Many parents worry about the negative effects of divorce on their children and wonder how they can be minimized. Although custody issues are emotionally intense, we are adept at reducing acrimony and unnecessary disputes that can be harmful to children.
Feldesman Tucker’s family law attorneys are admitted to practice in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Custody laws and standards differ in the three jurisdictions, but ultimately, the best interest of the child or children is the over-arching standard in custody matters. Whether the discussion is about timesharing schedules, decision-making for the children, or other issues, the best interest of the child or children is the paramount consideration.
Toward that end, our attorneys do not apply standard or one-size-fits-all solutions. Instead, we craft parenting plans and custody provisions that are tailored to each family’s particular reality, needs, and desires.
Choosing the Best Method of Negotiation
Most parents intend to cooperate with each other to raise their children together, even when facing a divorce. Their cooperation takes different forms when negotiating a resolution of custody.
Some parents engage in kitchen-table negotiations directly with the co-parent and have their lawyer simply draft the resulting agreement.
Other parents prefer to communicate and negotiate with their co-parent only through lawyers.
Mediation, the Collaborative divorce process, and the involvement of mental health professionals with relevant expertise are also excellent options.
We do not advocate for any single approach to resolve custody issues. Instead, we make sure that parents understand all of the process choices available to them, and then assist them in assessing the pros and cons of each option, given the situation and personalities involved.
When to Turn to Court
We assist clients in seeking resolution of custody issues in court when this may be the only or best alternative. A court determination can be appropriate when:
Efforts at cooperation fail and parents are unable to agree to a parenting plan
One spouse refuses to work with the other parent
One spouse removes the children to another jurisdiction or another country
One parent is unable to co-parent due to health or addiction issues
In these circumstances, we advocate in Court for our client. However, even when litigating custody issues in court, we continue to encourage parents to keep their focus on the goal of having healthy children. Mudslinging and unnecessary conflict is costly, unproductive, and can have negative effects on children.
By focusing on the best interest of the child, regardless of the process, we strive to ensure that our clients will be able to look back on their divorce 20 years from now and feel positive about their actions and choices.
Our family lawyers have successfully:
- Negotiated a unique time sharing schedule involving a teenage child that allowed for the non-working parent to be with the child after school while the working parent spent approximately equal overnights with the child.
- Litigated a case in the District of Columbia between non-married parents of a young child, which was affirmed on appeal, in which the lower court rejected the father’s insistence that joint custody meant equal time in the District of Columbia.
- Obtained sole custody for a parent of young children whose spouse was unable to care for the children due to significant mental health issues.
- Negotiated a joint custody agreement involving a client who had addiction issues, which afforded our client the opportunity to co-parent the children and spend significant time with them, while protecting the children in the event that the client’s addiction issues were not kept under control.
- Created an environment through Collaborative Practice in which the parents agreed to continue to provide financially for their children, who were not yet “launched” into adulthood, beyond the age of majority.
Elizabeth Selmo: How to Achieve Effective Co-Parent Communication
Katherine ORourke: How to Minimize the Impact of Divorce on Children