When parents divorce, what happens to the children? Where will they live? How often will they
see mom and dad? Who makes decisions? How are holidays and vacations handled? These are
just some of the questions most frequently asked when couples with children get divorced.
Before getting into substance, however, I find it imperative to discuss how parties should deal
with one another. Co-Parenting or Parallel-Parenting are terms that describe how mom and
dad parent while living separately. There are ways to reduce the conflict between parents
getting divorced that will benefit children and help them to have healthy relationships with both parents.
The Santa Clara County Superior Court website at www.scscourt.org provides valuable
information for parents. I have copied below their information on "How to reduce custody-
related conflict between parents."
The Santa Clara County Superior Court website states...
"Remember: The way you and the other parent act affects your children. Here are some tips
on how to talk to each other:
1. Be polite, just like you would be at work. Do not use bad language or call each other
2. Stay on the subject. Don’t talk about other issues.
3. Focus on doing what is best for your child.
4. Control your emotions, just like you would do at work. If you can’t stay in control,
agree to talk at another time.
5. Be clear and specific when you talk to the other parent. Write things down and keep
businesslike records of your agreements and appointments. Do not change plans
without first discussing the change with the other parent.
6. To be sure each parent has the same information, write down what you have talked
about and send a copy to the other parent.
7. Keep your promises. Your children need to be able to trust and rely on you. This is very
important right now.
8. Do not talk about custody problems if one of you is under the influence of alcohol or
9. Do not talk about custody if the children are around.
10. When you pick up or drop off the children to the other parent, say only "hello" and
11. Do not send messages to the other parent with your child.
12. Try to talk to teachers, doctors, or other involved professionals together. This can help
resolve differences of opinion about what is best for your children.
13. If the child is with you, you are responsible for the child’s daily care. But, do not make
any important changes in the child's educational or medical care without first discussing
it with the other parent.
14. Above all, try to work with the other parent for the good of your children. Do this for
your children's happiness and success in life. They will feel more comfortable and secure
and know that you both cared enough about them to make their life free of conflict."
It is important to the know the philosophy of the Judges and of the state of California.
Language most often heard in court surrounds the "best interests of the children" and
"frequent and continuing contact with both parents". It is the interest of the state of
Calfornia that both parents have a relationship with their children. Again, our county
website has information on "How the court gets involved in custody and visitation."
On the Family Law self-help page of the Santa Clara County Superior Court website, you
will find the following:
"California law says that Judges must keep the “best interest” of your children in mind when
deciding on custody. California laws have changed a lot in the last few years. Courts no longer automatically give custody to the mother instead of the father, even if your children are young. Courts cannot deny your right to custody or visitation just because you were never
married to the other parent, or because you or the other parent has a physical disability, or a different, or minority lifestyle, religious belief or sexual preference. In most cases, parents can
make their own agreements for custody and visitation. If you and the other parent agree on
custody, the judge will probably approve your agreement. If you cannot agree, the judge will
send you to mediation and a mediator will help you. If you still cannot agree, you and the other parent will meet with the Judge to discuss your case again. This is called a Judicial Custody Conference (JCC). If you still do not agree, you will be ordered to go through an in-depth
process called an Assessment. After the Assessment, the judge will decide your custody and
visitation schedule. Remember: the best plan is a plan that is good for your children. Change
is hard for children. Research tells us that if both parents are active in their kids’ lives and do
not fight over custody and visitation schedules, the children will usually do much better."
The bottom line is that it is better for everyone, parents and children, when parties work out
their custody plan without a Judge. If litigated, the power to decide belongs solely to the
Judge. For this reason, the courts purposely force the parties to take various steps before
custody ever becomes a triable issue. As a Mediator, I help parents to work through their disagreements and concerns. I help the parties craft an agreement, in which they are both
invested. Ideally, the interests of both parties are heard and met. The process, while often
requiring compromise, still gives each party power over decision-making.