A lot of parents can resolve their issues regarding custody and visitation through informal negotiations or an alternative processes such as collaborative law and mediation. These decisions are detailed in a written agreement, which may be called a parenting or custody agreement.
The details included in a custody agreement vary greatly between each custody and visitation case, according to the circumstances of each family. However, there are a few matters that are common in these agreements. The main details are which parent will have physical custody and a schedule for visitation or parenting times. Other vital matters that should be resolved include whether one or both parents will have legal custody and with whom the child spends certain birthdays, vacations and major holidays.
A custody agreement might also include how each parent handles contact between the child and family friends, grandparents or others. The parents could also decide ahead of time how they will handle future disagreements and modifications to the custody agreement. The details may get as specific as exact times that the parents exchange their child.
After the parents put their custody agreement in writing, it is submitted to the court for approval. Agreements that are part of divorce proceedings are filed with the petition for divorce. The court might arrange an informal hearing to ask the parents some basic questions to determine whether they understand the agreement. Custody agreements are usually approved if the court is satisfied that the negotiations were fair and the child’s best interests were addressed.
While most custody agreements are negotiated out of court, sometimes the tension between the parents is so strong that they cannot resolve their issues. When this happens, the court makes the decisions for them. Either way, all parents might ask attorneys to help them represent their rights in custody and visitation cases.