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How to Avoid a Custody Dispute



The most often disputed part of a divorce proceeding involves which parent gets custody of a child. In most cases, one parent is named the primary guardian, but there are situations when joint custody is granted. If a custody dispute arises during divorce, there are ways that parents can settle the argument amicably.

The first step in avoiding custody disputes is mediation. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. It aims to get both parties to reach an agreement. For a child custody dispute, mediation allows the divorcing couple to determine the conditions for child custody, rather than having to follow the court's orders.

The mediation process saves time and money. It also helps solidify the child-rearing arrangement after a divorce is finalized. More important, mediation can help deter any vicious fights that may arise between the parents and the children involved during a divorce proceeding. This helps alleviate a stressful situation for all involved. Ultimately, mediation can create a custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the child.

Some courts in the United States require that divorcing couples enter into mediation to prevent unnecessary fighting. Usually the process begins with spouses deciding who gets custody of the child. Parents can opt to share joint custody of the child. Or parents can agree that one parent will have sole custody of a child and the other parent will get visitation rights. During mediation, most states also require that spouses comply with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA). According to the Pennsylvania Commission Against Domestic Violence, "The UCCJA prohibits modification of custody and visitation orders made by other states and requires that states enforce these orders." This law also helps establish where and with whom a child has been living with over the last few years.

Steps to Avoid a Custody Dispute

When entering a mediation to determine custody of a child, a parent should think about what they believe is in the best interests of the child and be prepared to substantiate their beliefs during the process. This may require a parent to initially obtain legal advice from a lawyer.

A parent must be prepared to do the following:

  • Discuss the daily schedules of the parties involved
  • Present any custody proposals
  • Reveal any important records, including report cards or letters from a childs therapist, which would prove their case

The mediation process involves an initial meeting with a mediator, who will explain what will take place during the process. The mediator then helps spot any custody issues that need resolving.

These include:

  • Coming up with a regular custody schedule
  • Creating a list of exceptions, such as holidays and vacations, that would override the regular schedule
  • Talking about how the parents will discuss the children
  • Discussing any special issues that may arise
  • Figuring out how the custody arrangement could be changed in the future

The mediator also insures that parental concerns on both sides are addressed equally and fairly. Once the couple comes to a mutual agreement regarding the child, the mediator helps prepare the child custody agreement. Unresolved issues are settled in court.

In the end, mediation helps the courts decide what is in the best interests of the child during a custody dispute. The end result is a custodial arrangement that is best for your child's physical, psychological and emotional needs.