Negotiating agreements for child custody can be the most stressful and challenging part of a separation. Not only must you deal with your own feelings about the change in your relationship, you must also consider your children’s needs, and the role your co-parent will continue to play in their lives.
It is often in the best interest of the children to create a custody arrangement that includes both parents, when possible. However, in cases of intimate partner violence, sexual abuse, or drug or other substance abuse, it can be very difficult to create a safe custody arrangement for all parties. In these cases, please consult a professional mediator, legal counsel, or law enforcement.
In cases where both parents want to continue having a presence in their children’s lives, but cannot come to an agreement about custody, visitation, or parenting schedules, there are different options to create a safe, healthy, long-lasting arrangement that is in everyone’s best interest.
If possible, attempt to negotiate directly with your co-parent. Making collaborative decisions with your co-parent can lead to a more productive and mutually healthy relationship after separation, and reassure the children that both parents care about them and are invested in their wellbeing.
During these conversations, it is important to maintain a clear sense of your shared goals. The best interests of the children must come before interpersonal disagreements where ever possible.
Meet in person, in a public place if necessary, and communicate frequently with your co-parent to determine the best course for the custody arrangement. Once you have reached an agreement, contact an experienced family law attorney to assist you in turning the agreement into a legally enforceable Judgment.
Negotiate through a mediator
A mediator can act as a neutral third party to facilitate a workable custody arrangement between you and your co-parent. Mediators are not legal counsel, but can help you determine which issues need to be addressed in order to create a workable long-term custody arrangement and parenting plan. The results of mediation can be legally binding if they are part of formal arbitration proceedings in court.
Additionally, mediators may be appointed by the Court if you and your co-parent cannot reach a custody agreement through other means. In fact, the Los Angeles Superior Court requires that parents attend Court Ordered free mediation prior to having their custody dispute heard before the Court.
A private mediator who is a licensed California attorney and has experience in family law can not only assist in helping you and your co-parent reach an agreement but also draft all the necessary legal pleadings to turn your agreement into a binding Court Order.
Obtain legal counsel
A lawyer can tell you what your rights are and advocate for you in court if necessary.
However, a lawyer may encourage you and your co-parent to agree on a custody arrangement outside of court, rather than engaging in a legal process that can be lengthy, expensive, and have unpredictable results.
It is always important to remember two key factors when determining a child custody arrangement. One, try to co-parent and come to an agreement that works best for your child or children; Two, once an agreement is reached, make sure you contact a legal professional that can assist you in turning your agreement into a legally binding Court Order.