If your relationship is ending in Arizona and you have natural or adopted children, you likely need Court Orders addressing your children. When you are ending a marriage, the legal action is called a dissolution of marriage (or divorce). When you are not married, but have children, the legal action is called a paternity action. In either case, you will need orders regarding child custody, a parenting (or visitation) plan, Arizona child support and the division of medical expenses and tax dependency exemptions.
As with all other family law issues, you can mediate and amicably agree on these matters, rather than going to trial and letting a judge decide. While the judge will do his or her best to enter appropriate orders, it is almost always optimal for parents, who actually know their children, to work together on arrangements that are in the children’s best interests. Parents are going to have to work together for many years on their children’s behalf, and it is wise to create a cooperative relationship right away through mediation.
The mediator will help parents create an open dialogue and explore what arrangements will best meet the parents’ concerns and interests. For example, the parties may decide that it is best for one parent to be the primary parent during the school year and the other parent to be the primary caretaker during the summer, weekends and vacations. The parents could also divide the days of the week, considering the ages and specific needs of the children. If one parent is concerned about the other parent’s behavior, the parties can create orders addressing those concerns through mediation. For example, the parties could agree to orders limiting alcohol use or exposure to new romantic partners. Generally, mediation allows parents to be more flexible and directly address their children’s specific needs. Even if the parents are not getting along, a mediator can help them reach agreements. Agreements can even be reached while the parents sit in separate rooms during the mediation. The mediator will just go back and forth between the rooms, working with each parent towards a resolution.
Parents will likely do best with a mediator who is experienced in family law, and is therefore better able to help the parties generate ideas to resolve all of the child-related issues (as well as the other issues). At the end of the mediation, the goal is to have a written, binding agreement that the parties can then use to fashion a proposed order or decree to submit to the Court. In that case, the parents will have successfully resolved their dispute without having set foot in a courtroom.
Alona M. Gottfried is a mediator and an attorney with over 13 years experience in family. This article is intended for general information and should not be considered legal advice.
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