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Navigating custody disputes by focusing on the best interests

No one gets married with the expectation that they will get a divorce. But, with a reported divorce rate of nearly 50 percent, married couples in Missouri and elsewhere are aware of the possibility of dissolution. When a married couple decides that a divorce must move forward, this invokes the decision-making process for many troubling and difficult issues. And, when children are involved, each and every one of these decisions is likely to impact the children.

Thus, it is important to continually focus on the best interests standard. This not only applies for the choices that directly relate to the children, such as custody and support, but also resolutions that could greatly alter or disturb the custody arrangement, such as keeping the family home, changing schools or even moving altogether.

When a joint custody agreement is agreed to, it is hard to not look at the situation like two separate parents making decisions during their parenting time. However, creating a plan that doesn't keep a fluid situation for the child or children can be very problematic. This could also be the source of many child custody disputes, especially when one parent seeks to assert parental rights over the other.

The best thing to do is to move towards the best interests model, turning the focus on the children. If you cannot develop a co-parenting relationship, which is not required in a joint custody arrangement, it is best to find a way to be civil with your ex-spouse. Children should never be used as pawns not matter how hurt you are, how spiteful you want to be or how much pain you want to cause your ex-spouse. In the end, the child is the likely party that will suffer.

If child custody disputes are persistent, even post-divorce, it might be time to take additional steps to modify or solidify the current order. This might even mean including professionals to help the children, such as a doctor or a counselor. Parents could benefit from the same professionals or could even opt to use a mediator to work through the issues.

Navigating through child custody battles can be difficult. The emotions involved can be taxing, making it extremely challenging on a parent. In these matters, it is important that divorced parents know all of their resources and mechanisms to work towards a resolution.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Understanding Child Custody Disputes With Help From National Family Solutions," Mike Wood, Oct. 6, 2016

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Joseph J. Porzenski
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