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Perspectives on Parental Alienation Child Custody and Dispute Resolution Systems Contested child custody provides many challenges for alternate dispute resolution With no-fault divorce and a standard for determining custody in light of the childs best interest judges are besieged with a backlog of disputed custody cases without clear and concrete guidelines to follow in deciding whether to favor the mother or the father Many experts in family law- both from the legal and mental health arenas have observed an increase in deceptive and manipulative tactics used by divorcing couples The surge in divorce rates during the past two decades along with major judicial reforms since the 1970s has led to several significant changes in the ways that courts handle family law cases Divorce and custody laws have been widely revised by states and alternatives to litigation have emerged and gained prominence Mediation has become a popular option and in some states mediation is mandatory for divorcing couples Judicial systems in California Minnesota and Wisconsin were early experimenters with the concept of conciliation courts where parents were encouraged to work out divorce and custody conflicts States that have introduced mandatory mediation in cases of contested custody include Delaware California Maine and Florida Herman 1990 There has been research that supports mediation as a positive intervention in custody disputes Studies of custody cases in several large cities report that over half between 50 and 90 percent of the cases are settled through mediation Atkinson 1996 A large empirical evaluation of mediation services in three court-based programs showed generally high levels of user satisfaction according to the researchers Pearson Thoennes 1986 Both the Denver Mediation Project of the early 1980s and a study conducted in Toronto found mediation to be successful in keeping divorcing families out of court The Toronto study compared couples that mediated custody with those that litigated without mediation only 10 percent of mediated couples returned to the courtroom after two years
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