Reaching a Custody Agreement: From a Greensboro Family Lawyer

In Familyby GWAO

Greensboro Divorce Lawyer on Coming to an Agreement

Parents can reach a custody agreement informally, via a mediator, or via a judge’s court decision. Regardless of how you plan to reach a custody agreement, you should not negotiate or make any agreements without first seeking legal advice.

Though the process may vary, the end result is a written legal agreement. It is often called a “settlement agreement,” “custody agreement,” or “parenting agreement.” The agreement is then shown to the court for final approval, and the finalized agreement becomes a binding contract to which parents and others must adhere to. When in doubt, a Greensboro Divorce Lawyer can give you more information on which route to take. 

Informal Negotiations

Parents can reach a child custody agreement through private negotiations, with or without the help of attorneys.12 Parents may choose to negotiate amongst themselves and hire attorneys to finalize agreements, or the parties may negotiate their positions through a representative attorney.

Mediation

Mediations are less adversarial than a court setting and more collaborative than an informal negotiation. It is a structured process whereby a neutral third party helps settle disputes between the divorced couple.

In the initial mediation meeting, the mediator explains the overall process. Then, the mediator and the parents determine the custody issues that need to be resolved. An agenda is agreed to and discussion on each issue begins in a give-and-take collaborative manner. Finally, the mediator will prepare a written agreement to be finalized in court.15

Family Court

Circumstances and emotions may make it impossible to settle disputes outside of a courtroom. When family courts and judges need to make decisions about child custody and visitation rights, they consider what is in the best interest of the child.

All states use a “best interest of the child” standard though its definition is amorphous and dependent upon jurisdiction. Here are some factors a court may use to make its decision:

  • Parent’s Living Situation: Sometimes the parent awarded the family residence will be awarded custody for stability reasons. Also, proximity to the children’s school and social activities may also matter.
  • Parent’s Relationship with the Children: Judges may take into account each parent’s willingness to provide for the children before and after separation.
  • Parent’s Willingness to Support the the Other Spouse’s Relationship with the Children: Courts will look to whether a parent cooperates with one another in childrearing or whether a parent will interfere with each other’s relationship with the children.
  • Children’s Preferences: Courts may take into account a child’s preferences about custody and visitation, especially if the child is older. Some courts are required to consider the child’s views while others do not.
  • Age of Children: Though less relevant today, some judges believe younger children (especially nursing infants) should live with their mothers.
  • Stability: Judges prefer a minimally disruptive custody and visitation arrangements to help children through what can be an emotional period.
  • Sexual Orientation of Parents: While many state courts that recognize same-sex marriage will not take this into account, some state courts are allowed to consider the sexual orientation of the parents with regards to custody and visitation rights.
  • Abuse or Neglect: Courts will limit a parent’s contact with the children if there is evidence of abuse or neglect.

If you or a loved one are considering a Greensboro Divorce Lawyer, contact Meghan O’Keeffe at Garrett, Walker, Aycoth, & Olson