What Happens During a Child Custody Settlement Conference?

By Valerie Stevens

During a contested child custody case, most states require the parents to attend a settlement conference before the court will schedule the case for a trial. State courts advocate settlement conferences to reduce the financial and emotional drain on parents involved in a custody dispute. States rely on successful settlement conferences to lessen the toll on the courts and taxpayers created by trials.

Goal

The goal during a child custody settlement conference is to create a parenting plan that addresses all of the issues involved in the custody dispute. Ideally, a parenting plan will emerge during the conference that establishes custody, details a visitation schedule and sets child support. The plan should also address parental behavior around the children. For example, parents might agree to refrain from speaking negatively about the other parent in front of the children. The parents and their attorneys provide court documents and personal information to the person conducting the conference ahead of time so he will know what the issues are.

Judges

In some states judges conduct settlement conferences in a courtroom; in other states court-appointed mediators are in charge. When the settlement conference is conducted by a judge, the parents and their attorneys usually begin by briefly stating what they want and why they cannot agree. The judge then addresses each issue separately in an attempt to settle all or most of the issues. The judge can give the parents some indication of how she would be likely to rule on the issues during a trial.

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Mediators

In states where mediators conduct settlement conferences, the parents and their attorneys often meet at the office of the mediator instead of a courtroom. In particularly contentious cases, the parents might sit in separate rooms with their attorneys, while the mediator goes back and forth between the two rooms with proposals and counteroffers. The mediator acts as the voice of the court by telling the parents how a judge is most likely to rule on their demands.

Settlement

At the conclusion of a successful settlement conference, the parents’ agreement is put into writing immediately and the parents sign the agreement. However, some parents are not able to settle their differences during a settlement conference. If a judge sees that the issues cannot be resolved in a conference, she has the option to set a trial date. If a mediated settlement conference fails, the attorneys will then ask the court to set a trial date.

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Mississippi Joint Custody Law

References

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Tips for Winning a Child Custody Battle

When making a child custody determination, most jurisdictions make a decision based on the best interests of the child. Although the exact meaning of a child’s best interests varies from state to state, in many cases, the court will favor parents who actively involve themselves in their children’s lives. Additionally, courts may look positively on parents who help their children maintain a positive relationship with the other parent.

Oregon Divorce Mediation & Arbitration

Oregon courts encourage divorcing spouses to work together and resolve marital issues such as custody and property division on their own. To that end, the court will order couples to attend mediation when custody disagreements arise. If the contested issue involves property, the court will send the couple to arbitration so that the couple can decide the matter in a less formal setting. By utilizing mediation and arbitration when necessary, Oregon spouses often move through the divorce process quickly, and with fewer costs.

Child Custody Cases During a Divorce

Parents seek child custody orders through the court during divorce proceedings. Courts consider the custody agreement or parenting plan proposal submitted collectively by both parents. The court approves child custody orders that are in the best interest of the child. Parents can request a temporary custody order after they file for divorce and before the divorce proceedings begin. The court can issue temporary child custody orders to take effect prior to the divorce proceedings; then issue the permanent child custody orders as part of the final divorce decree. Even permanent child custody orders can be modified by the court during a future hearing, based on changed circumstances.

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