Pick a Third-Party Decision-Maker to Avoid Unnecessary Trips to the Courthouse
Once in awhile, a mother and a father find themselves unable to settle even the most routine custody and parenting time issues. Who will drive the children to recital? What time must they be turned over on Christmas Day? Where will Bobby spend his birthday? Why can’t Suzie spend Father’s Day with her Dad?
Of course, many of these issues can be resolved in mediation or in a specifically-worded court order signed by a judge. But another idea is to agree upon a neutral decision-maker — somebody who can settle the smaller custody and visitation disputes without spending the time and money to go to court.
A neutral decision-maker can be a therapist or counselor, a trusted clergyman, a school official, another lawyer or a reliable community member. Generally speaking, a family member cannot be neutral, and should not be designated as the decision-maker.
Using a neutral decision-maker makes sense, but it won’t work in every case. For those who can make use of a neutral party, costly and time-consuming motions can be avoided in court. In fact, a neutral party can act swiftly to resolve a problem, usually by holding a phone conference, and this will achieve far faster results than going through the court. Yet neutral parties may be inappropriate if they are inexperienced, indifferent, or inattentive to detail. They may be problematic if they become biased, and unlike judges, neutral decision-makers may be under no professional duty to avoid ethical breaches or conflicts of interest.
Has anybody made use of such neutral parties? Let me hear your stories.