Parental conflict can be one of the most emotional facets of family law. As difficult as it may be, parties in a conflict over custody and parenting should aim to resolve their dispute outside of the courtroom where the process of resolution and its result remains in their hands. Parents can call upon the assistance of mediators and in particular, parenting coordinators who are often psychologists or lawyers who have training in resolving parenting conflict.
If there is no resolution between the parties or if the parents cannot agree to use an out-of-court process, the conflict may have to be dealt with through the courts. The standard by which all decisions made for a child or children is what is in the "best interests of the child". However, as much as this principle is meant to guide decision-making, what parents, lawyers and even judges believe is in the "best interest of a child" is often informed by their own personal beliefs. The nuances of parenting combined with our personal stories can make it difficult to say objectively what is in the best interests of a child.
The courts have developed some tools to assist in determining what is in the best interests of a child. The options include "Evaluative Interventions" that are intended to provide information to the court on items such as clarifying the issues between the parents, identifying the risk factors for children and sometimes clarifying what a child wants for him or herself. More specifically, these options can include a "Voice of the Child Report," a therapeutic intervention for parent-child reunification purposes, or even psychological or risk evaluations of one parent.
At the far end of the spectrum of court-ordered processes is an assessment of parenting time, sometimes referred to as a "Bilateral Assessment". These assessments will not only provide information to a court but would also make recommendations on what parenting arrangements are in the best interests of the children.
Any process that includes a third party parenting expert will involve additional fees of retaining that expert. This is something that parents also must consider when considering which process to use.