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Divorce, "conscious uncoupling" and child custody

Many people rolled their eyes when they heard that actress Gwyneth Paltrow had described her impending divorce as a "conscious uncoupling." The Oscar-winning actress has been widely criticized in recent years for her real-life role as a kind of lifestyle guru. For people who can't stand her website Goop, Paltrow's choice of words seemed unbearably pretentious.

At the same time, even some of her harshest critics admitted Paltrow could have a point. If by "conscious uncoupling," Paltrow means a divorce in which the parties attempt to work together, this is in fact exactly what many professionals want to see. And, when the divorcing couple has young children together and wishes to share some form of joint custody, as Paltrow and her husband do, this kind of approach can be extremely important.

Among family law professionals, there is a growing movement known as collaborative divorce. Under this system, the parties to a divorce use mediation or other forms of alternative divorce resolution to craft a divorce settlement. Divorcing parents can use this process to negotiate a visitation or custody schedule. (However, courts typically do not allow parents to make major changes to child support obligations.)

Whatever method they use to get to an agreement, once parents have a child custody plan, they must have it approved the court. If the court decides the plan will be in the best interests of the child, it will approve it.

After that, parents have to stick to the plan. The parents will have to deal with each other for a long time, and many proponents of collaborative divorces say that it's a good idea to start off with a cooperative approach rather than an adversarial one. When things change, and one parent wants more or less time, or wants permission to relocate, they may have to negotiate and/or go to court again.

Child custody disputes can be some of the most difficult matters in family law. Whatever they call the end of their relationship - divorce, break up or "conscious uncoupling" - it's important to have the help of legal professionals who can watch out for Texas parents' interests along with those of their children.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Is 'conscious uncoupling' a better way to divorce?" Anya Sostek, March 29, 2014

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