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Tips for planning a co-parenting plan that works

California parents of minor children must develop a custody or visitation arrangement as part of a divorce. Long-term thinking is essential when negotiating this agreement. Careful consideration of each parent's work schedule and the children's school and extracurricular activities could help a person avoid agreeing to a schedule that proves unworkable and results in going back to court to make adjustments.

The needs and best interests of the child should guide the parents' choices. Courts want to see co-parenting proposals that present schedules that all parties can realistically live with. Although parents are often not on good terms when building these plans, reasonable compromises could benefit both parents because everyone will be living according to the terms of the plan for many years.

Shared custody benefits well-being of children

Courts guided by old attitudes about children needing to be solely with their mothers continue to grant women full physical custody of children in over 80 percent of custody disputes decided by judges. Researchers, however, have identified shared custody as the ideal, and parents in California facing the possibility of a legal battle over their children should understand that children benefit from relationships with both parents.

A professor of adolescent and educational psychology explored the effects of shared custody on children by examining 44 studies about divorce and children. The professor found that parent-child relationships mattered more than persistent conflicts between the divorced parents. In general, even poor co-parenting compared favorably to single parenting in regards to the happiness of children.

Reasons to pursue mediation during family conflicts

Conflicts between family members are a normal part of life, and there may be many ways to resolve them. One option that California residents may wish to pursue to resolve a family conflict is mediation. A key benefit to mediation is that it is a voluntary process that strives toward a win-win result for all involved. All parties talk with a mediator openly and without feeling judged.

In a divorce situation, this may help to achieve a result that both spouses may feel comfortable with. When a person engages in mediation, the goal is not to win or lose an argument. Instead, the goal is to simply hear the other side out and come up with ways to help each side move past their negative feelings. Through the mediation process, spouses may learn how to treat each other with kindness, and they may discover the importance of trust and loyalty.

Prenuptial agreements can help couples plan for the future

Many California couples planning on marriage are also considering prenuptial agreements. As increasing numbers of people marry with strong careers and significant assets already on hand, a prenuptial agreement can seem to be a great way to protect both parties' interests and cut down on lengthy and expensive legal disputes in the case of a future divorce.

When both parties are coming to a marriage with significant assets, the draw of a prenuptial agreement can be even stronger. Both parties have a high level of interest in their individual assets and protecting them in case of divorce or directing their distribution for inheritance.

How to increase the odds of success in mediation

Mediation can be an effective tool for California couples who are facing the end of their marriage. However, there are some steps that people should take before starting the mediation process to increase its effectiveness. For instance, people may wish to prepare for a variety of outcomes as opposed to aiming for a specific conclusion.

Ideally, a person will consider both his or her needs as well as the needs of the other party. In some cases, the needs of both parties will align closely, which may make a favorable outcome easier to achieve. Those who are going through mediation should take stock of their emotions before negotiations begin. It is not uncommon for individuals to experience an emotional outburst because they are free to talk for the first time in months or years.

DNA testing plays conclusive role in establishing parentage

DNA testing has a good track record of identifying the father of a child. With an accuracy rate of almost 100 percent, California courts recognize the results as valid when making rulings about child support, visitation and custody. In cases in which a man questions his role as the father of a child, especially if the woman wants him to pay child support, a family court might order a DNA test.

For legal purposes, the testing must be performed by a certified facility like a health department, hospital or clinic that follows chain of custody procedures. The test is noninvasive. A swab rubbed inside a person's cheek collects cells for the test. Technicians will analyze the samples twice, and a qualified lab director will review the results for accuracy of procedure.

Prenups do not mean that people are planning to divorce

Some Californians are taken aback when their fiancés tell them that they want to draft prenuptial agreements. However, having one may actually be smart for both parties for multiple reasons if it is drafted and negotiated correctly.

Sugggesting a prenuptial agreement does not necessarily mean that a person is planning for a marriage to end before it has even begun. Many couples use these types of agreements to clearly define and clarify the roles and responsibilities of each party during the marriage, which may help them to avoid conflicts that might otherwise occur. Prenuptial agreements also are a good way for people to learn about each other's finances because they must fully disclose their assets and debts during their discussions.

How mediation differs from litigation

California couples who are getting a divorce might want to consider mediation over litigation. There could be a number of advantages to this more civil approach. For example, litigation may be more time consuming and expensive. Furthermore, once a decision is made by the judge during litigation, there is usually little recourse for changing it. However, control is in the hands of the couple during mediation.

In mediation, a neutral third party, who may be a social worker, a mental health worker or in some other field, sits down with the couple to talk about their conflict. With the mediator's help, the couple tries to reach a resolution. The spouses may or may not have their attorneys present. There may be an advantage in having legal counsel available in that the attorney might be able to make suggestions. A party might also want to have an attorney review any agreements from mediation before they are signed.

Working together to reach a child custody agreement

When California parents who are going through a divorce are trying to resolve child custody dispute, they have options available other than having a judge make a decision after a trial. These include informal negotiations and alternate dispute resolution proceedings. Both of these options allow the parents to work together, meaning they are more likely to come to an agreement that benefits the entire family.

Parents can reach a settlement through informal negotiations by either talking out the dispute themselves or working with their respective attorneys. The parents may negotiate a settlement among themselves before having the attorneys look over the agreement before submitting it to the court.

Parents and experts increasingly lean toward joint custody

The best interests of children in California are generally represented by shared parenting and joint physical custody when their parents divorce, according to a growing body of research and expert opinion on child development. Such an arrangement can help to ensure that the parents have roughly an equal amount time with their children on an ongoing and regular basis.

A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health showed that children living in shared parenting arrangements had significantly improved health outcomes over those in sole custody arrangements duein part to lowered stress levels. Dozens of respected professionals in the fields of family law and child development have also underscored the importance of shared parenting. Children in joint custody arrangements know that they have not lost either parent and feel improved senses of safety and security. This supports improved outcomes and is generally in the best interests of the child, absent situations of abuse or unfit parenting.

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