Although child custody issues are some of the most difficult for divorcing couples to agree upon, many family court judges in New Jersey prefer that parents develop their own parenting plans. By coming to agreements outside of court, parents can decide for themselves how they will be involved in their children’s lives.
Parenting agreements include every aspect of custody and visitation, from major issues like deciding whether one parent will have sole legal custody of the child or whether parents will share it to minor issues like where children will spend each holiday. One advantage of negotiating parenting agreements outside of court is that parents can avoid the one-size-fits-all custody and visitation orders that judges may impose when parents cannot come to agreements.
Parents who decide to work out the issues of custody and visitation may meet informally or use the services of a mediator to facilitate their discussions. Once the parents feel they have come to an agreement about each important issue, which may include agreements about how to handle disputes or changes that could come up in the future, they will submit a written document to the court for its approval. Judges typically approve parenting agreements that they feel were negotiated fairly with the goal of ensuring children’s best interests are met.
For parents to negotiate a parenting agreement fairly, both parties must feel comfortable expressing their needs and desires. People who feel they need help advocating for themselves during custody or visitation discussions often consider seeking legal representation, particularly when their ex-spouses hire attorneys. Family law attorneys often have experience in coming to equitable child custody agreements during mediation or alternative dispute resolution.
Source: FindLaw, “The Parenting Agreement”, accessed on Feb. 24, 2015