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How to settle child custody disputes out of court

Courts are often reluctant to allow the children involved in a child custody battle into the courtrooms, and for good reason. Judges have long believed that bringing a child into the courtroom can be a traumatic experience, potentially damaging the child's psyche. But there are options for Marietta parents seeking a divorce that can prevent the long, drawn-out battle that courts tend to offer, and settle child custody agreements in private and with the assistance of an attorney.

One option is to use mediation or arbitration to determine child custody agreements. If both parents agree that one parent should have sole custody, and another should have visitation rights, these hearings can help formalize these agreements in a logical manner and for the benefit of everyone involved, including the children. If arbitration isn't even necessary, parents can use an informal settlement negotiation to legally set up child custody agreements without having to go to court.

But it's also important to remember that situations change, and an agreement that worked for a child that was 12 years old may no longer be in the best interest of the child when they're 16. Sometimes parents may need to seek a modification to their custody agreement as the child ages.

If family court remains the only option, judges tend to review several factors in the parents' lifestyle when assigning custody, as well as considering the wishes of the child. Most judges will review the physical and mental health of each parent first, before evaluating the child's current situation. There are numerous factors that a judge can consider, but his or her decision will ultimately be based on the best interests of the child.

Source: ABC Action News, "What to expect in a child custody dispute," Ed Greenberger, Sept. 28, 2011

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