Matters of family law are almost always more complex when they involve children. This is one of the many reasons why a large number of parent’s attempt to resolve disputes and concerns through amicable legal methods such as mediation and collaborative law, in an effort to avoid some of the frustration and turmoil that can result through litigation. Sometimes, in order for a mediation or collaborative case to have the most successful impact in any given situation, it may require the input of additional input beyond that given by the neutral mediating party, and any collaborative lawyers present. In fact, many mediators and collaborative lawyers actively advise working alongside other experts during a negotiation-friendly discussion of child custody and parenting time issues whether in the context of a divorce or not.
One of the many valuable experts involved in collaborative and mediation cases for parents, is a child specialist. These individuals are often engaged in an attempt to assist with easing the emotional transition and friction involved in making decisions based on parenting time, custody, and other highly significant family matters. Child specialists are unique in their ability to offer significant value to many cases in the form of additional specialized knowledge, techniques for dispute resolution, and more. While child specialists are referred to most commonly in the context of collaborative law, they can also be used to positive effect in mediation.
A child specialist as a neutral party in a collaborative or divorce mediation case, which means that he or she will not work towards pursuing the desired outcome of either parent. Instead, their purpose as a legal expert and mental health professional, is to assist in a conversation about the needs and requirements of the child, or children, and address concerns and hopes that both the parents, and children might have in regards to upcoming decisions on custody, visitation, and parenting time. As with many legal professionals involved in cases involving children, the main focus of a child specialist is the best interests of the child or children they are working with. As such, it is their responsibility to gain a comprehensive insight into the thoughts and perspective of each child within the family, while offering those children a chance to be heard in the context of legal procedures.
Through careful, and often extensive discussion with both parents, and the children involved in the case, a child specialist may be able to access a better understanding of what should be done to serve the good of the child involved. In some situations, the child specialist will use the opinions and thoughts of the children to help parents gain a better understanding of what they should be considering in making crucial parenting decisions. Because of this, child specialists can frequently ensure that parents involved in tense custody battles don’t get lost in the heat of battle, and instead keep their children’s best interests at heart.
In an attempt to better understand the hopes and concerns of the children, child specialists will not only speak to the parents involved in a collaborative or mediation case, but also meet with the children alone to talk about the changes that are occurring within the dynamics of their family life. It is only after these conversations have taken place that the specialist can meet again with the parents and professional mediators or collaborative lawyers, to offer insights and make suggestions about future solutions. Because he or she can gain a unique impression of the needs of everyone involved during a child custody or parenting time negotiation, a child specialist can be effective in helping parents to work out a plan that meets not only with their goals, but also with what’s important from the perspective of the children. From there, it is up to the mediator (if they are then used as a drafting attorney), or collaborative lawyers to enter the parenting plan into court in a legal form, so that it might be admitted as a part of the complete legal settlement.
Using child specialists in collaborative law and mediation can be a highly beneficial solution for many families. After all, the process of collaborative law eliminates the need for emotionally-destructive and expensive litigation, while helping parents to make important decisions about the future of their family, and children. Similarly, mediation allows for parents to negotiate with one another about their concerns and goals, which often means that some manner of a relationship can be maintained between both parties once a legal procedure has ended. As alternative methods to litigation, collaborative law and mediation often provide a much gentler solution for the children involved in family cases, as it reduces some of the need for aggressive arguments, emotional turmoil, and more.
Unfortunately, it’s worth remembering that both mediation, and collaborative law may not be realistic solutions in certain circumstances. In a litigation procedure, the equivalent to a child specialist is known as a forensic custody evaluator, and these professionals can be accessed for a price to determine who might be able to give the best future to the child involved. Unfortunately, even with the use of a custody evaluator, the process of litigation often takes on a far more negative light, and can take a significant toll on the emotional well-being of both the parents, and children involved. Despite this, if both parents involved are unable to come to terms on a parenting plan or visiting times despite the input of professionals, litigation must be accessed as a way to find an ultimate decision according to the best interests of the children involved.
My office fully understands the fact that some people only have the option of litigation to choose from, which is one of the reasons that I use alternative dispute resolution processes, but I litigate as well. Personally, I find that litigation keeps me sharp and abreast of current trends in matrimonial and family law. However, it is worth noting that there are other solutions available if your circumstances allow for a consideration of alternative routes. With a child specialist and mediation, or collaborative law procedure, it is possible to approach family issues from a more positive perspective.
If you would like to discuss the options available to you in terms of child custody and parenting time arrangements, please schedule your free initial appointment. You can contact us via our online form, or over the phone at: 516-333-6555.