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Putting Children First: Alternatives to Custody Litigation

Custody litigation with or without a divorce is an emotionally draining and often a life-altering event, not just for the parents, but also for their children. Fortunately, parents no longer need to subject their children to the traditional adversarial courtroom experience and outcome. Parents now have means through which they can reach a mutually acceptable resolution of their parenting issues without litigation.

Mediation and collaborative custody resolution are the two main litigation alternatives that are available to parents dissolving their relationship. The many benefits associated with these different settlement processes are especially appealing for parents who are concerned with the effect of the litigation process on the general well-being and welfare of their children. Both mediation and collaborative resolution methods can create a less stressful atmosphere for the children. In any situation, the dissolution of the family unit is a strain on parents and children alike.  However, the added stress of courtroom battles and the loss of control over the outcomes that comes with litigation models can be eliminated.  This can result in a shared goal of a positive outcome for the children.

Alternative resolution processes also present parents with the opportunity to reach an agreement in a more respectful manner, while controlling the direction and pace of their negotiations. This, in turn, gives the parents a better chance to consider a parenting plan that will best fit their children’s needs. Parents are in the best position to know what will be most beneficial for their children. A parent-created — as opposed to a judge-ordered — parenting plan has the best potential to fit the specific needs of your children.

Divorce and custody litigation can be a drain on family finances. Alternative litigation is advantageous in that it is allows parents to focus on the realities of the creation of dual households, and to minimize the impact of these realities on themselves and their children. Spouses who participate in these alternative dispute resolution methods also enhance their communication skills, and establish a good foundation that will help them to be more effective co-parents in the future.

Mediation and collaborative methods both provide parents with professionals who will help them to focus on their children’s unique needs, without telling the parents what decisions to make. The collaborative method offers a further benefit for children through participation of a child specialist on the collaborative team. Child specialists ensure that the wants, needs, and opinions of the children are considered when crafting a parenting plan. They also help parents to determine a parenting arrangements that will be best suited to the developmental needs of their children.

Although alternative resolution methods offer many advantages over custody litigation, the circumstances for every family are unique. When faced with the dissolution of their marriage or family unit, parents are encouraged to consult with an experienced attorney who can help them determine what process will best serve the needs of all family members.


An outstanding job on my case to have custody, visitation and support decided in my home state instead of Virginia after I separated from military service.- A.E.