No one ever comes to a consultation with our office and says that they are hopeful that their family situation results in a contested custody battle. Rather, many people ask about opportunities to avoid a contested custody battle or if there are opportunities or strategies that they can proactively engage in, in an effort to avoid a custody battle or other custody litigation.
Of course, no one who is reasonable desires to experience a contested custody battle. Reason is clear that a custody battle is not only a hardship on the parents going through the process, but often has significant negative effects on the child or children involved, even if parents are jointly making every effort to protect their children from knowledge about or exposure to a contested custody situation.
When parents end up in the difficult situation of a contested, high-conflict custody battle, it generally occurs in one of three situations:
- One of the two parents are being unreasonable in regard to his or her position for custody or parenting time with the child or children involved;
- Both parents are being unreasonable in the position that they are each respectively taking in the process;
- There is a lack of education such that one or both parents are taking unreasonable positions in the process due to an lack of education regarding a likely or reasonable outcome in the custody case or process;
In analyzing what leads to contested custody litigation, parents can understand that they have, within their power, the ability to avoid the majority of situations that result in high conflict custody litigation by making sure 1) their own personal position about custody is reasonable and 2) that they are educated and well-informed about reasonable outcomes in the custody litigation process. Of course, a parent cannot control the other parent lacking the ability to be reasonable or be educated about reasonable expected outcomes, but certainly, if a parent is well-informed, he or she can try to provide information or resources to assist the other parent with information gathering or education, if the parents have developed a line of open communication.
What Steps Can You Take to Avoid High Conflict Custody Litigation?
The biggest thing you have within your power and control is to be as well informed, researched and knowledgeable as possible about reasonable, expected/anticipated outcomes for your case/situation. Of course, there are many resources online and through other sources to read about and make these determinations, but by and large, your best resource is working with a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney. That is because your educated, experienced attorney will have expert knowledge about the facts of your situation and how your attorney would expect the specific judge assigned to your case is likely to address your situation. This is not something you’ll be able to read or research on the internet, but rather, comes from hiring a family law attorney who regularly practices in front of your judge and thus, can give you necessary input and guidance. Every judge has a duty and obligation to make a custody determination “in the best interests” of the child or children involved, but how individual judges in Kansas and Missouri apply this to a particular factual situation is fairly unique.
While engaging in research and reading everything you can about reasonable expectations and anticipated outcomes, there are is no substitute for “on the job experience” which only comes through actually working with the relevant judge assigned to your case. Your selection of a family law attorney who is knowledgeable, experienced and at times, will tell you what you NEED to hear, rather than what you WANT to hear, can often make the difference between being able to work on a reasonable resolution and having a high conflict custody trial.
By taking time to reasonably and timely answer client’s questions, in making sure that they are making wise choices during the course of the case, as well as being patient with discussing possible, reasonable outcomes, lawyers can often significantly advocate for their clients by helping them avoid high conflict litigation. Often this role in counseling parents to work toward avoiding high conflict custody litigation is just as important, if not more important, than being a strong advocate in the court room (which has its place in the right circumstances, but efforts should be taken to avoid that outcome where possible).
One circumstance we routinely see, is an opposing party represented by an attorney who does not specialize in family law, by also doing criminal law, estate planning, business or other types of law and doing family law “on the side.” This often results in such lawyer not being able to give strong advice to his or her client about both the general leanings of the trial judge assigned to their case, as well as reasonable, anticipated outcomes. Often these same lawyers are not well prepared to litigate contested cases or make strong legal arguments. Further, it is often the case that these lawyers have not expertly guided their clients to reasonable settlement outcomes or proposals during the course of the case.
How Do You Avoid the Pitfalls of Unnecessary Custody Litigation?
Research your attorney and hire a lawyer who knows child custody issues and specializes in family law. Ask questions or your lawyer and do not accept vague, unclear answers. “Nail down” their advice on reasonable expected outcomes. For most people, their children are the most important people in their lives. Don’t risk something so important with a lawyer who cannot properly guide you. A knowledgeable family law attorney should be able to give you clear, straightforward answers. They should be able to draw on experience both inside the courtroom, as well as their experience and in-depth knowledge in finding resolutions and settling cases. Strategic planning evaluates anticipated outcomes to help you make the best possible situations to find solutions for your children and your family. Many parents successfully avoid high conflict custody litigation by gaining education to make smart choices. Knowledge is power!
Our office only represents clients in family law litigation. We can give you expert advice and guidance about reasonable anticipated outcomes in your case and situation. Much of our success is measured in cases we have helped to stay out of court! If you believe we can help you with your case and situation, please call our office today at (816) 208-8130 to schedule your consultation.