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The challenges of custody

California parents who are going through a divorce sometimes fight about custody issues. While it is easy to focus on hurt feelings and grudges, the best interests of a child should be put first. Parenting plans and alternative forms of conflict resolution could help parents find solutions that work for themselves and their children.

After a divorce, it is likely for both parents to receive joint legal custody. This means that both are entitled to have a say in certain major decisions affecting their children, such as education and health care. However, parents who have primary physical custody are usually in charge of making doctor's appointments or scheduling parent/teacher conferences, and some neglect to tell the non-custodial parent of these events until it is too late to attend.

Parenting plans are intended to serve as a schedule that makes responsibilities, appointments and more clear to both parents and can be used to prevent conflict. They should also be flexible enough to take into account special occasions that may arise for which the non-custodial parent will want to have the children join in, even if they don't coincide with the usual visitation schedule.

The issue of custody is often a contentious part of a divorce and its aftermath, and many parents who end up in a dispute treat it as a battle in which there can only be one winner. Family law attorneys will point out to their clients that in fact, the ultimate loser in such a dispute is the child, and they might urge clients to see if these problems can be worked out through negotiations or mediation.

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