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Divorce Mediation: Benefits and Detriments

Couple having a fight

Why Amicable Negotiated Agreements Benefit All Parties in a New Jersey Child Custody Dispute

Parents have a great deal to gain by working toward an amicable resolution of child custody and visitation issues in a New Jersey marital dissolution or paternity action.  When crafting child custody and visitation arrangements in a New Jersey child custody dispute, judges are guided by the best interest of the child standard.  An important component of this standard is the presumption that it is in the best interest of children to have an ongoing meaningful relationship with both parents.  This means that judges in custody disputes closely scrutinize efforts by either parent to alienate his or her children’s relationship with the other parent.  Ultimately, parents who encourage their children’s relationship with the other parent will see several direct benefits from this approach.

Litigation Advantages to Promoting Amicable Custody Agreements

If a parent engages in conduct designed to interfere with the parent-child relationship, courts may use this as a basis to craft initial custody orders or modify orders in ways that negatively impact the offending parent.  Parents that engage in certain kinds of conduct may harm their position in a custody dispute.  Examples of behavior that may damage one’s position include:

  • Making disparaging comments about the other parent in the presence of children
  • Failing to cooperate at custody exchanges
  • Interrogating children about activities during custodial time with the other parent
  • Suggesting children skip custodial time with the other parent
  • Refusing reasonable accommodations in scheduling
  • Unilaterally changing the children’s school

These are only a few examples of conduct that might be viewed by a judge to constitute uncooperative and alienating behavior.  If a judge finds that a parent has intentionally engaged in a pattern of alienation, the court may use this as a basis to award the bulk of parenting time to the other parent or modify an existing custody arrangement.

Financial considerations are another issue that makes an amicable approach to child custody arrangement beneficial for both parents.  Bitter custody disputes can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars and deplete the financial resources families need to rebuild following divorce.  Scorched earth litigation in child custody disputes can generate enormous legal fees for law firms while inflicting a devastating financial toll on the parents.

Emotional Impact on Children

A marital dissolution or the breakup of a relationship between unmarried parents can be extremely difficult for minor children.  Children may believe that they played a role in causing the breakup or fear the loss of a parent from their life.  They must also cope with enormous changes that can involve the loss of contact with family and friends, change of residence, new school and other major life adjustments.  When parents work amicably to mitigate the fear that children will lose contact with a parent and to promote stability, this reduces the stress and anxiety that children experience from the divorce process.

Impact on Parents 

When the relationship between parents is cooperative and focused on reducing conflict, this can go a long way toward mitigating the stress of a co-parenting relationship.  The quality of a parenting plan developed through negotiation between parents tends to be more satisfactory than one imposed by a judge.  While a negotiated custody and visitation arrangements may not be ideal for either parent, each parent at least has impute and can determine those issues that are “deal breakers.”  When the judge must impose custody and visitation orders, the result is far less predictable.  Amicable custody agreements also create more stability so that parents are less likely to continue to have to return to court for enforcement and modification proceedings.

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