How to Resolve Child Custody Disputes

Updated on June 5, 2024
Updated: May 23, 2024

Resolving child custody disputes can be one of the most emotionally charged and challenging aspects of a divorce or separation. Ensuring the best interests of your child while navigating the legal complexities requires careful consideration and informed decision-making. At Tommalieh Law, we understand the delicate nature of these disputes and are committed to providing compassionate and effective legal support.

Our experienced Chicago custody attorneys are here to guide you through every step of the process, helping you achieve a fair and workable custody arrangement that prioritizes your child's well-being. From mediation to court litigation, there are various pathways to resolve custody issues, each with its own benefits and challenges.

Contact Tommalieh Law today at (708) 232-0017 to schedule a consultation with a child custody lawyer and learn how we can assist you in navigating this difficult time. Let us help you find a solution that protects your parental rights and fosters a positive environment for your child’s future.

Common Causes of Child Custody Disputes

Child custody disputes can arise due to various factors, leading to emotional and legal complexities for all parties involved. Some common causes include:

  1. Parenting Styles and Values: Differences in parenting styles, values, and beliefs can lead to disagreements about what is best for the child's upbringing. Conflicts may arise regarding discipline, education, religious upbringing, or lifestyle choices.
  2. Communication Issues: Poor communication between parents can escalate tensions and hinder cooperation in co-parenting. Misunderstandings, lack of transparency, or failure to effectively communicate about important decisions regarding the child's welfare can exacerbate conflict.
  3. Relocation: A parent's desire to relocate for employment opportunities, family reasons, or personal preferences can spark custody disputes, especially if it disrupts the child's established routine or limits the other parent's access and involvement in the child's life.
  4. Allegations of Abuse or Neglect: Allegations of child abuse, neglect, or substance abuse by one parent may prompt concerns about the child's safety and well-being, leading to custody battles and legal interventions to protect the child's interests.
  5. Disputes Over Parenting Time and Custody Arrangements: Disagreements regarding the division of parenting time, visitation schedules, and custody arrangements are common sources of conflict. Issues such as holidays, vacations, or special occasions may also trigger disputes.
  6. Parental Alienation: In some cases, one parent may attempt to alienate the child from the other parent, leading to emotional manipulation, coercion, or undermining of the child's relationship with the other parent. This behavior can fuel custody disputes and require legal intervention to address.
  7. Changes in Circumstances: Changes in parental circumstances such as remarriage, relocation, job loss, or health issues can necessitate modifications to existing custody arrangements, leading to disputes over the child's best interests and welfare.
  8. Legal and Financial Considerations: Custody disputes may also involve legal and financial considerations, including child support obligations, division of assets, or disputes over legal custody rights and decision-making authority.
parents pulling a child in opposite directions

Navigating child custody disputes requires careful consideration of the child's best interests, effective communication, and often legal intervention to reach amicable resolutions. Seeking guidance from experienced family law attorneys can help parents protect their rights and achieve outcomes that prioritize the well-being of their children.

Understanding Child Custody Options

Child custody arrangements can vary based on the circumstances of each family's situation and the best interests of the child. Here are some common types of child custody arrangements and factors considered in determining them:

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to where the child resides on a day-to-day basis. It can be sole physical custody, where the child resides primarily with one parent, or joint physical custody, where the child spends substantial time with both parents.

Legal custody pertains to the authority to make important decisions about the child's upbringing, including matters related to education, healthcare, religion, and general welfare. Like physical custody, legal custody can be sole or joint.

Sole Custody

In a sole custody arrangement, one parent has both physical and legal custody of the child, and the other parent may have visitation rights. Sole custody may be awarded if one parent is deemed unfit or if it's determined to be in the child's best interests.

Joint Custody

Joint custody involves both parents sharing physical and/or legal custody of the child. This arrangement aims to ensure that both parents remain actively involved in the child's life and decision-making processes.

Bird's Nest Custody

In this arrangement, the child remains in one primary residence, and the parents take turns living in the family home with the child. This setup provides stability for the child while allowing both parents to maintain a presence in their lives.

The determination of child custody arrangements is based on various factors, including:

  • The child's age, developmental needs, and preferences (if mature enough to express them).
  • Each parent's ability to provide a stable and nurturing environment.
  • The child's existing relationship with each parent.
  • Any history of domestic violence or substance abuse.
  • Each parent's work schedule and availability for childcare.
  • The proximity of each parent's residence to the child's school and community.

Learn More: Can You Appeal a Custody Order?

Ultimately, the court's primary consideration is the best interests of the child when determining custody arrangements. Courts may encourage parents to reach a mutually agreeable custody arrangement through mediation or negotiation, but if they cannot, a judge will make the decision based on the evidence and testimony presented in court.

Methods of Resolving Child Custody Disputes

Custody issues are typically resolved by:


Mediation for child custody disputes is a process where parents work with a neutral third-party mediator to reach a mutually acceptable custody agreement outside of court. During mediation sessions, parents discuss their concerns, preferences, and proposals for custody arrangements in a controlled and facilitated environment.

The mediator helps facilitate communication, clarifies issues, and assists parents in exploring various options to address their child custody matters. The goal of mediation is to empower parents to make informed decisions about custody, visitation schedules, and other parenting arrangements that prioritize the child's best interests.

a couple going through a divorce meeting a mediator to resolve their custody dispute

Mediation offers several benefits, including reduced conflict, increased parental cooperation, and the opportunity for parents to retain control over the outcome of their custody dispute. If parents successfully reach an agreement through mediation, the terms are typically documented in a legally binding parenting plan, which can then be submitted to the Circuit Court of Cook County for approval.

However, it's essential to note that mediation may not be suitable for all cases, particularly those involving domestic violence, substance abuse, or other complex issues. In such cases, alternative dispute resolution methods or court intervention may be necessary. Overall, mediation provides a constructive and collaborative approach to resolving child custody disputes, allowing parents to work together to create a custody arrangement that serves the best interests of their child.


When litigating a child custody dispute, parents should be prepared for a thorough and often lengthy legal process. The court's primary focus is always the best interests of the child, and both parties will have the opportunity to present their case in detail. This involves gathering and presenting evidence, such as witness testimonies, expert evaluations, and detailed documentation of each parent's relationship with the child.

The court will consider various factors, including the child's needs, each parent's ability to provide a stable environment, and any history of abuse or neglect. Throughout the litigation process, parents can expect multiple court hearings where both sides will argue their positions. Temporary custody arrangements may be ordered by the judge while the case is ongoing, influencing the final decision.

FAQ: How Much Does a Child Custody Attorney Cost?

The emotional intensity of custody battles can be high, and it is crucial to have a knowledgeable attorney to navigate the legal complexities and advocate effectively for your interests and your child's well-being. Ultimately, the judge will issue a custody order that legally binds both parents to specific terms regarding the child's care and upbringing, aiming to serve the child's best interests.

Our Firm is Here to Help You Resolve Custody Disputes

Resolving child custody disputes can be a challenging and emotional process, but understanding your options and the legal framework can make it more manageable. Whether through negotiation, mediation, or litigation, it is crucial to focus on the best interests of your child and to seek professional guidance to navigate these complexities.

If you're facing a child custody dispute, don't go through it alone. Contact our Chicago family law lawyers today at (708) 232-0017 to schedule a consultation, and let us help you achieve a resolution that supports your family's future.

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