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Alternative Dispute Resolution in Child Custody Matters

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has long been a component of our judicial system.

In addition to formal ADR, informal processes, such as attorney assisted negotiation, can be highly beneficial, particularly in cases where both parties remain genuinely focused solely on the child’s best interests. However, this also requires a willingness of each parent to cooperate, interact, and in some cases compromise with one another. It is important to remember that although every case is unique, resolution in the vast majority of disputes is most effectively and efficiently obtained through the assistance of an attorney.

Alternative Dispute Resolution has been defined as “[a] process adopted to end a problem before taking legal action,” and “any means of settling disputes outside of the courtroom.” The most commonly recognized types of formal ADR in family law matters are mediation and neutral evaluation.

Often time, the most significant role that an attorney can play in the resolution process, is guiding an uncooperative opposing party to the realization that the most important issue at hand is—and should remain on—the best interests of the child. For more information on the mediation process, as well as its advantages and disadvantages, see Family Mediation.

In child custody disputes, formal processes of ADR are generally limited to mediation, or neutral evaluation, such as parenting coordination. In some family law disputes, ADR is a mandatory requirement, although ADR can also occur due to permissive authority granted to judges. However, in other matters, such as with some cases involving domestic violence, ADR is entirely inappropriate. Consider this distinction as you view the following statutes:

Florida Statute 44.102(2)(c) provides:

In circuits in which a family mediation program has been established and upon a court finding of a dispute, shall refer to mediation all or part of custody, visitation, or other parental responsibility issues as defined in s. 61.13. Upon motion or request of a party, a court shall not refer any case to mediation if it finds there has been a history of domestic violence that would compromise the mediation process.

Florida Statute 61.183(1), pertaining to ‘Mediation of certain contested issues,’ provides:

In any proceeding in which the issues of parental responsibility, primary residence, access to, visitation with, or support of a child are contested, the court may refer the parties to mediation in accordance with rules promulgated by the Supreme Court. In Title IV-D cases, any costs, including filing fees, recording fees, mediation costs, service of process fees, and other expenses incurred by the clerk of the circuit court, shall be assessed only against the nonprevailing obligor after the court makes a determination of the nonprevailing obligor’s ability to pay such costs and fees.

Florida Statute 61.125(2), pertaining to ‘Parenting Coordination,’ provides:

Referral.–In any action in which a judgment or order has been sought or entered adopting, establishing, or modifying a parenting plan, except for a domestic violence proceeding under chapter 741, and upon agreement of the parties, the court’s own motion, or the motion of a party, the court may appoint a parenting coordinator and refer the parties to parenting coordination to assist in the resolution of disputes concerning their parenting plan.

When the unreasonableness, inflexibility, and/or general obstinacy of an opposing party, requires further intervention to reach resolution, having an aggressive attorney on your side, can make all the difference. We have been representing clients in Gainesville, Ocala, and surrounding communities in child custody and other family law matters for more than a decade. If you are involved in a dispute, or have a question or concern regarding a custodial issue, we encourage you to contact the Law Office of Alba & Straile, P.A. to ensure the protection of the legal rights and interests of you and your child.

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