Judges usually encourage the parties in custody cases to reach their own agreement because the parties are in the best position to know what is best for the child. Judges do this, not to escape doing their jobs, but out of a recognition that agreements always work better than judicial edicts.
Working together with the other parent or relative, however, is hard work. It is very often unpleasant and requires making compromises with someone for whom true animosity is felt. It is much easier to "leave it up to the judge." To do so, however, is to turn over basic parental decision making responsibility to a total stranger, just because he or she was appointed by the Virginia General Assembly to be a judge. As recently as Friday, in the Chesapeake J&DR Court, the judge was trying to explain this to a father who continued to cling to the notion that he would prefer to have the judge decide where his daughter would live.
Whether it is an inflated idea of the wisdom of judges who get only a glimpse of the family in court or the true absence of a willingness or ability to communicate between people who have the responsibility of raising a child, parties often do not put in the effort that is required to spare the child the needless conflict that court brings.
With the resources available in co-parenting therapy and mediation, contested custody cases should be the exception rather than the rule.