When Should You Litigate Custody Issues?
Going through the divorce process can be grueling for anyone -- but if you're concerned about the welfare of your children when in the care of your ex-spouse, you may be experiencing even more than the typical levels of anxiety. What can you do to ensure that your children remain safe by restricting access to their other parent until this person has shown they can responsibly and reliably care for your children? Can you avoid a lengthy court battle, or is litigation your only choice? Read on to learn more about the situations in which you may want to litigate your custody case, as well as your other options.
What are your options when seeking custody of your children?
Because divorce can be such a contentious process, a number of alternative ways of resolving disputes have been developed over the past few decades. These include mediation and arbitration, as well as litigation.
- Mediation is a dispute resolution method that focuses on bringing the parties together to discuss and decide upon common goals. A neutral mediator will speak to the parties (alone and together) to determine what each party would like to get out of the proceeding, and will help both parties work toward common goals. As often happens in divorce, you may be too angry at your soon-to-be ex-spouse to truly listen to what he or she is saying. A mediator can help reframe these statements in a more constructive way to help you refocus on doing what is right for your children.
- Arbitration is similar to mediation, but is binding on the parties -- in order to submit to arbitration, you'll need to agree that the arbitrator's ruling is final and unable to be appealed. In contrast, mediation may be freely entered into (and exited) at any time. This can make arbitration a risky option when the welfare of your children is at stake.
- If mediation attempts have failed and you're reluctant to arbitrate your custody matter, you may want to proceed straight to litigation. This is a more formalized process, and will require you (or your attorney) to call witnesses and provide evidence to the court to show that your soon-to-be ex-spouse should not have custody of your children.
When should you choose to litigate a custody issue?
One benefit of mediation is that it is cheaper -- often avoiding the hassle and expense of a civil trial. However, there are a few situations in which you'll want to skip mediation and just go straight to the litigation process.
If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse have such a contentious relationship that coming to an agreement seems impossible, and you feel you have the upper hand legally, litigation can benefit you by allowing you to show that you -- and only you -- should have custody. Litigation is also important if there is any history of drug use, physical or sexual abuse, or other dangerous behaviors. For more information, visit Warfield Darrah & Erdmann.