Getting a custody and visitation agreement in place after a divorce allows you to move on with your life with some sort of routine. A schedule is established by the children (and their parents). However, conditions may change over time — for example, a parent may relocate out of state for work or remarry. Alternatively, as the children grow older, their individual requirements vary. What used to work in a custody arrangement may no longer fly. In most cases, if both parents can agree on a modification amicably, a child custody arrangement can be altered without having to go to court.
Basically, the advantage of having a court file your consent agreement is that if there is a future conflict, you’ll be able to argue to a court or judge that the other parent broke a “court order.” Likewise, if authorities are called to help with a dispute, you have a court order signed by a judge to show them.
Well, in the course of this post, you will be exposed to the opportunities out there when it comes to setting up a child custody agreement without involving a court. In other words, other options exist outside the court. However, we will start by laying some foundations.
How Difficult Is It to Change a Visitation and Custody Agreement?
The difficulty of changing a custody and visitation arrangement is determined by the facts of the case. It also relies on whether the other parent consents to a change. Changing a custody and visitation agreement may be quite straightforward if the other parent agrees. However, if the parents are adamant about a change, reaching a consensus on a custody arrangement may be difficult. To begin negotiating a fair resolution, you will almost certainly require professionals, and it may be preferable to decide after lawyers have been involved whether participating in mediation (with the lawyers) to try to reach a compromise is the first step or to just go to court.
Mediation is a meeting in which a third party attempts to assist the sides in reaching an agreement on their own.
Is It Necessary to Go to Court in Order to Determine Child Custody?
After a divorce, one other bone of contention between both parties besides who gets what in terms of properties, is child custody. First off, the word “child custody” refers to a parent’s guardianship powers. It refers to the legal and decision-making relationship between the child and the custodial parent. Basically, the court examines a number of factors while determining child custody rights, but the kid’s best interests will always come first. This rules out the possibility of escalating issues.
The following are some of the most prevalent factors that courts will consider:
- The relationship between each parent and their child, as well as their previous interactions with the child;
- Whether one parent has been the primary carer for the child;
- The child’s upbringing and adaptation to their home, neighborhood, and school
- The child’s mental and physical health, as well as that of both parents;
- Whether the child has any special needs, such as those that are physical or mental; and
- The parents’ wishes, as well as the child’s wishes if he or she is mature enough to express a preference.
A child custody agreement is a written document that spells out the rules for child custody between the parents. The following are standard guidelines:
- Which parent has the child’s primary physical custody?
- Which parent has been given legal custody (usually the parent who has primary physical custody rights);
- Whether the parents’ custody will be shared or one parent will have greater physical custody time; and
- Noncustodial parent’s visitation schedules.
Meanwhile, In order to be valid and enforceable under state laws, child custody agreements must be approved by a judge. They are also commonly issued at divorce or separation hearings. However, not all child custody arrangements are worked out in front of a judge in a courtroom. There are alternative ways to reach an agreement outside of court before presenting it to a judge, and bacically, the judge will have accept the child custody agreement at this point.
What Are the Remedies Available to a Judge in a Custody Case?
Sometimes custody agreements need to be changed because one parent has repeatedly broken the agreement or is endangering the children. Economic effects, counseling for the children and/or parents, modifications in transportation arrangements, and even criminal penalties in severe cases might be ordered by a judge based on N.J. Court Rules 5:1-7. These are only a few of the various remedies available to a judge. In some situations, a judge might declare a parent “unfit” due to blatant immorality, harmful habits, negligence, or other serious infractions.
Whenever possible, it’s best for parents to reach an amicable agreement on adjustments to custody agreements rather than fighting in court. We recognize that in some situations, a cooperative approach is not feasible. In these situations, a qualified child custody lawyer is vital.
How to Approach Child Custody Agreement Without Court
The following are a couple of approaches to a child custody agreement without court;
#1. Parenting Plan
A parenting plan will be created as a result of any child custody decision. A parenting plan is an agreement between parents that specifies each parent’s schedule, obligations, and tasks in relation to their kid. The parenting plan includes explaining parental rights as well as the rights of other people who may be engaged in the child’s life, such as grandparents or stepparents.
These plans are created by the court, the parents, or the attorneys engaged in the divorce or separation of the parents. There is no set format for parenting plans, so they can be as complex or as simple as the individuals involved prefer. Both parents must sign the plan before it may be brought to the court for approval.
#2. Direct Discussion and Communication
This is another technique to reach an out-of-court child custody agreement. Parents are often advised to resolve the issue as much as possible on their own. As a result, if both parties are still on speaking terms and it is safe to do so, they should try directly discussing the problem. This removes a lot of the formality from the process and allows both parties to focus on what matters most.
This is also the most cost-effective alternative because it does not require the services of an attorney and requires less time in court, aside from the submission of the agreement for approval. However, before signing a parenting plan, it is still advisable that you consult with an attorney.
This is related to direct discussion. Collaboration is an alternative to direct discussion in which both parents work together through their attorneys. Basically, attorneys are a valuable asset in getting the best possible agreement for both the child and their client because of their knowledge and experience. Collaboration decreases the number of procedures that must be followed in the process. However, it still necessitates a large amount of legal work, thus fees may be significantly higher.
Is it Possible to Arrange Child Custody Outside of Court Through Mediation?
Yes, you can. As we earlier mentioned, mediation is a process in which two disputing parties are communicated with by a neutral third party. Basically, a mediator is a third party who fosters reconciliation, compromise, or settlement. Mediators will work with both parents and their attorneys to reach an agreement on child custody and a parenting plan. It’s vital to remember that nothing the mediator says or does has any legal ramifications. Only if both parties sign the resulting agreement will it be effective. Furthermore, the resulting agreement must be approved by the court.
The mediation option reduces the amount of time the court is involved in the process, which saves money. Mediation also takes less time than a trial and is especially beneficial in circumstances when the stakes are high or the stakes are personal. However, the mediator must be compensated in addition to the attorneys engaged, making this alternative more expensive than the others. Both parents must sign the agreement regardless of which technique is used to determine child custody arrangements outside of court. Finally, the court must approve the deal.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me with Child Custody Issues?
Before signing any child custody arrangements, it is critical to contact a qualified and knowledgeable child custody lawyer. A competent child custody lawyer can ensure that the custody agreement complies with your state’s laws and takes into account both your child’s and your own best interests. Finally, they can assist you in presenting your custody plan to the court for approval.
Make a Parenting Strategy
Regardless of which road you take—informal negotiation, mediation, or Collaborative Law—the end result must be a parenting plan.
A parenting plan is a proposed custody agreement that you, the other parent, or any professionals involved, such as a mediator or your respective attorneys, prepare.
As previously stated, this should include information about your child’s joint custody arrangement. It can be as short as you want it to be, as long as you want it to be, as simple as you want it to be, or as complex, as you want it What pieces of information are included in the agreement are ultimately determined by your specific situation and needs.
How to Bring an Out-of-Court Settlement to a Close
This out-of-court custody agreement must be signed by a judge to become legally binding once you’ve completed your parenting plan.
When you submit your parenting plan to the court, the judge will review it to see if it is in the child’s best interests. If that’s the case, they’ll sign it.
When this happens, the custody arrangement becomes a legally binding court order. In other words, if you or the other party violates the contract, you may face jail time.
Judges Consider Types of Custody Agreements and Related Factors
There are various types of custody, and the complexity of modifying a custody agreement varies depending on the current kind of custody and the nature of the requested change. Custody can be divided into several categories:
- Custody with sole legal authority
- Shared Legal custody
- Residential Child Custody
- Shared Residential child custody
- Primary residence’s parent (PPR)
- Parent of a child who lives somewhere else (PAR).
As previously stated, a judge’s decision on whether or not to approve a change in a custody arrangement is based on what is deemed to be in the best interests of the kid. A parent’s whim or a blip on the radar will almost definitely not be regarded as a compelling reason to change.