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Do I have to go to court with my ex over child custody?

A parent's divorce can be a confusing time for a child, and most New York parents want to resolve issues in a manner that will have as minimal of an impact on their children as possible. For many parents, this means staying out of court and avoiding contentious litigation over child custody. However, for those who are unable to negotiate an agreeable custody arrangement, court intervention is still possible.

Mediation is a popular alternative to butting heads over custody in court. There are many benefits to attempting to resolve custody through mediation first, including confidentiality and a potentially lower cost for parents. Divorcing couples are provided with an impartial, third party mediator who can help both parties negotiate and come to an agreement on a custody plan that will ultimately be in the best interest of their kids. However, mediation is more than just a short-term solution, as many skills utilized during mediation can help parents resolve future conflicts concerning their children or their custody arrangement.

But what happens if this process does not end in an arrangement to which both parents can agree? Usually a hearing is held in front of a judge, and both parents present testimony and other evidence concerning the matter. If this information is sufficient, the judge can proceed with a ruling on the custody issue. In less common situations, further testimony and hearings are needed, during which the child may even be appointed his or her own legal representative.

When considering the time and financial input versus the most beneficial result possible -- i.e. a custody arrangement with the child's best interest in mind -- mediation is often one of the best choices for divorcing parents to make. However, no two individuals in New York are alike, and no two divorces or child custody disagreements are exactly the same. For those who are simply unable to work out the most appropriate child custody arrangement possible in mediation, conceding to a judge's discretion on the matter may ultimately be in the best interest of everyone involved.

Source:, "Custody & Visitation", Accessed on May 2, 2015

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