues, but a parent may think that seeking primary custody is the only way to meet their needs. The professionals in a Collaborative case help the parties dig deep and understand their most important goals and don’t let them approach the matter superficially. Better solutions are possible when the parties are focused on the right issues.

2. Collaborative Law is a process that encourages the parties and attorneys to bring needed neutral expert helpers to assist the parties identify their goals, discover various options and select appropriate solutions that tie in to their goals, needs and interests. Child experts can be brought in to work with both parties and help them develop unique plans to fit their circumstances.

3. The parties can be more creative in a Collaborative case. In a traditional litigation case, the attorneys, parties and judges normally just default to the standard guidelines for child support and visitation, as well as standard divisions of parental rights, powers and duties. Those can be considered in a Collaborative case, but it is just as useful to see the variety of guidelines developed by various other states’ laws. All of that information can be combined and refined with additional original ideas, to come up with custom plans to meet the parents’ needs. A plan can be developed that preserves and utilizes the strengths of each party.

4. Collaborative Law is an ideal environment to set up a temporary test arrangement or transition to try out one or more plans for changes. The parties can set up temporary plans and let experts help evaluate their success as well as suggest refinements. There doesn’t have to be just one final decision made after a contentious build-up. Changes can be made gradually or temporarily. New adjustments can be easily made since the parties control the timing and procedure of the process. Collaborative Law is a much more flexible process than litigation.

5. Most importantly for many people, using the Collaborative approach allows the parties to preserve peace and family relationships. Everyone works cooperatively. There is less competition between the sides when the stakes are changed from “winner take all”. The children really come out ahead when they see their parents getting along and speaking of and to each other in friendly terms.

Experience has shown that creative and successful plans can be developed through using the Collaborative approach. In matters involving children, it makes sense to use the best approach available, which is usually Collaborative Law.