People in Fort Collins and throughout Northern Colorado probably would agree that in theory, it is better for parents who are living separately to learn to work together for the sake of their children.

Likewise, they in theory see the benefit of letting children have plenty of time with both parents.

However, in practice, this is oftentimes hard even for well-intentioned and loving parents to accomplish.

People choose to divorce, separate and live apart for a number of reasons, but there frequently are some serious issues, and these issues easily spill over into parenting decisions.

The end result is that a couple may not want, or need, a knockdown, drag-out battle over custody and parenting time,  but they still won’t be able to get an agreed parenting plan on their own without some help.

In such cases, there are options available to parents:

Mediation

As with other types of court cases, mediation is available to resolve parenting time and child custody issues.

Child custody mediation is a confidential process during which a person called a mediator will talk to both parents, and possibly their attorneys, in an effort to come to an agreement on a parenting plan.

The mediator will usually be either an attorney with experience in family law or a counselor or other expert in families and children.

While mediation does cost money, it usually takes a lot less time, and expense, than would a custody trial.

Many mediators have experience working with parents who have serious communication problems with each other and can help them overcome that obstacle in order to reach an agreement.

The nice thing about mediation is that a couple is free to walk away from it and go to trial if negotiations fail. However, once they do sign an agreement, the court will usually convert it into a custody order which the parents must follow.

 Parenting coordinators and decision-makers

Courts can also appoint experts called parenting coordinators or decision-makers to help a couple resolve their differences. Unlike a mediator, these officials serve on an ongoing basis.

A court will usually appoint these officials if the couple has had problems with implementing their parenting plan. The court may also do so at the request of either party or just because the court feels it would be helpful to resolving the case.

The difference between a parenting coordinator and a decision-maker is that, while the former acts more like a long-term mediator and works to help parents resolve their disputes themselves, a decision-maker can, as the name implies make certain minor child custody and parenting time decisions which that parents must follow.

These minor decisions can include things like pickup and drop-off times or a holiday schedule, but a decision-maker cannot actually change custody or alter the basic rights of either parent.