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3 Best Methods to Settle a Custody Dispute


3 Best Methods to Settle a Custody Dispute

Last week, I read that Nia Vardalos, the My Big Fat Greek Wedding (funny movie!) star, and Ian Gomez sadly filed for divorce after 25 years of marriage. They cited irreconcilable differences and asked for joint legal custody of their daughter, Ilaria, age 11. I am hoping they will consider arrangements other than going to court to establish custody. There really are much better ways!

As a family law attorney and psychologically-trained mediator, I regularly counsel fathers and mothers going through divorce who are considering a custody action. Often, these concerned parents have a fair amount of misconceptions as to what custody actually entails.

From the outset, it’s important to know that custody is not necessarily about the physical location where the child lives. It’s about the right to make major decisions on matters such as a child’s schooling, religion, and medical care. In my over thirty-five years of experience, I’ve witnessed custody battles that can be vicious, lengthy, and excessively expensive. For parents going through a divorce: if you want to be sure you make the right choice when it comes to your child’s custody, here are the three best methods for settling a custody dispute:

  1. Mediator: A third party who can help negotiate an acceptable agreement. This is a person who helps spouses communicate but doesn’t make any decisions for them. This is someone who can save you time and tens of thousands of dollars. As a mediator, I encourage couples to consider their child first in all their decisions. Children are not meant to be pawns in your tug of war for control. Children are precious and deserve only the best from you both.
  1. Lawyers Negotiate Out of Court: As straightforward as it sounds, it’s for spouses who tell their attorneys to stay out of court. This may be an option when spouses have engaged in threatening, deceptive, or manipulative behavior between one another. If they are unable to resolve conflict on their own, they must come to a reasonable solution using their attorneys outside of the courtroom.
  1. Parent Coordinator: A relatively new practice used in some states to manage ongoing issues in high-conflict child custody and visitation cases. Usually performed by professional psychologist or a lawyer assigned by the Court. The coordinator meets with both parents regularly, handles questions and complaints, mediates, decides disagreements, and makes recommendations to the mother and father. These are usually supported by the judge. Instead of ending up back in court to discuss details such as a 7am drop off on Christmas Eve or at which house the child keeps their toys, a PC will help resolve these issues within a few phone calls.

Of course, there are times when using the court to settle child custody is necessary, such as in cases of abuse or neglect. But just know that judges can make decisions about the future of your children without having all of the facts or a true understanding of the psychological dynamics within your family. Protect and preserve your family, even at the time of divorce!

Remember, if you are having issues with custody, consider your child first!! Battling in court is not always the answer or the best choice. An amicable approach to custody is always best. Try it!

Please call me if you would like to learn more! I have some really solid strategies for handling child custody with the least amount of damage to your child. I hope to hear from you. 212.734.1551.

Take care,