In terms of family law, when we talk about alternative dispute resolution, we're talking about voluntary, cooperative, cost-efficient, out-of-court methods of establishing a workable parenting plan. So why is a cooperative and affordable approach to protecting the best interest of a child the alternative, while it's assumed that litigation and court orders are the norm?
Basically, the law assumes that unmarried parents are unable to agree on how their children should be raised. The trouble with this assumption is that married parents are not immune to disagreements about child-rearing, and an increasing number of divorced parents are turning to methods such as mediation and parenting consultation -- "alternative" methods -- to establish effective co-parenting plans.
Gone are the days when every child custody arrangement was a win-or-lose situation for the parents. Courts in Minnesota recognize that children benefit most when both of their parents are in the picture. The courts also recognize that divorced or separated parents can come to an agreement about child custody without a judge overseeing the entire process.
Of course, when divorced or separated parents are unable to come to an agreement about raising their children, litigation may be necessary to resolve the dispute. But more parents these days are finding that mediation and other methods of dispute resolution promote healthy co-parenting better than going to court over the matter.
The reality is that a judge's decision may or may not provide the best arrangement for you and your family. If you and your ex can't come to an agreement on child custody, then you might have to go to court, but before taking that route, understand that there may be options for resolution through mediation and cooperative practice.
Source: The New York Times, "How Divorced Parents Lost Their Rights," Robert E. Emerty, Sept. 6, 2014