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Collaborative efforts are best with child custody decisions

Divorce is a challenging and sometimes heated process. Soon-to-be-ex-spouses face a number of issues as they separate their lives, but one of the harder decisions in a divorce is deciding child custody.

If parents are willing to work together to collaborate on a decision about parenting time and custody, it can keep them out of court and save them both time and money. In child custody, parents can either reach a decision on their own or if they aren’t able to agree, a court can make a decision on their behalf.

Custody arrangements

With a custody agreement, parents are trying to decide where the children will live, how to share parenting time, who makes the decisions regarding the children and the schedule they might follow. There are two types of custody:

  • Shared custody between parents (also known as joint custody) involves the child splitting time between the two parent households and the parents sharing decision-making responsibilities.
  • Sole custody is where one parent is primary and retains all parental rights. The child lives in one household and the other parent has visitation with the child, or parenting time.

Working together

If parents are amicable and willing to come to an agreement, it’s best if parents can decide between themselves how they’ll share parenting time. To reach an agreement, legal counsel can guide them to problem solve together by using an Alternative Dispute Resolution like mediation. With input from legal counsel, this is a great way to reach an agreement peacefully and without a lot of conflict.

In mediation, a family works with a mediator to reach a mutual agreement. A mediator is a neutral party who facilitates a discussion to reach a fair and reasonable outcome. Because mediation is done outside of court, it’s private, gives parents more control over the outcome and saves a family both time and money.

A court can make a decision if a family doesn’t agree

When parents don’t agree, a family law court will make a decision for them. In doing so, a judge will consider a number of things to ensure that a decision is in the best interest of the child. Factors like the wishes of the child and parents, the relationship a child has with the parents and siblings, the physical and mental health of the parents and the impact a decision will have on a child will all be part of a decision. A court will work to promote the safety, health and well-being of a child in their decision. 

Custody decisions can be complicated and there is no one answer. Each case is determined by individual circumstances, however, the main goal with all custody decisions should be what's in the best interest of the child. If you find yourself in a battle over custody, an experienced family law attorney can guide you toward the best remedies to reach the best possible result.

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