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When parents divorce or separate, child custody is often the most hotly contested issue. However, child custody does not have to be determined by a judge. If the parents can work out a custody agreement on their own, courts generally will make the agreements part of a larger divorce decree or order, or just make the agreements part of an official child custody order.
In fact, courts favor parents working out custody and co-parenting agreements on their own. This is due to the fact that it is generally understood that parents know what is best for their child better than the courts do, and that the parents will sacrifice their wants for the needs and wants of their child.
Courts can, and often do, set co-parenting schedules and fashion joint custody arrangements for parents that cannot come to an agreement. However, if parents can work out their own agreement, it generally allows for the least amount of disruption to their own work schedules and lives, which means less future conflicts.
When it comes to living life, the details are what make or break it. While a court's joint custody schedule may be fair in terms of actual time being split between parents, it may be silent as to birthdays, and other holidays, or summer vacation. These details matter, along with countless other what-ifs. These details significantly weigh in favor of working out a parenting agreement without the help of a judge. Also, you can add some flexibility and procedures for making changes to the schedule in the future without going back to the court.
Many courts require parents to attempt Alternative Dispute Resolution for child custody matters before they will even consider the matter. To help with this, courts generally will have family law mediators who will help parents reach a negotiated resolution. Like a criminal plea bargain, while you may not be happy with the result of a negotiated resolution, it is a result you know and can be sure of, rather than the uncertainty of letting a judge decide.
Private mediation is also available for parents who wish to reach a negotiated resolution early on in the divorce process.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.