Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

Here's why you should avoid a judge making your parenting plan

You love your children, and all you want is to have enough time with them after your divorce. You feel like your ex-spouse isn't listening when you present the custody arrangements you want, and you don't know how to communicate your wishes without an argument breaking out.

The good news is that you have some options. However, one of the options, allowing a judge to decide, probably isn't as great as you may think. There are other alternatives that allow you and your children's other parent to work out a plan that is better for your specific situation and more flexible than the decision a judge would hand down. Here is a little more about why you don't want to have a judge make the decision for you.

Why don't you want a judge to make the decision in your custody case?

The primary reason is because the judge might make a ruling that neither you nor other other parent likes. In a lot of cases, judges come up with unique solutions for the children's benefit, but that doesn't mean you'll appreciate the parenting plan. A judge is less likely to care about hurt feelings or your "free time" than your ex-spouse or you would, so it's hard to say exactly what kind of schedule the judge will come up with before the ruling.

How can you agree to custody arrangements if you don't get along?

If you don't get along, it doesn't necessarily mean you can't decide on your own custody plan. Instead, it means you'll have to try some alternative methods to communicate with one another. For instance, you may prefer going to mediation and having a third party there to prevent arguments. Or, you might prefer going to arbitration, where you can present your argument and have your ex-spouse present theirs. The arbitrator would then make a decision based on what you present, similar to how a judge makes a decision at trial.

You may also consider negotiating with help from your attorneys. Since they are not emotionally invested in the case in the same way that you are, they may be able to have better communication between one another and work out a solution that benefits both sides.

These are a few things to keep in mind about child custody arrangements. Most people are not satisfied when a judge makes a decision, so making the decisions on your own is a better plan when possible.

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Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

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