Child custody disputes are often highly emotional which is a significant reason why they can take years to resolve. While the trend is for parents to jointly share custody, even in those cases, there are plenty of disagreements that can arise from deciding the parenting time schedule to decisions about the child’s education, health care, extracurricular activities and so on. These conflicts adversely affect not just the divorcing spouses, but more importantly, the children. As a result, parents should work together to settle their issues as efficiently as possible rather than prolong the dispute to the detriment of their children.
New York Child Custody Law
New York policy is to promote shared custody so both parents have an equal opportunity to maintain a relationship with the child. Courts also encourage parents to resolve child custody and parenting time issues amicably and in the best interests of the child. If parents cannot come to an agreement, the court will decide what is in the best interests of the child based on multiple factors.
In addition, before making a determination regarding custody or parenting time, the judge may seek input from third parties. The judge has the power to appoint an attorney for the child to represent the child’s interest in the custody and support proceedings, and a forensic psychologist or mental health professional to evaluate the parties and their relationships with each other. The result of these appointments is that the case can drag on, sometimes for years. Further, the battle will likely end with the judge awarding some parenting time anyway unless there is abuse or neglect by a parent. Even then, a court will consider supervised visitation before denying parenting time to the offending parent. Consequently, there is little to be gained in a court battle and significant losses from the added expense and stress of litigation.
Compromising For the Good of Your Children
Studies show children are impacted adversely by divorce but much less so when parents take action to help their children adjust and cope with the changes in their lives. The key is for parents to stay focused on what is best for their children throughout the divorce process. Accordingly, parents should remember these points when trying to find a compromise:
- Your children look to you for guidance, love and support so you have an obligation to handle your disputes privately and keep your children out of it.
- Children often know more about their parents’ divorce than they let on. Even if you aren’t fighting in front of your children, they may pick up on the stress, anger, grief, etc.
- Continued fighting may make your children feel like they have to take sides affecting their relationship with both of you and even extended family.
- A stressful divorce can affect children’s schooling, socializing and health (e.g., lack of sleep, eating problems, depression, anxiety).
- Parents disagree about issues related to their children even when they are in a healthy relationship but they find a way to settle. You have to do the same thing regardless of how you feel about your spouse.
- Assume that your spouse has your children’s best interests in mind. Just because you disagree, doesn’t mean that your spouse doesn’t care about your children. He or she likely also wants what is best.
- Trained professionals like a parenting coordinator or counselor can help you resolve your disputes with your spouse and assist the two of you with helping your children through the divorce.
- You and your spouse know your children better than a judge; so, you should decide how to handle parenting issues on your own, especially since co-parenting continues even after the divorce is over. Do you want to keep going back to court?
Resolve Child Custody Disputes Efficiently
Sometimes, disputes cannot be resolved amicably, such as when a parent engages in behavior and actions that seriously injure the children. However, in a large number of cases, it is possible to settle at least some if not most disagreements without court intervention. The more disputes you can settle without a court battle, the better for your children and your wallet.
If you are considering a divorce and worry about the impact on your children, contact us for a consultation.