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How to Navigate an Amicable Custody Agreement

With divorce, a child custody battle might erupt. Such battles are detrimental for the family. The more hostile the divorce, the more challenging it will be to resolve legal issues surrounding that divorce. Child custody may be contentious.

The optimal solution is to agree upon an amicable child custody plan that puts the best interests of children first. It is prudent for divorcing parents to work collaboratively toward an agreement on how custody will be shared. Having both parents involved in the lives of children is of paramount importance.

An Amicable Arrangement

An amicable custody plan usually addresses the following:

  • An amicable custody arrangement often has parents share joint legal custody. This means both parents have the right to make decisions regarding children. Issues such as holiday visitation and religious upbringing should be agreed upon.
  • Financial issues should be resolved whenever possible. An agreed child custody plan should consider financial issues such as how much each spouse will contribute to health care and education costs.
  • Divorcing parents need to satisfy the best interests of children in all they do. Most states use this standard for the court to decide whether a proposed arrangement is acceptable. In order for a judge to approve a couple's proposed agreed custody plan, he must decide it is in the best interests of the child. Each state has its own unique formulation of the standard; however, there are common themes interwoven through factors adopted by courts. They include the capacity of each parent to provide a safe living environment, emotional ties between parent and child, and mental and physical needs of child
  • Each spouse should obtain independent counsel. If there are children, it is prudent for each spouse to hire counsel. This is true even if the divorce is amicable and costs are an issue. The stakes are too high not to do requisite due diligence to protect each spouse's custody interests.

When an Amicable Agreement Is Impossible

If an amicable custody agreement is impossible, it is advisable to settle a custody dispute as soon as possible. It is also preferable to come to a custody hearing with a proposed agreement or partial agreement with the realization that the court can overrule that agreement as the best interests of children dictate. Neither parent has the authority to mandate that their proposed plan, nor anything they may have agreed to, must be followed by the court.

Divorcing spouses should be aware of current laws in their jurisdiction affecting custody so they know what they face by litigating. Adequate and thorough preparation on the part of parents will help ensure maximum favorable results in court. The court will consider all information presented to make a final determination of legal and physical child custody.