The common wisdom in many Pennsylvania courts these days is that parents who are no longer living together should still try to cooperate with each other. They should also make sure each of them sees their children as much as possible.
While this is an ideal, many Delco residents probably realize that in many cases, parents will have custody conflicts for a number of reasons. These conflicts can get very expensive, time-consuming and stressful.
Custody hearings can also touch on some sensitive information that can compromise the professional reputation of a parent.
For this reason, parents might consider a number of alternatives to a full-blown fight in court.
For starters, parents should not forget that litigation only means that, if the couple cannot work things out, there will be a court hearing and a judge will make the final decision. Nothing is stopping them from working out a solution themselves through their attorneys.
The court may refer a couple to family law mediation
Many courts will require a couple who cannot agree about custody issues to try mediation. A couple may also choose to try mediation voluntarily.
During mediation, an experienced attorney or child expert will help the couple try to agree about their custody and parenting time arrangements.
The process is confidential, so parents can more freely discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their cases.
Either parent is free to walk away from the mediation and go forward with a court case. However, if they do reach an agreement, they will have to follow it once the court approves.
There are other ways to try to resolve a custody conflict
Courts may be able to use other means to resolve a custody conflict. For example, Pennsylvania courts have the authority to appoint a guardian ad litem to report on what arrangement they think is in the best interests of the children.
While a judge can overrule it, the opinion of the guardian ad litem usually will carry some weight with the judge. Having a guardian ad litem involved can effectively put a custody matter to rest before a case ever gets to its final hearing.