Child Custody – Why You Don’t Want the Judge to Decide

When parents can’t agree on child custody and visitation, their first instinct is to “take the other parent to court.” Many parents seem to think that if the other parent won’t agree to their demands, the court will automatically grant them exactly what they want.

The truth is, it doesn’t really work that way.  On television, the court process is often portrayed as being easy breezy, but in reality, it’s actually be very daunting.

Here are 7 reasons that mediation and reaching a settlement on your case is more beneficial than letting the judge decide:

  1. Family Court Child Custody proceedings are lengthy. Compared to mediation, which is typically completed in a few sessions, family law litigation is a much lengthier process. Although temporary orders may be issued shortly after your case begins, getting permanent orders takes time – in some cases, a very long time.  Exactly how long depends on you, the other parent, any lawyers that are involved, and how much conflict exists.
  1. When you litigate, no one “wins.” There is no such thing as really “winning” in a litigated custody case.  Asking the court to make decisions related to your family is risky because you will likelynot get 100% of what you want.  To get just 1/2 of what you want will likely cost you a lot of time and money required to build the case.
  1. Legal Battles are Expensive even if you don’t hire a lawyer to represent you, you may quickly find out that there is no “cheap” way to litigate a case. Filing fees, service of process charges, court reporters, professional evaluations, and more can easily lead to thousands of dollars in costs. And once lawyers get involved on either side, that amount can easily triple.
  1. Judges don’t know you. When you litigate your case, you’re essentially putting your family’s life into the hands of a stranger. They don’t know anything about you, your child’s other parent, or your children.  Their decision is solely based on what is presented to them as evidence.  Quite frankly, we all know that evidence presented to the court is not always the best reflection of the true circumstances or complete facts (especially if you don’t have a lawyer).
  1. The best interest of your child The court is going to make a determination based on what it feels is in the “best interest” of YOUR child (who they know nothing about and may never meet). Your definition of “best interest” and the court’s idea of best interest may be on two different spectrums. The court’s order may not make any sense for your family, but once it’s issued, you have to follow it unless you and the other parent finally can agree to change it. If you and your child’s other parent can put your differences aside and really think about what’s best for your child, you’ll probably be much better off.
  1. Judges are human Granted, they are humans with decision power not afforded to the average layperson, but…the fact still remains that, at the end of the day, they are just like you.   They have a life, family, things on their “to do” list, and more.  So, although it’s easy to put them on a pedestal, just like you they make mistakes, have bad days, get frustrated, don’t understand, are at work.  Don’t walk into the courthouse expecting to appear before a supernatural human that can work magic…you’ll be disappointed.
  1. Agreements feel better When you are able to sit down with the other parent and compromise, although you may not get everything you want, you’ll at least know that what you’re getting will be something that is reasonable based on your family’s needs. Agreements open the door to cooperation. It’s not something that is forced, but a decision YOU had a hand in. For this reason, once you’re able to reach an agreement on the bigger issues, you’ll slowly be able to reach an agreement on other things and learn to work together for the benefit of your child.

The fact of the matter is, when you are asking a court to make a decision that affects your life, they will not always get it right.  With that in mind, if at all possible, you should avoid getting to the point that the court has to make a decision that could change your family’s life (for better or worse) for you.

Want to learn more about mediation and how it may be a good option for you? Click here

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