Child custody can be one of the most emotionally difficult issues in family law. A parent’s relationship with a child is highly personal, and any threat to that relationship can be extremely disturbing. On top of that, child custody disputes typically involve two parents who are no longer in a romantic relationship. The combination is a recipe for an ugly argument.

However, the most important consideration in any decision involving children has to be the child’s best interests. The goal is for both parents to put aside their personal differences and do what is right for their child.

When parents can do this, they can resolve their issues through negotiation. However, sometimes their negotiation needs a little help. This is where mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution can be helpful.

Mediation is a form of negotiation in which a neutral third party facilitates the discussion between the parties. Compared to trial, mediation gives the parties greater control over their results. It also tends to reduce the bitter feelings that go with these disputes, and often linger long afterward. Since parents will have to continue to work together to coordinate drop-offs, pick-ups and other aspects of a parenting plan, it can be important to reduce tension. Michigan courts generally encourage parents to resolve child custody and visitation disputes through mediation when possible.

However, there are cases where mediation won’t work. In cases involving domestic violence, or where one parent fears the other, it is better to use a different method. In these cases, going to trial may be the way to reach the best results.

All parents involved in a custody dispute can benefit from talking to an experienced attorney about their options.