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Why Courts Prefer Parents to Settle During Divorce

Settling child custody is all about setting aside personal differences for the benefit of the child. The focus is on compromising rather than “winning.”



When parents settle during divorce, the parties reach an agreement, then submit it to the court for approval as the final order. Settling is beneficial for parents as well as the courts.

Most courts prefer to stay out of family matters unless there are severe circumstances, such as family/domestic violence. It is a common requirement that parents attend mediation to try to settle early in the court process. Here are some other reasons the court prefers parents to settle during divorce.

Here’s Why Courts Prefer That Parents Settle During Divorce
Courts Are Already Congested

Courts handle many different case types, often from multiple counties. As a result, they’re often overburdened.

If parents can’t settle, there will be a trial. Trials are time-consuming and difficult to schedule. The court must schedule trial dates around the court’s calendar and the availability of the judge, parents, their attorneys, and whomever else must be present in the courtroom. The trial itself can last days, weeks or even months.

Settling takes less time and resources than a trial, freeing up much-needed space on the court’s calendar. When parents settle during divorce, all the court has to do is review the parents’ agreed-upon parenting plan to ensure its terms are in the child’s best interest. In some cases, parents don’t have to appear in court at all.

Parents Often Make Procedural Mistakes

Many parents choose to represent themselves in family law cases rather than hiring an attorney. Due to this, they often make mistakes, like filling out paperwork incorrectly, or not following court procedures.

Court employees can explain court procedures, but they cannot help parents fill out paperwork. Waiting for parents to fix their paperwork and getting them up to speed on the rules of the court can lengthen the court process.

Parents who settle may still make mistakes, but overall there’s less paperwork required. Parents are often able to choose their agreement’s format. Plus, the court process for settling is simpler than going to trial. In a settlement hearing, the judge usually only asks a few questions to make sure parents know what they’re agreeing to and that they weren’t forced to sign the agreement.

Parents Know Their Children’s Needs Better than a Judge

The court makes custody decisions that are in line with the best interests of the child. However, evidence only goes so far in providing insight into the child’s day-to-day life and needs.

Settling child custody issues leaves parenting decisions in the hands of those who typically understand their children best: parents.

Parents can personalize their parenting plans to account for small things the judge may not. For example, if the child is afraid of the dark, the plan could state that there must be a nightlight in the child’s room. With a more detailed parenting plan, it’ll be easier to handle parenting.

It’s Better for the Kids

Courts ultimately want children to have both parents substantially involved in their lives, and to live in conflict-free environments.

Parents who settle are more likely to collaborate on all aspects of parenting. Co-parenting during divorce is considered the most beneficial parenting arrangement. It reduces the chance of conflict between parents and potential behavioral issues in children.

Parents Who Settle Are Less Likely to Return to Court

When a case goes to trial, the parent who doesn’t get what they want can appeal, which starts the whole court process all over again. Even if there isn’t an appeal, it’s common for parents to return to court over disagreements – many of which they could resolve themselves. Plus, making modifications to the order is yet another potentially unnecessary trip to court.

Parents who settle are less likely to rely on the court in general for help with parenting arrangements since they set the terms of their agreement and have experience compromising.

A comprehensive parenting plan will state how to handle disagreements and require a periodic review of the plan to see if any modifications are necessary. Also, it’s common for parents to use a parenting app to propose changes, communicate, and keep track of parenting time among other things.

It’s Less Emotionally Charged

Emotions run high during family law cases.

Some parents treat the courtroom like a battleground, talking out of turn and airing personal grievances that are unrelated to the matters at hand. This might make it difficult to restore order and takes time away from presenting the facts and evidence the judge will consider to decide the case. There’s a good chance one parent will walk away disappointed.

Settling child custody is all about setting aside personal differences for the benefit of the child. The focus is on compromising rather than “winning.” Therefore, parents who settle tend to be on amicable terms. They’re less likely to be upset with the outcome of their case since they created their own arrangements.