HIGH CONFLICT CHILD CUSTODY
AS A GENERAL RULE, IF YOU HAVE A HIGH CONFLICT CHILD CUSTODY MATTER YOU SHOULD ALWAYS HIRE AN ATTORNEY BEFORE TRYING TO RESOLVE YOUR MATTER THROUGH MEDIATION.
High Conflict with Danger to Health, Safety or Welfare. Emergencies relating to health, safety or welfare of your child or children, including parental kidnapping and physical abuse must be handled by an attorney and/or law enforcement and through the court system. These matters are appropriate for mediation, ONLY under the Court’s authority and guidance, with attorneys for both parties present, and in those matters, additional mediation professionals, such as psychologists or social workers, may be necessary participants.
Below is a link to Maryland's House of Ruth, A community organization committed to protecting families from domestic violence: www.hruth.org/
Emergencies where there is a high degree of conflict relating to a child or children, and where no family member is in danger, may be appropriate for mediation BUT ONLY AFTER attorney consultation. Your attorney may advise you to have a case filed in court to be prepared for quick court action in the event the conflict escalates. Hiring an attorney will likely cause your spouse to do so as well which should theoretically, keep both parties from doing anything rash. Once two attorney-retainers are paid out of one joint account, it is likely that the attorneys, the court and/or your accountant, will guide you to working out your differences through mediation.
If your case is filed in court, you may have free mediation services available to you for child custody matters. If there is already a case filed with the Court, and the conflict includes CHILD CUSTODY, then the Court will most likely order mediation. Baltimore County (check your county for available services) has a FREE in-house mediation program for child custody disputes, so if your case is already filed in Court, there is no economic reason not to avail yourselves of that service. If mediation resolves the child custody dispute then hopefully both parents will be interested in trying to resolve the support and property issues through private mediation.
If the couple is unable to agree does that automatically make it "high conflict"? A A couple may be unable to agree on custody or the overnight schedule and still mutually desire to work it out directly at mediation before it becomes high conflict. Sometimes spouses feel unable to discuss the topic except in the presence of a third party. Inability of the spouses to agree on custody or the overnight schedule doesn’t necessarily preclude them from first seeking a resolution through mediation if both parties are calm, pose no threat to each other or to the children and are settlement-minded. In these situations, the Mediator must exercise his or her professional judgment during the initial consultation to determine whether mediation is the appropriate first step.