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Alternative dispute resolution and child custody

Informal negotiations, mediation, collaborative divorce and arbitration are all among the options available for a Minnesota couple who are divorcing and who have young children. Parents may be able to save time and money as well as retain more control over the final outcome if they use one of these methods instead of going to litigation. These approaches are also less adversarial.

Informal negotiations may involve parents, parents and their respective attorneys, or just the attorneys. However, this process may not work for everyone. Alternative dispute resolution methods can help parents resolve conflict and reach a compromise. Collaborative family law and mediation give parents the chance to be active participants in the child custody agreement.

The aim in all of these cases is to produce a written document. The document generally goes to a judge who will review it to ensure that it is fair to both parties and is not in violation of any laws. There may be a brief court hearing in which the judge asks basic follow-up questions to ensure both parents understand the terms of the agreement. With the judge's approval, the agreement becomes legally binding.

Parents may want to consider an agreement that does more than just address custody and visitation. They may also want to specify certain rules they would like observed such as how long it should be before a child meets a parent's new partner. The document might spell out some household rules, agreements about extracurricular activities or plans for vacations. Putting these guidelines in writing may reduce conflict later on. Ideally, parents will be able to work out any future disagreement instead of returning to court.

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