Going through the divorce process can feel like riding an emotional roller coaster -- one with more lows than highs. However, just as the process can be challenging for parents going through it, it can also be difficult for the children of divorce. This is especially true when a child custody battle ensues.
Fortunately, many cases involving the custody of a child in California can be resolved without further court involvement by putting together a parenting agreement. This is possible through negotiations or through an alternative dispute resolution process, such as collaborative law or divorce mediation.
What are parenting agreements?
Parenting agreements are written agreements that divorcing parents can create to address issues such as visitation and child custody. These types of agreements can help with building healthy foundations for parenting in the years ahead. Components such agreements can feature include:
- Which parent will be able to keep the child for major holidays, vacations and birthdays
- Visitation schedules
- Who will have physical custody of the child
- Which parent will make important decisions regarding the child's welfare and upbringing -- a concept known as legal custody
- How the child's contact with third parties, such as grandparents and family friends, will be tackled
- How changes and disputes related to the parenting agreement should be addressed
These are among the most critical and common issues with which parents going through divorce have to deal. Your parenting agreement can be customized to your, your future ex-spouse's and the child's unique needs.
Approval of the parenting agreement
After you and your spouse have created a parenting agreement, you will submit it for approval from a judge. The judge might ask a few factual questions, such as whether you and your future ex decided to sign your agreement voluntarily. If the judge is pleased with your agreement and feels that the negotiations resulting in it were fair, you can expect your agreement to receive court approval.
What if you cannot reach an agreement?
If you and your spouse cannot see eye to eye on how to handle the custody of a child and visitation, a judge will step in to make these decisions for you.
The judge will take into consideration several factors, including your child's relationship with you and the other spouse, and your individual abilities to provide the child with the necessary guidance, love and affection. You have the right to seek the outcome you desire; however, the judge's top concern will be to ensure that the best interests of the child remain the primary focus.