When it comes to deciding child custody, a court battle is not always the best option. Even for divorcing couples who cannot agree on a custody agreement, there are alternatives that are less combative, which is better for the children.
Two common methods for alternative dispute resolution are mediation and collaborative law. Both put control in the hands of the parents, and they often result in better communication between the two parties after the divorce.
Mediation v.s. collaborative law
FindLaw discusses that mediation consists of a neutral party who leads conversations between the two parents. With the ability to discuss what is best for the children in a more casual and less stressful environment, the parties can come to an agreeable decision. When there are arguments or stalemates between the parents, the mediator has conflict-resolution skills to help them work through them.
Collaborative law is similar to mediation, but the attorneys for each party do most of the negotiations. To improve the chances, each lawyer will do what is right for the child. They each sign a contract stating that if they are unable to come up with an agreement and the couple chooses to pursue litigation, each side will hire new attorneys for court.
Best interests to consider
Whether divorcing spouses choose mediation, collaborative law or litigation, the focus is on what is best for the children. The Child Welfare Information Gateway discusses some of the considerations:
- Current relationships the child has with parents and other family members
- Physical and mental health of each party
- Ability of each parent to provide a safe and loving home
- Age and needs of the child
In Florida, the courts also consider the child’s wishes once the child is older and mature enough to understand.