How can your children’s voice best be heard in a divorce?
You have minor children. You are facing the possibility of going through a divorce. You are probably experiencing a lot of anxiety or out-right fear. Maybe you have no idea how a court proceeding will go or what a judge might do. Maybe you fear that the other parent will try to take advantage of you or manipulate the situation to his/her favor. You are worried about what all of this is going to cost.
There is likely to be some type of court order that puts in place a formal and enforceable new structure for your family — including:
- Monthly child support payments
- Payment for health and dental insurance
- Rights and duties
- Periods when each of you will have possession
On top of all that, you are worried about your child or children. Every family is unique. Every child is special. You love your children dearly; maybe you cannot stand the thought of not having daily contact with them. What is in the best interest of your children? How can you be certain that the judge will really know what is going on in your family? How can your children’s voice be heard? What is to prevent a judge from buying into some false narrative and getting is all wrong? How can you prevent a decision that forces you and your restructured family into a strait jacket that does not work well for anyone?
These are all legitimate concerns.
Is there any way you and the other parent — even though there may be distrust and strong dislike or disrespect for one another — can make an agreement to STAY OUT OF COURT? YES! There is a way you can stay out of court! It is called Collaborative Divorce/Custody.
The Collaborative Divorce/Custody is a 180-degree difference from the traditional adversarial litigation.
This process is very flexible. A mental health professional (MHP) is part of the collaborative team and acts as a neutral to facilitate meetings. This same MHP could interview your children as well as each parent. The process is designed to put you — the parents and your children — in the center. The professionals are there to serve as counselors and are supporting actors. The Collaborative Divorce/Custody proceeding is the best way to put you and the other parent in charge of the process and the out-comes and give voice to your children.
Why stay out of court?
Courts have huge caseloads. Judges manage dockets and have very limited time to devote to hearings in your case. If you are lucky, you may get anywhere from a few hours to six hours of hearing time. In exceptionally complex cases with high assets and complicated property and debt issues you may get several days. If someone has deep pockets, you might get pulled into the disaster and drama of a jury trial.
In any event, your day in court will not be within your control.
You and the other parent are likely to have very different competing narratives. There is likely to be a lot of blaming. Lawyers are trained to “win” by doing their best to discredit the other parent and make them look like a defective parent. Even worse, the child or children will have NO VOICE. You cannot tell the court what the children have said to you or the other parent. The children will not be called as a witness. Even though children age 12 and older may be interviewed by a judge, judges do not like to do this. Judges tend to think that the parent who asks for the interview has coached the child. This may back-fire.
The only way to get the child’s voice heard is through a third party who is appointed by the court to investigate the family and its dynamics. These people are called “ad litem” — meaning attached to litigation — such as a guardian ad litem or amicus attorney or custody evaluator. The parents must pay the cost for these services. Most parents to not have the thousands of dollars required, or one parent does but the other does not.
Traditional adversarial litigation can spend a lot of an attorney’s time.
Custody litigation expenses can run as high as $30,000 and more. Through the Collaborative Divorce Process, you can save money and the entire family will be heard.