What if you have a somewhat congenial relationship with your child’s other parent, but you both agree you don’t want to remain together? Your splitting is “nobody’s fault.”
But you have children and both of you are painfully aware that today’s congeniality can be tomorrow’s eternal conflict if your case involves a pair of attorneys whose job it is to put you in the best light and your partner in the worst. What’s said in the court room over a period of weeks or even months can possibly destroy your relationship with your Ex and your children.
And it might not even be necessary.
If the two of you are on good terms, you should consider alternatives.
Prior to going to court, you might look at arbitration or mediation as a way to settle your child custody dispute. Litigation might not be necessary since one side isn’t blaming the other one for wrongdoing. Both avenues are less adversarial than court, and are much easier and less expensive than a court custody case. Most importantly, it’s much less stressful on the children.
While both arbitration and mediation enjoy many advantages, they feature significant differences. In mediation, a neutral third-party, called a “mediator” is chosen to help the parties reach a settlement. The mediator might make decisions he or she is unable to legally enforce; therefore mediation is not binding in court. The process is informal, and the mediator has more leeway with rules. It’s also confidential.
Arbitration is a bit riskier, in that the arbitrator’s decisions are binding in court. The arbitrator is appointed with the approval of both parties. It’s more structured, and the arbitrator acts as a judge.
The couple can also agree to a combination of the two processes, called binding mediation. It generally starts with “non-binding mediation,” and then becomes arbitration, if the parties don’t agree with the decision.
While not right for everyone, mediation and arbitration can prove successful way to come to a child custody agreement.
What have been your experiences with mediation or arbitration?
Fred Campos is father to three and primary custodian to his daughter Caitlyn from a previous relationship. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici on FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
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