How to Settle Child Custody Disputes
One of the most difficult and emotional aspects of a divorce or a break-up between unmarried persons is deciding who gets custody of the children. In a child custody dispute, there are many issues that need to be decided. The two main issues are who has legal custody of the children and who has physical custody of the children.
These are two separate issues. A parent with legal custody has the right to make decisions regarding the child’s education, living situation, and medical decisions. Typically, both parents will share legal custody of the child, unless one parent can demonstrate the other is an unfit parent. The other issue to be decided is physical custody. This is where the child lives and spends most of their time. Physical custody may be shared or it could mean that the child lives with one parent full time and visits the other for holidays and special occasions.
When settling issues of child custody, parents should ask questions like Who is the primary caregiver? What is the child’s school situation? What is the best interest of the child?
How to Resolve Child Custody Issues
There are several ways parents can decide child custody issues. The simplest method is for the parents to work together, sometime with the assistance of their attorneys or mediator, to decide the custody arrangement. This is the most collaborative approach to settling child custody issues, and will be the least stressful for the parties and the children.
Sometimes parents may need additional assistance to settle custody disputes, and may go through mediation. In mediation, a neutral party, usually a family law expert, works with the parents to settle child custody disputes. The advantage of mediation is that it is less adversarial than a court proceeding. Unlike a court proceeding, mediation is not a matter of public record. The disadvantage of mediation is that the goal of mediation is to come to an agreement- any agreement. If one parent does not like the agreement, he/she can reject it. If the parents cannot come to an agreement, a judge will settle it for them as a last resort. Going to court is the least preferable way to resolve child custody disputes because it is highly adversarial and stressful for the children.
Draft an Agreement Detailing Child Custody & Visitation
Once the parents have settled on a custody arrangement, they will need to draw up an agreement and a parenting plan. The plan should include custody and visitation schedule and each parent’s rights and responsibilities. The parenting plan can be as detailed or as simple as the parents’ desire. The parenting plan can address living arrangements, education, holiday schedules, and any issues that are important to one or both parents. Once the arrangement has been drawn up, the parents will need to submit the plan to the court for approval. Once the court approves the plan, it becomes a court order. A parent could be held in contempt of court for violating the agreement. The parents are always free to modify the custody agreement at any time if necessary.
Contact SD Esquire to prepare a stipulated child custody and visitation agreement. We provide flat fee services to California residents.