Monday, July 30, 2007

End of Summer Custody Disputes: Possible Solutions

The family law courts usually become busier in late July and August. Many custody change cases are filed and the parents want the issue resolved favorably before school starts. Unfortunately, it often takes many months or a year or more to get a final decision. Sometimes, it’s hard to get even a temporary decision before school starts. On top of that, it can be a very expensive process to be involved in.

When faced with a choice to file for custody, or a choice of how to
respond to a custody change suit, wise parents will consider whether there are any other ways for the parties to achieve their goals. The answer often is "yes".

Here are some suggestions to consider if you are faced with this issue in the near future.
  • The parents can work together through the Collaborative Law process. It would be especially beneficial to bring in a child specialist to help them come up with some original creative ideas.

  • If a parent really just wants more time with the child and recognizes that the current home is good, maybe letting the non-custodial parent pick up the child after school, or see the child in the evenings during the week or have an extra night or two overnight would help.

  • If there are school problems, maybe bringing in a tutor, or letting the other parent tutor, would solve the problem. With school issues, it really is better to have both parents working together to come up with solutions. Again, a child specialist could be very helpful.

  • Having both parents take a co-parenting class would help, especially if they were in the same class together. That way, they would both get the same information.
  • If there are scheduling problems, maybe the parties could use an on-line service to share a calendar. There are several services available at very little cost and not requiring high tech expertise.

  • The parents could also go to counseling together or even include the child in counseling. If the parties can work together somewhat, attending counseling together could be very effective.

  • If both parties have strong feelings about some issues, they could go to a mediator or meet with a child specialist to work out some creative solutions. Having a qualified, neutral professional help them would give them a better chance of success.

You may have noticed that none of the suggestions involved rushing to the courthouse, filing and getting a hearing as quickly as possible. That’s because going to court is expensive, it escalates the fighting, it damages relationships and it generally will result in some standardized order that may not be very comfortable or effective for the parents and child. Usually, one side prevails in court and the other loses. Creativity is in short supply at the courthouse. A better solution is to think and talk before filing. Don’t get caught up in the emotion or perceived opportunity to succeed by starting a court fight. A better course of action is to keep the big picture in mind and focus on what’s truly best for your child – not just what you want!

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