Child Custody: Achieving the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA)
The divorce rate in the United States is steadily climbing which in turn is increasing the number of litigations for child custody. According to Baker (2006), 50 percent of first marriages, 67 percent of second marriages, and 74 percent of third marriages end in divorce. Short of parents amicably agreeing between themselves on child custody, negotiation is the next best approach for making co-parenting agreements after the divorce. According to Pfetsch (2007), negotiation is a social process in which two or more parties interact in the search for an acceptable position with regard to their differences and concerning the same issue of conflict ( p.9). The goal of negotiation is to reach an agreement that is satisfactory to both parties. Negotiation is considered an alternative form of dispute resolution.
In order for a parent to be successful during the negotiation process, they have to understand the cycle of negotiation. Negotiation follows a cycle of pre-negotiations, agenda setting, negotiation formula, detailed negotiations, agreements, and implementations of post negotiation. Success of the parent is determined by their ability to reach the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). In litigation procedures of child custody, “we all too often summon the sword and sacrifice the child in the name of legal justice for the parents, rather than support and encourage conciliatory efforts between the parents in the name of psychological justice for the child.” (Saposnek, 1998 p. 3). Divorce and the litigation process have psychological effects on children.
Keywords: Negotiations, Child Custody, Alternative Dispute Resolution
Graduate Student, Conflict Resolution and Analysis, Nova Southeastern University