Must all child custody agreements be created by a judge?

On behalf of Bebout, Potere, Cox & Bennion, P.C. posted in child custody on Thursday, February 16, 2017.

If you are a parent about to go through a divorce, the wellbeing of your children is likely your biggest source of stress and worry. Not only can divorce be hard on children; there is also the fear that you could lose significant access to your children in custody proceedings.

Contested custody proceedings (wherein courts decide custody) can feel like a real gamble. This process can also be expensive and time-consuming. Thankfully, there is an alternative for couples who are divorcing on relatively amicable terms: a negotiated child custody agreement.

In theory, no one knows what your children need more than you and your ex do. Therefore, courts actually prefer when parents are able to reach their own negotiated custody agreements (with the help of their respective attorneys, of course). If you reach a parenting plan that is fair and in the best interests of your kids, a judge will likely sign off on it.

When drafting a plan, it is crucial to be specific and highly detailed. If you just set a general weekly custody schedule, things may fall apart when you factor in holidays, birthdays and other special occasions. You also need to include details about major decisions (such as where the kids will go to school), and even details about how to resolve future disputes when – not if – they arise.

Custody agreements need to be approved by a judge, but they do not need to be written by the court. If you can negotiate an agreement alongside your co-parent with the assistance of your attorney, the process will likely be far faster, easier and less contentious than contested custody. And, even more importantly, you will ultimately have more control over the outcome.

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