Judges give the following admonition to people who litigate, in different forms. One particularly forthright judge stated it this way.
“I don’t love your children. I have only met them once for a very short time. You know them and their needs better than I will ever know them. For the life of me, I don’t know why you think I can make better decisions than you can.”
Usually, the judge will go on to say that since you (parents) cannot make the needed decisions, s/he will make the hard decisions for you.
Think about it. Why would you place the fate of your children, the people who you probably love most in their , in the hands of a complete stranger who happens to be a judge?
The answer is that your spouse and you cannot make these decisions yourselves. However, before you place your family’s future into the hands of an unwilling judge, consider what other options you have.
Fortunately, we have many interventions that can help parents resolve parenting time disputes and make other important decisions for their children.
Child Specialists. These are mental health professionals who can meet with the parents, individually and together, and hear your concerns and hopes for your children. The CS will also meet with the children and hear from them how they see the situation and how they relate to their parents. Children are permitted a voice, though they do not decide the outcome. Parents make those decisions, if they are able. The child specialist can report to the parents what the children tell an objective person. Children will tell each parent what they think that parent wants to hear. Hence we frequently have the situation where Mom has heard one story and Dad another. Armed with this information, the parents and the child specialist can work out through the issues and keep the parents in control of their family.
Divorce Coaches. Mental health specialists who are trained in divorce related therapy can help you work through the anger, betrayal, abandonment, lack of trust and other emotions that often accompanies divorce and gets in the way of working with the parent of your children. Many of the difficulties that parents have communicating for the benefit of their children are rooted in their own emotions. Once those are dealt with effectively, the parents can often set aside their hostility and make good decisions for their children.
Mediation. Led by a trained, neutral third party, parents can safely discuss their different opinions about how to parent their children. The mediator can also refer the parents to outside professionals, such as child specialists or divorce coaches, if the couple will benefit from this.
Collaborative Practice. The couple works with a team that includes a lawyer for each, divorce coaches and a child specialist, who all coordinate their work with the couple to be certain that their concerns are addressed completely.
For couples who really cannot communicate effectively for their children, the court may appoint a Parenting Coordinator. This can be a mental health professional or a lawyer who will attempt to mediate differences between parents. If that does not work, the PC can issue orders that will bind both parents until one of them obtains another opinion from the judge. Parenting coordinators are much more effective and less expensive than going to court on a regular basis.
No one knows the needs of your children better than you do. Asking a stranger, such as a judge, to make important decisions for your children, does not lead to the best outcomes. With the help of the professionals and processes that are now available, you parents can overcome your differences and assume the important decisions for your children. After all, you do love your children. Working together, you do know what is best for them.