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Negotiating Custody: Parenting Coordination

One fascinating aspect of navigating a child custody case in Texas is the opportunity for negotiating co-parenting arrangements, which often allows parents like yourself to resolve matters without going to court. Negotiation, rather than courtroom battles, resolves the majority of child custody cases, contrary to common assumptions. Many people anticipate that a judge will have the final say on custody matters once they file for divorce or a child custody case. This expectation often stems from influence by what we hear from others and from depictions in television shows and movies. However, in reality, negotiating co-parenting arrangements outside of court is a common and effective approach in Texas family law cases.

In reality, this could not be further from the truth. The vast majority of divorces and child custody cases are settled by the parties before court intervention becomes necessary. Yes, it is true that you and your attorney will spend time preparing for a trial because to not prepare would be very foolish.

There is a distinct possibility that your child custody case could be the exception that proves the rule and you very well may end up going to court for a trial or at least a significant hearing in your child custody case. However, you should not necessarily expect to do so and there are certainly ways to avoid this result. Before delving into today’s blog post’s main content, I want to discuss why settling your child custody case through negotiation is preferable to having a family court judge make the determination.

Negotiating and cooperating in child custody cases

The reality that you are facing in a child custody case is that you are responsible for doing your best to negotiate an outcome tier case with your opposing parent. This can be a difficult circumstance to stomach given that UN your child other parents are likely not on the best of terms. However, the paradox of a family law case is that you are going to have to not only negotiate with him or her during your child custody case but then you are going to have to put on co-parenting hats for after the case and begin to work as a team in raising your child in separate households. For most people, this is a significant challenge. 

However, it is certainly a challenge that you must be up to the task of completing. Being able to make it through your child custody case by negotiating well with your spouse or Co parent is a great test for both of you to see how well you will be able to work together and parenting your child after the case. Keep in mind that your child custody case will be a relatively short period of time for you and your family. The majority of your time together will involve raising your child in the real world after your case concludes, rather than within the context of a family law case.

Developing negotiation skills with your co-parent during a child custody case is essential. Not only does it cultivate effective co-parenting techniques and habits, but it also helps to avoid the need for court intervention. Let’s explore the significance of avoiding court in family law cases and discuss strategies for achieving this with your co-parent.

Don’t let a family court judge determine the future of your family 

When I talk about wanting to avoid going to court in a family law case I do so not to scare you if and when you actually have to do so. From my experience, family court judges are on the whole very fair and do their best in difficult circumstances. Remember that a family court judge comes into a case with little knowledge of any of the parties and almost no knowledge of any of the inner workings of your family. Of course, he or she may be able to make deductions or assume certain facts that may be in play but for the most part he or she has no idea of the day-to-day operations of your family. 

With that said, by going to court you are asking this person with no knowledge of the intimate dealings of your family to make decisions that are in the best interests of your child. This is a significant request there all of us ask a family court judges and they do their best to meet that challenge and take it on head. However, the request that we make of family court judges to determine difficult and sensitive family related matters is still a great deal to ask. Make no mistake, your judge will do so if called upon, but my position is that you and your Co parent should always take on that responsibility before ever ceding that authority to a family court judge. 

Why you and your co-parent are best suited to make decisions for your child

Almost without a doubt, you and your co-parent are in better positions to make decisions for your child than a family court judge is. Note that the court does not grant the judge perpetual authority to make decisions that are meant to be in the best interest of your child. Rather, the judge will give up any authority to do so at the conclusion of your child custody case and will instead put your right to do so into a child custody order. This should be an indication that the courts, the state of Texas and your children are better off with you making decisions for them than a judge. 

At the beginning of your case, acknowledge that you and your co-parent are better equipped to make decisions for your child than the judge. While the judge aims to decide in the child’s best interests based on available information, consider the complexities of your life that may not fit into a short trial. These critical details are vital for your children’s well-being and family dynamics, emphasizing the importance of including them in the proceedings.

The information left out can significantly impact your family. If your child is facing challenges in school, with their mental health, or in a particular aspect of your home life, it is crucial to bring this to the attention of the judge. If you are not able to do so effectively in a trial, and the objective evidence in your trial does not make it apparent to the judge, that could lead to decisions from the judge that actually do not reflect the true circumstances of your family. 

Reducing costs: why negotiations matter in child custody cases

Another reason why you and your co-parent should focus on negotiations in your child custody case is that you can significantly cut down on the time and expense of your case by doing so. I am not telling you that the costs of your child custody case should be the most important consideration that you make. Obviously, the well-being of your child should be at the top of that list. However, your time and money are important as well and going into a trial can cause you to spend more of each. 

It is not uncommon for the costs of a child custody case to go up significantly at the time of a trial. This is a reasonable expectation to have given that there are significant time commitments not only for you when you approach a trial but also for your attorney and their staff. The longer your attorney’s office works on your case, the higher your bill will be. Increased billing means more money owed to your attorney. While this expenditure may be justified once your case concludes, it’s essential to ensure this is the best course of action before proceeding to trial.

Unless you and your co-parent are absolutely unable to come together in order to settle your case, you should not move quickly towards a trial. Committing yourself to a trial before you have exhausted all opportunities to settle your case is a mistake. Attending mediation (at least once), engaging in honest discussions and negotiations through your attorneys and keeping in mind that your child’s best interests are at the heart of all discussions will greatly increase the likelihood that your case can settle ahead of a trial. 

The importance of negotiating directly with your co-parent

Another aspect to this discussion that family court judges are more likely to issue orders that are in line with very typical custody arrangements as far as custody and conservatorship is concerned. Meaning: if you want to institute anything that is atypical as far as custody, possession, visitation, access and child support it is in your best interests to do so directly with your co-parent. You are better equipped to negotiate a flexible and unorthodox set of custody orders with your co-parent than to convince a judge that such a plan is in your child’s best interests.

At this point, you should have a better idea of why I believe that child custody trials are great to avoid in that our office strongly believes in the power of individuals to take their circumstances into their own hands and negotiate together. Again, this does not mean that we think that there will not be any problems in negotiating with your child’s other parent. On the contrary, there can be problems that come up in negotiation that impact the parties and their ability to function together. However, I think it is well worth the effort to work on your negotiation skills during the divorce in hopes of having a favorable relationship after the case as well. 

How to approach custody negotiations with a co-parent

First thing I always tell people when it comes to negotiating with child custody case is that we need to do two things the first thing you need to do is understand that your co-parent’s perspective is just as important as your own. May not feel that way but understand that a family court will give your co-parent every opportunity in the world to voice their opinion and to make their positions known. If you spend you are entire negotiations thinking that your Co parent and their arguments have no merit, then you will likely find yourself in a trial. 

We need to be able to put your own ego aside and understand that you’re to parent likely has legitimate cause for having the opinions that he or she does. By the same token, your positions in the case may be based more so on your own optimism surrounding positions you are taking rather on the reality of your circumstances. Let me explain what I mean by that. You and your attorney should work together from the very beginning to determine whether or not your goals and objectives in the case are reasonable. It would be foolish for you to go into a child custody case believing that your positions are more realistic than they actually are. Doing so will harm you in two specific ways. 

Navigating negotiations: avoiding pitfalls and enhancing communication

Discouraging your co-parent from negotiating may be the first way this can harm you, especially if they perceive your positions as unreasonable or detached from reality. Aligning perspectives is critical for success, so discussing goals with your attorney early on can help ensure they are reasonable given the circumstances.

Next, if you never learn that you are negotiating from a position of unrealistic expectations it is likely that you two will become discouraged with the process and will become frustrated more readily then you ought to with the failures you are having in negotiating with your Co parent. I have seen clients in opposing clients literally and metaphorically throw up their hands in frustration at a lack of success initially in negotiating a set alarm to child custody case. However, this could be avoided if both sides simply understood the limitations, they had in negotiating with one another. 

Depending on the circumstances of your case it may be in your best interest to request discovery from your coping. Discovery allows you all to learn more about the basis for the positions you are taking in the case and also to obtain information like documents, answers to interrogatories and other basic information that can make a great deal of difference in negotiation. If worse comes to worse the information you obtain in discovery and help you all prepare better for a trial. 

Utilizing mediation: a key resource in co-parenting negotiations

Another useful tool that you and your co-parent can utilize in your negotiations is mediation. Mediation is a tool that allows both of you to engage in negotiation with one another in a structured environment with the assistance of an experienced family law mediator. This is important because not only will you have the perspective of your own attorney to rely upon you will also have the perspective of an experienced mediator and family law practitioner to help you problem solve your way through different issues in your case. 

Mediation is really the secret sauce that helps so many parties avoid unnecessary and drawn out child custody cases. It is my personal experience that nearly 90% of child custody cases settle in full or at least in part during mediation. For this reason, your family court judge will likely require that you attend at least one session of mediation prior to going to a trial. When a judge finds him or herself ordering you back to mediation for a second time it should show you how even the judge acknowledges their own limitations in deciding what is in the best interest of your child. 

Conclusion

Negotiating co-parenting arrangements offers a viable and often preferable alternative to courtroom battles in child custody cases in Texas. Although the expectation might be that a judge will have the final say in custody matters, the reality is that the majority of cases settle through negotiation. This highlights the importance of understanding the negotiation process and striving for mutually beneficial agreements that prioritize the well-being of the children involved. By embracing negotiation, parents can maintain greater control over the outcome of their custody arrangements and foster a more cooperative co-parenting relationship for the benefit of their children.

Questions about the materials contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

if you have any questions about the material presented in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone and via video. These consultations are great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about the services provided to our clients by our attorneys and staff. 

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