You’ve got to ask yourself one question, “Do I feel lucky?” If not, it is best not to gamble in the first place. Unless you feel like you have a chance to “win”, you would never roll the dice, spin the wheel or buy the lottery ticket.
My question to folks dealing with child custody and co-parenting goes one step further: Do you want your children’s welfare left to luck? Of course, that is not entirely fair. The court system is about much more than luck. If you are going to litigate a custody issue, each side will present evidence and testimony. Most of the time, both parents will have lawyers who will attempt to present their client’s position to the Court. Witnesses will testify for each parent, trying to explain why that parent is better. Many times custody cases come down to a lot of blaming and accusations about the other parent.
Often what gets lost in the mix is the impact all this anger and conflict is having on the children. In the vast majority of cases, the children love both parents. Even if a child feels that Mom or Dad is the better day-to-day parent, she does not want to say something that will hurt the other parent.
If you step back and think about a custody trial objectively, a significant problem emerges. The parents must assemble all their evidence from what may be several years of parenting, present it to the judge in an orderly fashion, and depend upon that judge to make a decision that will impact the children for years, after hearing about this family for a matter of hours or days. Also, the judge’s understanding of the family dynamics may be limited by rules of evidence and procedure. Not every fact or statement you think is important is admissible as evidence. Judges deciding child custody have a tough job. And, it brings me back to the question, “Do I feel lucky?”
Gambling involves chance. Chance or luck is beyond your control. Once in the courtroom, parents lose most control over the outcome. Compare this to mediation or other collaborative approaches to dispute resolution. The parties retain significant control over the process and outcome. If two parents can create a parenting agreement together, they retain control over the process and they eliminate the uncertainty of the outcome. Mediation and collaborative parenting require compromise. The pay-off for compromise may be a better relationship going forward. More importantly, a collaborative resolution of custody sends a strong message to the children that their welfare is more important than winning. All children should be so lucky.