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Custody and Conflict Resolution in a Co-Parenting Situation

If you have a conflict resolution plan established by court you must follow the plan established in the court order. If you do not have an outlined conflict resolution plan then you may need to re-address the court to establish a conflict resolution plan or take the following steps to settle / resolve a high conflict situation. The benefits of having such a plan are to prevent unnecessary legal cases, saving unnecessary legal cost, and or to prevent hostile and frivolous legal actions generated for the purpose of harassment.

When Should I Implement a Conflict Resolution Plan?

You should implement a conflict resolution plan whenever normal discussions or decision making processes start producing negative responses. Negative responses may mean that verbal communications are suddenly met with aggression, a refusal to cooperate, a refusal to discuss co-parenting issues, refusing to discuss the child’s best interest or wellbeing, and or anytime there is a violation of court order that is negatively impacting the ability of the parents to co-parent. In such situations a conflict resolution plan can effectively manage the dispute and can promote resolution prior to the parties having to spend significant amounts of time and money in litigation.

Don’ts of a Co-Parenting Conflict:

• Don’t refuse to address any issues the other parent has brought forth as a concern.
• Don’t refuse to address the concern because you believe the concern is false.
• Don’t forget to address small issues – small issues can be big issues to your child.
• Don’t make small issues into larger ones – such as in instances where the issue is not re-occurring or not serious.
• Don’t blame the other parent or verbally bash the other parent during conversations.
• Don’t start name calling or begin name calling in response to the other parent calling you names.
• Don’t give away evidence that you have that you may potentially use in court.
• Don’t give away too much information that may allow for the other parent to use to prepare a defense for their actions in court.
• Don’t counter the other parent’s negative actions with further negative reactions.

The best way to avoid co-parenting conflict is to keep all conversations maintained in discussions child centered. If you are having a problem with something the other parent is doing tell the other parent how that action is adversely impacting the child. If the parent fails to resolve the issue or fails to address the issue inform the other parent how the lack of action is impacting the child. Separate your emotions from any of the issues and remove the other parent’s character from discussion when trying to resolve the issue. For example, if you are concerned the other parent is smoking in the home with the child don’t attack the father’s character, but instead address your concern about the smoking, state how it is impacting the child emotionally and physically, state how the child needs a positive role model and how smoking in front of the child may influence the child’s perspective or future mental/physical health, present the evidence that you have about the incident occurring. If the other parent continues to refuse to address the issue or grows irrational then a Conflict Resolution Plan should be implemented.

Steps of a Typical Conflict Resolution Plan:

Step 1) Encourage the other parent to discuss the issues and be productive for the benefit of the child. Document all evidence of discussion via, email, text message, letter, journal, phone conversation, personal conversation etc.; Record and document if the other parent is being dilatory or difficult in co-parenting conversations. In the State of Georgia either parent has the ability to record the conversation as the state has a one-party consent tape recording law.

Step 2) If the other parent becomes hostile or non – compliant to your efforts to resolve the situation send a letter documenting the issue in both regular and certified mail. The letter should list the specific issues that need to be resolved and possible solutions to resolve the issues. The letter should also give a timed limitation of a particular time frame in which the matter should be resolved.

Step 3) If the other parent refuses to accept correspondence, fails to respond, or responds with a denial to address the issues then the other parent should send a responsive certified letter stating that the matter is not being addressed within the time allotted for addressing the issue and that the refusal or delay is causing significant issues that require possible court intervention. Also ask for the other party if they will be willing to share in the cost or participate in mediation in order to resolve the issue prior to going back to court.

Step 4) If the other party agrees to attend mediation then you will be able to develop a settlement agreement to possibly address the issue. If the other parent refuses to go to mediation or refuses to agree to address the issue then you may use the failed mediation in court or the other parties repeated unwillingness to address the issue as evidence to the problem in the co-parenting situation. If co-parenting is part of a previous court order than the parent having the problem may file for contempt of the other parent based on their actions. Contempt on part of either parent may impact the custody or visitation of the parent in contempt especially if the contempt is serious in nature or a re-occurring theme.

Step 5) you should remember that the court can award attorney’s fees and punish bad behavior by parents during a co-parenting dispute. One sided negative animosity will only reflect negatively upon the parent engaging/ starting/ or being difficult in the midst of the conflict. Avoid any negative reactionary or retaliatory actions in response to the other parent’s hostilities and do not take part in any vigilantly actions to enforce the court order or co-parenting agreements. Back and forth conflict in regards to co-parenting is a good way to get a co-parenting coordinator which is exceptionally costly and can be made mandatory until the child reaches the age of majority/ age 18.

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