Joint Custody is all the rage today. And parenting plans abound. But do you really know what they say, and understand how to avoid conflict? The idea sounds simple. Sure both parents will share custody. But what does that mean, and what happens when there is conflict? Joint custody in Utah is controlled by statute, and there are a couple of them. And do you really know what those statute require -- particularly as to how to handle conflict and which parent actually has the final say? Remember, there are only two parents -- so there is no natural way to break a tie. Statute requires that each and every parenting plan has provisions as to how to handle this issue. And, every joint custody order must be accompanied by a parenting plan. So, you will have to deal with this issue. Statute says that, before you can go back to court to enforce any of the orders, you have to comply with the dispute resolution procedure in the parenting plan. Yet almost all of those (particularly the ones from the court and other sources) say you have to mediate, and then the custodial parent has the final say subject to the other parent's right to go to court to challenge that say. That means that you have to take the time to find a mediator, spend the time and money to attempt mediation, and after a few hours find out that you got nowhere because the other parent simply says "No". Mediation only works by agreement, and if you were able to agree you wouldn't be in this mess anyway. So why even put that mediation stuff in place? I suggest that instead, you list a special master; a person who is court appointed and can actually make a decision on an issue. A special master is allowed by statute, as is arbitration. But, a special master usually works without attorneys, and is much quicker than court or arbitration. I know, as I can usually make a decision within 24 hours of having the issue presented to me by both parties. I suggest that if you are working on a parenting plan, you change the dispute resolution procedure in the parenting plan from mediation to a special master, and that you actually name and appoint the special master in the parenting plan. If you already have a parenting plan in place, you can amend it to you change the dispute resolution procedure in the parenting plan from mediation to a special master, and that you actually name and appoint the special master in the parenting plan. In that way, the next time there is a problem, be it big or small, you can go right to the special master and resolve the issue in just a couple of hours of work! And, you'll actually have a decision!
Just last week the Utah State Bar held its 2017 Annual Family Law Seminar, which included a presentation on special masters, including the recommended training. The recommendations included membership with AFCC (Association of Family and Conciliatory Courts); training in Parenting Coordination and Advanced Issues in Child Custody through AFCC or similar agency; continued affiliation with AFCC or similar group, and continued education through that group; and, experience in custody cases. That is what you should be looking for. If you go to my website, you will see that I have the affiliation, the training, and the continuing relationship as noted above. Plus, I have handled all phases of family law cases, juvenile law cases, and appeals in those areas, as well as other work. Plus, I do offer a sliding scale for fees, depending on your income. So, If you are thinking about a special master for your case, you now have some idea as to what you should be looking for.
You might have heard about divorce counsellors, divorce coaches, and the like. But what do they do, and are they for you. A lot of times, those people are social workers, family counselors, or psychologists. They work with you to handle the stress involved in your life situation, and coping with divorce or custody issues.A Legal Coach is different - A Legal Coach or Counselor is an experienced family law attorney who has handled all of the different issues involved in divorces, paternity matters, and petitions to either change existing orders or enforce current orders. The underlying issues can include custody, parent-time or visitation, child or spousal support, retirement issues, how the house is handled, personal property, and the need for restraining orders.A Legal Coach knows the law on those issues, as well as the procedural aspects and issues involved in filings, motions, required initial disclosures, discovery, mediation, and trial if you cannot settle. A Legal Coach may not actually represent you in the legal action, allowing you to handle the majority of your case on your own if that is what you want, or the Legal Coach may enter either limited appearances, or a general appearance, in your case to assist you while working to keep fees down. The advantage though is that the Legal Coach can help you lay out your goals and plans on how to reach those goals; taking into account the overall status of your case and your situation.This education and planning phase is the most important part of your case. It allows you to know what you want, whether your goals are realistic, and the overall steps required to attain your goals. In that way you can plan your case, know what you can realistically handle, and have the assistance of an experienced attorney if things take a wrong turn, like when your spouse hires an attorney.If you start with an attorney that you feel comfortable with, and develop trust in that person because the attorney is capable of being brutally honest with you, then you'll have the confidence to handle what you can, and the knowledge to know what needs to be done. You'll will have your own trusted expert in your corner, a knowledgeable ally who already knows you and your concerns.
Going to court negatively impacts the children, Right? I participate in a number of the online legal question and answer forums I often see that claim. But, it is always preceded by allegations that the other parent is not allowing visits, won't let the parent have time with the child, breaks his or her agreements to allow a visit, or demands that all schedules and agreement must be his or her way -- all without going to court. Let me be blunt. The only way parents going to court for assistance in establishing custody and parent-time orders impacts a child is if one, or both, of the parents put that child in the middle and involve the child in the case. If both parents are doing what is best for the child, then the child will not even know that there is a court case, because that case is between the adults. So, going to court to obtain orders concerning custody and parent-time should not directly impact the children. Any impact the child would be passive by way of having parents who love the child and allow the child to openly love each parent -- that can only be a positive impact. Plus, going to court will provide a set, consistent, and predictable schedule for parent-time. A schedule that the parents and the child can count on, and look forward to with happiness and anticipation. So, if the other parent is already causing problems by denying access, limiting parent-time, or playing games with dates and time, that parent is already putting the child in the middle and causing the child harm by way of depriving the child time with the other parent. In those situations, the one parent needs to be an adult and take the situation to court to obtain appropriate orders, including orders to keep the child out of the case. And, I bet that it will be the offending parent who then cries that going to court will "negatively impact the child"!
If you are reading this, then you know that a Special Master can be used in situations where there is high-conflict in a divorce or custody case; or after the case, if the conflict continues or worsens. But, how do you find a Special Master.