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David R. Hartwig, Esq.
Family Law & Divorce Attorney & Counselor at Law Veteran Military Discount

Having parent-time disputes, can we use arbitration or mediation?

I hear this fairly often in parent time and visitation matters where things are not working out well. The usual complaint goes along the lines of: "My husband and his ex-wife have been constantly in litigation about various child custody and child support issues over the past few years. It has taken an enormous toll on us."

That shows that the other person is not following the orders, or prior agreements. Instead that person is doing exactly what he or she wants and forcing you to either agree, or face more conflict. In other words, you're in a high-conflict case.


The bottom line answer is yes, you can agree to use arbitration or mediation. But each requires an agreement with the other party, and is the other side going to cooperate?.  Arbitration is just like trial, for each problem you will need another hearing.


Mediation is a method of negotiations, movement on issues, and settlement. I have nothing against mediation to settle a divorce, but I do not see using it to address these kinds of problems. Mediation opens the door to renegotiating your custody and parent-time orders.

Why should you do that? You already have orders in place, and the other side is causing problems. Do you really think the other side is going to suddenly agree to abide by the orders? Or is the other person going to push to change those orders to be much more favorable to his or her desires?


There is an alternative; you can have a special master appointed to your case. That can be done either by agreement of the parties, or by a court order (based upon a motion by one party). The special master will then be joined into the matter to handle all of the disputes and issues you raise. You can use your attorneys with the special master, or the parties can work with the special master. The order appointing the special master will specify the powers of the special master, and both parties do have the option of taking any matter to the judge. Ultimately the judge has the final say in any matter, each party has the right to go to the judge (and subsequent appeal), a provision which may not be available with arbitration.

The advantage is that the special master works on your case, and can provide decisions within days, not the weeks involved in going to trial or arbitration.

I have been trained as a special master, and have recently been appointed to handle such cases in both Utah County and Salt Lake County.

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I am David R. Hartwig, Esq., a Salt Lake City attorney with extensive experience helping parents resolve simple or high-conflict custody issues reaching arrangements that work for children and parents. Child custody involves parent-time and visitation schedules, and can affect support. I help in all of these areas, providing comprehensive service clients need to achieve their custody goals.

Factors In Child Custody Decisions

As an experienced Utah child custody lawyer, I understand that custody cases may become a contentious issue even years after an order is finalized. The trend in Utah toward joint custody often creates messy, unworkable situations, which ultimately lead to enforcement issues when parents do not abide by their custody orders.

The best interests of the child must be considered, including:

• Whether joint legal or physical custody will benefit the child's physical, psychological and emotional needs, or the child's development

• The parents' ability to give first priority to the child's welfare, and reach shared decisions in the child's best interest

• Whether each parent is capable of encouraging and accepting a positive relationship between the child and the other parent

• Whether both parents participated in raising the child before the divorce

• The distance between the parents' homes

• The parents' maturity and their willingness and ability to protect the child from conflict that may arise between the parents

• The parents' ability to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly

• Any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spouse abuse, or kidnapping

• Any other factors the court finds relevant

Despite the complicated and sensitive nature of custody matters, I have helped many clients successfully establish custody orders.

Get Help With Your Child Custody Issue

If you have a child custody issue, please contact me, David R. Hartwig, Esq. I am an experienced Salt Lake City custody lawyer dedicated to helping clients resolve complex custody issues and implement necessary custody orders. For high-conflict cases, I am also one of the few Utah child custody modification attorneys trained as a Special Master for ongoing dispute resolution.


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