I am sitting in a court room waiting for the hearing in front of me to end. The two parties in front of the judge disagree about parenting time. It is clear they are completely unmotivated to reach any sort of agreement and are very angry with one another. The judge gives them one last opportunity to discuss the matter and reach an agreement, and in doing so he leaves them with these parting words: You two find a way to go figure this out…because if you don’t I am going to make a decision based on the information I have received in the little bit of time we have had together. I don’t know you and I don’t know your child but I am going to make a decision based on what I think is in his best interests, regardless of whether or not you like it or whether it works with your schedule or your lifestyle or your desires.
Family centric proceedings, whether divorce, custody, or child support, naturally involve a lot of very strong emotions. We are, after all, talking about some of the most important “things” in our society…our spouse, our family, our children, our money. It is easy to understand why people are often at opposite ends when it comes to painting the picture of what life is going to look like when the dust settles. As gut-wrenching as it may feel, there is a lot to be said for compromise and negotiation when it is safe to do so. The Judge above was talking about parenting time, but the same lesson can be applied across the board: the parties have lived this life and they know what is important. Working to reach an agreement outside of court gives parties the opportunity to retain control over what life will look like; to consider what is important for their child, what schedules need to be accommodated and how to divide assets in the best way for them.
So there it is…from a judge in the clearest language possible: if they have to, they will make a decision based on the information they have, not knowing the parties, or their children, or what is really important to them. But both parties always have the ability to try to retain control and make the decisions that are best for the people and the family they do know with the wealth of information they have at hand.