Child Custody is a complex area of law. It strikes right at the heart of what we value most, our children and their welfare. It is the highest concern of the court as well.
The hallmark of child custody is THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD. The whole system of laws and policies are all geared to find, protect, and enforce what is in the best interests of the child.
The first step in determining the best interests of the child is an agreement between the parents. If the parents have a plan they mutually support, the court is directed to presume parent’s good faith agreements are in the child’s best interests.
The court will make every effort to protect the decisions of the parents, so long as it appears to be made in the child’s bests interests. In fact, the court will press the parents to strive to make their own agreement before ruling on the issue at a hearing or a trial. The court will provide many resources.
The first of those resources is Pathways to Parenthood, a required class for all families with children.
Mediation: Johnson County Court Services offers mediation services for custody matters only, and the court requires that parents attempt to mediate their disputes productively before any matter of child custody can be tried. They are aware that while a mediated agreement may not be perfect, it has a lot better chance at being in the child’s best interests than anything they as judges, with limited exposure to the family, can create.
The research and practical experience of the courts and of family law professionals all concur, the greatest danger to the child is ongoing conflict between the parents. Continued conflict has profound psychological and physical ramifications that cannot be easily overcome, once created. The trick is to avoid the conflict in the first place.
If mediation fails, the court will try other resources, such as custody evaluations by a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist. These evaluations usually are reports to the court about the dynamics of the family and often provide recommendations and observations that inform the court in important areas affecting the best interests of the child.
The court also offers additional services such as SOLID GROUND a voluntary program to assist parents with conflict, avoiding conflict, and co-parenting. No court permission or order is necessary. Check our forms section for more information.
For parents caught in ongoing conflict, the court can order participation in HIGHER GROUND -- a court ordered program where participants are screened before acceptance. The goal of the program is to take families who are suffering ongoing conflict and educate them. The education enables the parties to cease court-based conflict. Check our forms section for more information.
Clearly the focus of the court is to minimize conflict and foster cooperative parenting. The Johnson County Family Court Judges are clear on this common goal.
For a parent who fears that if they do not protect or control their children and how they are parented, they face a severe reduction in control as they move further into the court.