Benefits of alternative dispute resolution in child custody disputes


Legal battles in family court are costly, drag on for months or years, and lead to increasingly entrenched positions between the parties. The children involved may not be served by this practice. Because of this, alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation and arbitration have become more popular in custody disputes. Consider the potential advantages of opting for one of these alternatives.

Courtroom litigation sets up an inherently adversarial dynamic between the parents. Each side makes arguments aimed at “winning” rather than collaborating. With ADR methods like mediation, the parents work cooperatively with a neutral third party to craft a parenting plan that addresses the needs of both households. The mediator helps find common ground. Arbitration is still less adversarial than court since the arbiter aims to find an equitable solution after hearing both sides. 

More control over the outcome

Judges make final custody decisions based on the law. child custody lawyer understands their children and family circumstances best. So, ADR allows parents to play a more direct role in determining custody schedules, parenting plans, and conditions that make sense for their situation. Judges may impose rigid 50/50 splits or other arrangements that feel unsuitable for the kids. Parents tailor arrangements through ADR. When parents craft their agreement together through mediation, they better understand the rationale behind each provision. Plans ordered by a judge may meet resistance. If parents negotiate terms themselves, compliance is more likely since the plans don’t feel arbitrarily imposed. Shared creation boosts cooperation.

Reduced stress on children

Caught in the middle of bitter custody battles, children often experience loyalty conflicts, uncertainty, and other issues. ADR solutions reached more quickly reduce the length of time kids are exposed to parental disputes. And the cooperative solutions focus on minimizing family disruption for the kids rather than “defeating” the other parent. Court proceedings and documents become part of the public record. ADR sessions allow parents to have confidential discussions about finances, relationships, family concerns, and other sensitive topics without fear that will be disseminated or used against them later. It leads to more open and constructive communication.

Faster resolution

Overcrowded family court dockets mean custody cases drag on for many months or even years before a judge makes a final ruling during a trial. Mediation and arbitration facilitate agreements much more quickly, often within weeks or months. Kids benefit when stable custodial arrangements are in place sooner. Mediators and arbitrators charge by the hour, but their total fees pale in comparison to litigation expenses like substantial retainers, extensive attorney research and preparation hours, deposition costs, and trial fees. Opting for ADR early on significantly reduces the cost for both parents.

Improved future communication 

The cooperative focus of mediation often opens up communication channels between divorcing parents. Learning to have productive discussions sets a pattern for civilly discussing parenting issues that arise later. Court battles often do the opposite, creating lingering resentment between parents. Judges typically order cookie-cutter custody terms based on the child’s age. But, through mediation, parents develop truly customized arrangements that reflect the personalities, needs, schedules, and other realities of their particular child and family situation. Gives kids the individual attention they deserve.


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