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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 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

other drugs.

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.

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