Does Child Custody Have To Be Determined By A Court?
Child custody can be one of the most emotionally-charged and contentious issues that parents face, but it doesn’t have to be. While the default may be allowing a court to determine custody, there are other options that allow you to resolve all outstanding child custody issues without setting foot in a courtroom. In fact, in most cases, having a judge decide the outcome of your custody case is actually the last and least preferable option. The ideal scenario is for co-parents to mutually agree to all terms related to the child’s custody so that the court would not have to get involved. The court only has to determine matters that the parents cannot reach an agreement on. While you may be concerned about your ability to reach a decision with a partner you are divorcing, you may also be surprised at the success rates of many of these methods. After all, avoiding litigation over your children has financial benefits for both parties, is better for everyone’s mental health, and can expedite the divorce process. These are some highly persuasive factors that have likely been missing from your past arguments.
Alternatives to Court for Child Custody Agreements
As noted above, the option to go to court is always there, but it is generally a good idea not to make that your first stop. By utilizing some of these other methods you may be able to resolve all or some of your outstanding custody matters without a judge getting involved.
- Agree on your own. The easiest and most cost-effective scenario involves you and your co-parent deciding all necessary child custody issues and developing a parenting plan on your own. The plan must then be drafted, signed by both parties, and submitted to the court for approval by the judge.
- Collaborative child custody. Through the collaborative process, co-parents who cannot reach an agreement on their own can each retain a lawyer who will represent their interests and overall objectives in negotiating the child custody agreement and parenting plan. If the collaborative process works, the finalized agreement will be signed and submitted to the court for approval. If the process is not successful, each party will need to retain a new attorney and start the process over in court through litigation.
- Mediation has a high success rate, even among couples who swear that they have never been able to agree upon anything. By using a neutral third-party mediator trained in conflict resolution, both parties will be supported in working toward a mutually-agreeable solution that meets their shared overall objectives. Many people find mediation preferable to collaboration because if the mediation is not successful, they do not have to start from scratch. Rather, any progress that they made in mediation (meaning any issues that have been resolved) will be transferred to the court, leaving only the remaining issues to be litigated. This means that even a “failed” mediation can have financial benefits by cutting down on the time required in court. Additionally, if either party had an attorney to help them through the mediation, they can keep the same attorney if they go to court.
Contact the Divorce Attorneys at Peeples Law
If you are going through a divorce or dealing with the resolution of a child custody matter, it’s important to have an experienced legal advocate on your side. The Birmingham divorce attorneys at Peeples Law are ready to help you secure the best possible outcome for you and your family. Contact Peeples Law today to schedule a consultation.