In some divorces, the parents cannot agree on child-related issues such as custody, parenting time, visitation time and key issues in parental plans. The result can be a contested divorce, the parents giving up control of their parenting path to a judge or the judge making decisions that both parents are unhappy with and that ultimately are not in the children’s best interest.

Bottom line: In almost all situations, it is best for the parents to work together to agree on parenting issues rather than leave them up to a judge. There can be exceptions in cases of, say, domestic violence or child abuse. Unfortunately, even in such cases, there might not be proof of the abuse, and the judge can make someone who was abused feel victimized all over again with his or her decision. The reality is that many parents who have gone through this process say that if they had to do it again, they would swallow their pride, aggression, anger and whatever other emotions they were experiencing toward the other parent and try to work the issues out.

Lack of resolution

One reason it is usually best for parents to work out disputes is that even with a judge deciding, there is usually no true resolution of grievances. For example, say that Sally and Jack both wanted primary custody of their children with limited visitation from the other parent. The judge decided that they should split custody 50/50.

This type of decision may have happened anyway if Sally and Jack had worked it out themselves, but a key difference exists. Sally and Jack would have shown each other the ability to work together for their children and to make joint decisions. Instead, they said horrible, harmful things about each other in court that they still believe, a judge made the decision for them and their negative emotions continue to boil under the surface. There is no internal resolution like there could have been otherwise, and the children are likely to pick up on that.