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Choosing an alternative to court in parenting time decisions

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

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

Parenting time arrangements

With a parenting time 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 considerations when evaluating the allocation of parental responsibilities:

  • Shared parenting time between parents involves the child splitting time between the two parent households based on a specific schedule
  • Shared decision-making requires the parents to share typical decision-making responsibilities such as school choice or medical decisions

Working together

If parents are amicable and willing to come to an agreement, it is best if parents can decide between themselves how they will share parenting time. Utilizing an Alternative Dispute Resolution option like mediation can help the parties reach an agreement. With input from legal counsel, this is a great way to reach an agreement while minimizing conflict.

In mediation, a family works with a mediator to reach an agreement. A mediator is a neutral party who facilitates a discussion to reach a fair and reasonable outcome. Mediation is done outside of court and it is private. It can allow parents more control over the outcome and saves a family both time, money and stress.

A court can decide

When parents are not able to reach an agreement, a judicial officer will need to 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. 

Parenting time decisions can be complicated and there is no one answer or solution. Each case is determined by individual circumstances. The main goal with all parenting time decisions should be what's in the best interest of the child.

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