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Why Custody Cases End Up In Court

A courtroom is one of the most difficult places to establish terms for parenting a child. When custody decisions must be made in court, it will be impossible for the judge to take into account all the nuances of the child’s relationship with each parent or understand scheduling details that can make all the difference for busy families. The plans for decision-making and living arrangements will be impersonal because there simply is not time for judges to sit down and learn every facet of your family dynamics.

Decisions made in the courtroom are not only less tailored than plans developed through negotiation or mediation, but the process of reaching the decisions is often much more lengthy, contentious, and expensive. Despite all the incentives for parents to work with their attorneys to establish custody plans out of court, many custody disagreements between parents continue until resolved through a full trial. Why is that? And what can you do to avoid this less-than-ideal outcome? With over 300 years of combined experience handling custody and other hotly-contested family law issues, the team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, presents some factors to consider.

Emotions Run High

When parents separate, they are often terrified at the prospect of being pushed out of their children’s lives and missing the opportunities to connect with them as they grow. Any time apart can suddenly seem like too much. And in their emotional anguish, parents often tend to put their own emotional needs ahead of those of their children. Human nature is hard to overcome, and human beings have a natural instinct favoring self-preservation.

For this reason, parents often want to dig in and fight for every possible moment of parenting time they can get from a custody schedule—even if their work schedule would make it impossible for them to actually spend all that parenting time with the child. They fight because they can’t stand the thought of losing.

Inflammatory Legal Tactics

Another reason custody cases often end up in court is that many times when parents say they want to fight for custody, their attorneys are only too ready to lead the attack. Attorneys can get swept up in the drama, attack the other parent’s choices and actions to make their client look good by comparison, and trigger emotional reactions that rebound destructively back and forth, generating legal fees but not resolving any outstanding issues. Many attorneys have yet to learn that advocacy does not require animosity, and that these inflammatory tactics are counter-productive. Moreover, these emotionally reactive actions destroy family relationships that the child will need as life moves forward.

It is possible to achieve custody objectives through strategic use of discovery and negotiation, achieving parenting time in a practical schedule that is custom tailored for the lives of both parents as well as the child. But you need to take a reasoned approach rather than an irrationally emotional one to succeed outside of court, and many attorneys lack the discipline to stay focused on their clients’ goals.

For Some Parents, Custody is About Money

Custody issues not only trigger emotional responses but they also hit another sensitive issue: money. The more parenting time allocated to a parent, the less their child support obligations will be. This situation also causes some parents to refuse to negotiate when it comes to custody. They view the fight as a battle for their financial security.

One Parent May Be Abusive or Narcissistic

Sometimes parents want the judge to make all the decisions in court because they do not even want to attempt to negotiate with the other parent. If one parent tends to be a bully or has a history of abusive behavior, it is only natural to want to avoid contact. However, attorneys can often negotiate resolutions without the need for parents to interact directly.

One parent may be convinced that the other poses a danger to the child, and they don’t want that parent to have any custody or unsupervised visitation. Since it’s unlikely that the other parent will voluntarily accept this, taking the matter to court may be the eventual outcome. However, when faced with overwhelming evidence of past wrongdoing, parents are sometimes reasonable, and may agree to accept an arrangement with supervised visitation to avoid the risk that a judge might deny visitation entirely. The bottom line is that if you want to avoid the conflict, drama, expense and delays of a trial, it is worth at least attempting to negotiate with the assistance of an effective family law attorney.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC Advocates Effectively for Custody Goals In and Out of Court

Knowing why so many custody cases end up in court can help you avoid the anxiety and uncertainty of taking custody decisions to the judge for decision. If you can negotiate even part of a parenting plan, that can help secure the right arrangements for the future and help reduce some of the negative aspects of a trial situation.

The team at Holstrom, Block & Parke understands how to achieve goals for clients through all types of methods, from mediation and negotiation through court trials and appeals. For a confidential consultation to learn how we could assist with a custody matter, schedule an appointment today.

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