Many of you may have heard about a proposed bill in Michigan to effectively require judges to award both parents shared decision-making power over their children and give both parents nearly equal time with the children. Those who oppose this bill often do so in large part because they don’t want to see a one size fits all rule applied to every family dispute in the State. They want the Court to determine what is best for the children in every case. Those who favor the bill argue that giving judges the discretion to look at cases individually results in skewed outcomes that discriminate against fathers, giving them less time with their children and less involvement in their lives.
I agree with the claims of both sides. We want to encourage both parents to be involved in the children’s lives and we want to make sure that we do what is best for the children as determined on a case by case basis. What is telling here is that these goals are apparently at odds with one another in this debate. Families deserve to have it both ways. Why can’t Courts deliver this?
The answer is simple. Courts are not equipped to consistently provide the type and amount of care, attention and resources families need to achieve both goals. The cure offered by this piece of legislation – treating all families alike – follows the same tired formula of previous court reform attempts: pass laws that control outcomes of cases rather than equip our judiciary to handle the process in a better way.
Luckily, you don’t have to go to Court to get a divorce. The debate over this legislation should clue you in on why you should consider out-of-court options for achieving a divorce, like mediation and collaborative practice. Both processes are designed to provide families the individual attention they deserve and need to move confidently into a healthier post-divorce life.