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How to Stay Out of Court Over Child Care Disputes

October 10, 2023
Advice, child support
Stay Out of Court Over Child Care Disputes

Raising kids is always a challenge—even happily married couples won’t see eye-to-eye on everything. But you don’t have to go to court when you and your ex disagree on child-related issues. In fact, the court system would rather you work out a solution without their help.

Co-parenting debates clog up the judicial system and prevent judges from quickly trying more important cases. As a result, alternative conflict resolution strategies are popping up around the globe to help co-parents better settle disputes. Below, we share critical information and tips for resolving differences and staying out of court.

Think Like a Judge to Avoid a Judge

Even the most peaceful of court proceedings follow a process of making applications, attending hearings, and waiting for a ruling. All are costly and slow. In the end, the judge may recommend you and your co-parent work it out between yourselves in a settlement conference anyway.

Looking at your situation from a judge’s point of view can help you avoid lengthy and expensive court processes. Consider the following statements from a judge’s standpoint when trying to reach an agreement regarding your children with your ex:

  • Children have a right to a relationship with both parents.
  • Parents know their children best, so they’re usually in the best position for making decisions about them.
  • If the child is of an appropriate age and understanding, they can weigh in with their feelings and wishes.
  • Children’s and parents’ physical, emotional, mental, and educational needs play a big part in decisions and how well the child will be cared for.
  • Consider the impact of decisions on a child.
  • Protect children from harmful people and situations.

Know When to Collaborate (Or Not) With Your Co-parent

You don’t have to run every decision by your co-parent. You’re in charge of minor decisions involving daily care while your child is in your custody. You’re free to make the following decisions on your own when it’s your turn to care for your children:

✔ What your kids wear

✔ What your kids eat

✔ How your kids spend their free time

✔ Attendance at after-school programs or events

✔ Child care

✔ Your child’s hygiene

✔ TV, cellphone, and electronics usage

A few decisions fall somewhere in between. You must tell your co-parent about the following, but you don’t need their approval for:

✓ Emergency medical treatment for your child

✓ A change of address or living situation that does not affect your child’s school

Stop! Get your co-parent’s approval first before planning any of the following:

✕ A move to another area of the country or world

✕ A move that will change your child’s school

✕ Keeping your child out of school when they aren’t sick

✕ A change in living and contact arrangements during holidays

✕ Letting your child watch a movie rated above their age range

✕ Planning medical or dental treatments that go beyond routine check-ups

✕ Discontinuing your child’s prescribed medication

✕ Changing your child’s surname

Understand the Alternatives

The court system prefers you make decisions with your co-parent instead of leaving them in the hands of a judge. But you don’t have to do it alone. You likely have alternative solutions in your local area at little to no cost to you.

  • Negotiation– You and your co-parent can enter into private negotiations with or without the help of legal experts. You may choose to develop an entire parenting plan to guide most future decisions. Cooperative communication is critical. If talking to your co-parent and getting them to agree with you on anything seems impossible, an attorney can help.
  • Mediation (or Family Dispute Resolution)– A trained mediator can listen to your issues, identify potential problems, and help develop possible solutions. Ultimately, you and your co-parent must agree on what’s best. Your mediator can make all agreements court-binding. Children of age and mental understanding can also get involved in the process.Sometimes, you and your ex can’t or shouldn’t be in the same room. In such cases, mediation can occur through tele- or video conference or a shuttle conference where the mediator acts as a go-between, listening to each of you separately and relaying what each has said.
  • Collaboration– You and your co-parent pledge to keep disagreements out of court and rely on your advisors (legal, financial, mental, etc.) to guide your decisions.
  • Arbitration– Most like a court case, a neutral third party hears your dispute and designs a solution. And just like a judge’s final decision, what the arbitrator says goes. They can apply to the courts to make the decision binding.
  • Parent Coordination– After documenting a shared parenting plan or agreement, you and your co-parent resolve to solve all disputes using the document. However, the best-laid plans can’t factor in all of life’s changes, so parents will work together to develop the best and fairest solutions when the parenting agreement doesn’t cover a topic.

Co-parent Solutions Made Easier

Co-parenting disputes largely revolve around custody arrangements and parent responsibilities, including child support payments. Combine these dilemmas with the fact that many divorced couples have difficulty communicating, and you have a recipe for controversy.

Co-parenting is much easier with a co-parenting app. These tools help you create and keep messages to your co-parent regarding all the regular must-share information.

Choose a co-parenting expense tracker with money exchanging and recording capabilities. Then, you and your co-parent will have even less opportunity for conflict.

You and your co-parent must work together to keep disputes out of court. You’ll enjoy more time with your kids and healthier finances using the tools and programs designed to help the divorced family.

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