When going through a legal divorce in Texas, there are many critical issues to consider. Not only do you have to think about how to divide up your assets, but you also have to craft a custody agreement for your kids if you have children through the marriage.
Creating a parenting plan, determining physical custody, and deciding parenting time can be mentally and physically taxing when combined with other divorce issues. That’s why many parents seek to resolve custody matters on their own without having to go through the court.
Any reasonable custody agreement without court proceedings that are handled in a mature, transparent, and open manner will be acceptable to a judge presiding over your divorce proceeding. However, both parents will have to account for key issues that could arise.
For example, what if the custodial parent moves out of the state? Your agreement would need a legal clause that requires this parent to give notice to the non-custodial parent that includes a reasonable time for when the parent wants to relocate.
Let’s take a look at your options for how to reach a child custody agreement without court involvement.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): Is This Option Right For You?
Child custody agreements can be made through informal negotiations that are conducted between parents and other parties through an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
It’s an emerging concept that covers a number of situations where disputes between parties can be resolved without going through a lengthy trial. It’s also less adversarial than a “traditional” court proceeding.
The ADR process takes into account the following factors:
- The amount of conflict between parties on the issues being disputed.
- The parties’ ability and willingness to work together on resolving the issues.
- The parties’ level of motivation to limit the number of issues that go into public records.
The most common types of ADR situations are Child Custody Mediation and Collaborative Law.
Child Custody Mediation
Most child custody cases are resolved through some type of informal settlement or negotiation (also referred to as “mediation”). It’s a non-adversarial process where a negotiator meets with the parents to help them settle their dispute.
Mediating custody issues will allow you and your spouse to avoid any hostile, stressful, and traumatic litigation with regard to custody disputes. It will also give both of you the opportunity to devise a way to serve your child’s best interests in a civil manner.
Mediators don’t have the power to impose a solution. Their role is to help both parents develop an agreement on their own. The judge in your divorce case may ask the mediator to make a recommendation if neither party can reach an agreement.
A child custody mediation has a number of advantages, which include the following:
- It doesn’t involve lawyers or expert witnesses.
- It usually produces a settlement after 5-10 hours of mediation during a period of 1-2 weeks.
- It enhances communication between the couple (which makes it more likely that both parties will cooperate after the divorce).
Here are the steps involved in the mediation process:
- The initial meeting with the mediator.
- Identification of issues.
- Discussion of possible solutions with a “give and take” attitude.
- Preparation of the custody agreement.
The time it takes for the mediation process to complete will depend on a number of factors. Some of the hurdles that affect the timeline include the following:
- The number of custody issues that you and your spouse need to discuss.
- The complexity of the issues in your situation.
- The commitment of everyone involved in coming up with a successful agreement.
Collaborative Family Law
There’s a growing effort to promote and encourage what is being referred to as “Collaborative Law.” This is a useful process that can reduce the amount of legal costs and animosity between both parties as they come up with a child custody agreement without court proceedings.
Collaborative Law is designed to create an absolute agreement to a settlement, especially when it’s the primary focus of everyone involved. As you would expect in a divorce case involving children, the primary focus of the proceedings can easily shift to the parent-child relationship.
Both sides are entitled to seek legal advice from their attorney, and advocacy is built into every part of the process. It puts two lawyers in the same room, as they’re being guided in a direction that will resolve the issues being disputed.
The setting is different from an alternative dispute or mediation process because it doesn’t involve the presence of a neutral third party. As the negotiations progress, they can choose to hire counselors or experts to help them with matters of accounting, asset valuation, and any other issues that may come up in the discussion.
Finalizing the Parenting/Plan Agreement
During the divorce process, you will need to come up with a parenting agreement with your spouse. Regardless of how much animosity you and your ex may have toward each other, you must put your children first.
If you are determined to keep the decision out of the courts, you will need to collaborate on critical issues such as custody and visitation instead of letting a judge decide what’s best for you and your family.
This process will include developing a parenting plan that outlines the parenting schedule for both parents. The document will also list your responsibilities with regard to raising the child.
There’s no “one size fits all” way to approach the parenting plan, so it can be as detailed or as simple as both of you think is necessary.
Some parents have a shared parenting plan, which allows the child to make more frequent visits or to keep in more continuous contact with each parent. Other contracts will limit one parent to contact or visitation every other weekend (in addition to a mid-week or overnight visit).
Find Support with a Custody Agreement Without Court Involvement
If you’re looking for a family attorney who can help you develop a mutually acceptable child custody agreement, be sure to reach out to our helpful team at Parker & Aguilar. We will walk you through your options of whether it’s possible to obtain a child custody agreement without court involvement.
Our team will provide you with sound legal advice that fits your situation. And, if we recommend that you go through the court to resolve a custody matter, we will provide you with expert legal representation on the path to gaining legal custody of your child through a court order.
We currently support parents in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, and Matagorda County. If you live in one of these counties, contact our offices to discuss your child custody situation.
You can reach us at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office) to speak with a local attorney who can support your case. Let’s get started on obtaining a custody order that fits your situation.