Today we examine custody agreements and custody litigation. Custody agreements almost always are preferable to custody litigation. Custody agreements generally are more likely to succeed than an order that is the product of adversarial litigation. On the other hand, custody litigation has significant collateral consequences. Custody litigation is among the most unfortunate of circumstances for adults. Short of the death of a parent or sibling, custody litigation can be the most unfortunate and traumatic of circumstances for a child.
The parties to a custody dispute must understand that their conduct and their choice to litigate their disagreement create a very substantial risk of creating emotional scars and carnage in their children. These scars can last a lifetime. Many of today’s dysfunctional custody and divorce litigants are the products of parents who engaged in custody litigation.
The parties to a custody dispute must understand that their dispute and their feelings must take a backseat to the well-being of their children. They must keep in mind that their separation from the other parent has disrupted their children’s world. They must understand that in a conflict between two parents the children always lose. Children love both of their parents, no matter how undeserved that love and affection may seem to the other parent and no matter how much the parents do not like each other.
The best way to conduct yourself in a custody dispute most often is to resolve it without litigation. Even if a custody dispute is litigated, parents should always keep to themselves all of their angst, anxiety, pain and frustration and not share with the children. These negative aspects of a custody dispute should stay with the adults. Children should be spared all of these woes. They will have enough of their own.
When parents split up, it may be a very good idea to seek some counseling or other form of emotional support for their children. It will be traumatic for them as the only world they have ever known comes to an end.
Children are resilient and usually can manage to adapt to change with parental support. However, the radical upheaval of a family disintegrating is far beyond the capacity for change for most children and will be somewhat traumatic. Counseling will help children to understand that their feelings are normal and reassure them that life will go on, albeit in a new and different way.