Splitting the Baby: Handling child custody and visitation in agreements
Most elements of a divorce are handled by agreement of the parties. Settlement has taken on a negative connotation because people think that in order to reach a settlement you must "settle."
It's probably true that, in order to reach a settlement, there has to be a certain degree of give and take on both sides. Does that mean that you're settling? Well, if you think about it, what other alternatives do you have? In a divorce, you'll have to divide all the assets and liabilities of the marriage. Obviously, in an ideal world, you'd take all the assets and none of the liabilities–but that's not realistic at all. You'll get a share, and he'll get a share, and in virtually every case those shares look pretty close to 50/50. That doesn't mean you're settling; it's just a fact of life. One party rarely walks away with everything.
Children are handled differently. Most people can, eventually at least, be prevailed upon to think logically about dividing their things. When it comes to dividing the children, even the most logical women can become panic-stricken and cling on more tightly than ever. Since, at least in civilized society, it is generally frowned up to to split your children down the middle, we have to come up with some other way to effectively divide the children to the semi-satisfaction of both parents.
This happened before, in the court of King Soloman, when two women, presenting themselves as the mother of a baby boy, asked the king to determine which was the true mother. After some deliberation, Solomon asked for a sword, and said that the only truly fair thing to do was to divide the baby in half. The first woman agreed to this, and the real mother cried out that she would rather the other woman raise her child than to see him killed. That way, Solomon was able to identify the true mother.
Today, we face this "split the baby" situation every single day, as both parents battle over rights to the children they formerly shared. The worst case scenario is court, where the judge ultimately decides. The best case scenario is some sort of amicable agreement reached by two parents who are willing to work together, share time with the children, and commit to co-parent.
Whether you split the baby with a sword or with a court order, the result is often damaging for the child in question. The pain that is caused by our actions often resonates for years and years, and sometimes forever.
Ultimately, you have to decide which mother you want to be: the one who is willing to split the baby, or the one who loves the baby enough to put his needs first.