You and your spouse have decided to get divorced, and you look forward to moving on with your separate lives in the future. The problem is, you have young children, too. Who will end up receiving custody of them?
The good news is that the matter of child custody does not have to become a source of major conflict between you and your future ex-spouse. Instead, you can work together to resolve this matter outside of court and produce a parenting agreement, thus avoiding having to proceed to trial.
What are parenting agreements?
If you and the other party can negotiate and ultimately resolve your child custody issues outside of court, you can finalize your decisions in a detailed agreement known as a parenting agreement. The process you could use to arrive at a mutually satisfactory parenting agreement could be informal negotiations or mediation, for example.
What information should you provide in your parenting agreement?
Parenting agreements may vary among families since no two families' situations are alike. However, your parenting agreement will likely address the following areas that could affect your children:
- Visitation schedules
- Where your children will reside (which parent will receive physical custody)
- Which parent will make decisions concerning the welfare of your children (which parent will receive legal custody)
- Which parent will spend certain holidays with the children
- How you will handle the children's birthday celebrations
- How you will handle vacations with the children
- How you will address third parties' contact with the children (such as the children's time with grandparents or family friends)
You can also spell out how you will effectively tackle changes or disputes to your parenting agreement in the future.
Does the court have to approve your parenting agreement?
Yes. Once you and your future ex-spouse have put together an agreement that you both approve of, you will need to submit it to a judge for his or her approval as well. Afterward, you will likely need to take part in a hearing where you answer basic questions from the judge about your agreement.
If the judge feels that the agreement is fair to both sides and most importantly considers your children's best interests, you can expect the judge to approve it. An experienced New Jersey family law attorney can help you to with the process of negotiating an agreement that will meet your and your children's needs long term.