How do I Handle Custody Disputes?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Custody disputes tend to be emotionally charged. Parents who are dealing with custody issues may have a difficult time remaining calm and rational, as they are engaged in disputes over something infinitely precious—their children. Still, many studies show that children benefit most when parents can resolve custody issues amicably. As such, parents may do well to cooperate by creating an agreement on their own or seeking a mediator's help instead of going to court. In some cases, however, parents are unable to resolve matters without court help and decide to seek legal assistance instead.

Grandparents may petition for child custody.
Grandparents may petition for child custody.

Often, those involved in custody disputes think they have to proceed with a custody trial. Fortunately, this is not always true. Parents usually can create their own agreements and have them filed with the local court if desired. When parents cannot come to an agreement, however, they may end up before a judge. Unfortunately, custody trials often lead to more stress for the parents and frequently end with a decision with which neither party is completely happy.

A child custody mediator will seek out an arrangement that is in the best interests of the child.
A child custody mediator will seek out an arrangement that is in the best interests of the child.

One way to handle a custody dispute is by cooperating with the other parent to create a custody agreement that suits both parents and is good for the children. It can be hard to avoid seeing the other parent as the enemy when custody issues are involved. If the parties involved in a custody dispute can agree to put their children’s needs first and be partners in deciding custody arrangements, however, both the parents and the children may benefit. This type of cooperation often breeds more contented children and satisfied parents. Additionally, it can be much less expensive and stressful than a custody trial or mediation.

Studies show that children benefit most when parents can resolve custody issues amicably.
Studies show that children benefit most when parents can resolve custody issues amicably.

If parents have trouble coming to agreement on their own, they may seek the help of a custody mediator. This person won’t make custody decisions for the parties, but will usually help them to create an agreement instead. A custody mediator remains impartial and works to keep mediation sessions on track and productive. Typically, both parties have the right to walk away from mediation at any time, so parents aren’t forced into agreeing. This method of handling custody disputes is less adversarial than going to court and is usually less expensive as well.

If parents cannot not handle a custody dispute cooperatively, either on their own or with the help of a mediator, the next step often involves seeking a lawyer’s assistance. Lawyers may help negotiate the details of a custody agreement for their clients. Sometimes parents are unable to reach an agreement, however, even with the help of experienced lawyers. In such a case, it may be necessary to proceed to court for a custody trial. This method of handling custody disputes is likely to be the most expensive and adversarial.

Mediation may help divorcing partners come to an agreement about child custody arrangements.
Mediation may help divorcing partners come to an agreement about child custody arrangements.
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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