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Do I have to go to court for a child custody agreement?

On Behalf of | Oct 29, 2023 | Custody And Visitation |

As you navigate a divorce, the Pennsylvania family justice system can be of service to you in many ways. However, there may be issues that you’d rather resolve outside of a courtroom, if possible. For example, you and your ex might want to negotiate terms of agreement for a child custody plan. Prior to filing for a divorce, you may have been under the impression that a court hearing is necessary to obtain a child custody agreement. 

In fact, there are several ways to achieve a custody settlement without going to court. One of the easiest ways to minimize stress and ensure that your agreement aligns with state custody laws is to act alongside an experienced legal representative. This person can review your prospective agreement and make recommendations or provide counsel, as needed.  

What issues must you resolve to craft your child custody agreement? 

Before drafting a document or signing anything, it’s helpful to compile a list of issues that are relevant to child custody in your divorce. Once you have a list of issues that need resolving, you can begin discussions. If you and your ex are both willing to compromise and are committed to making your children’s best interests the central focus of your discussions, you might be able to negotiate terms of agreement with guidance and support from your attorneys. 

If you feel like there are specific issues that are unresolvable through peaceful negotiation, you might want to mediate your child custody settlement, instead. In this case, a neutral party will act as a facilitator to help you stay on track during discussions and to achieve an agreement without confrontation. A mediator helps you communicate in an effective manner. He or she does not make decisions for you.  

Draft your child custody plan 

Once you have discussed all the issues, you can begin writing out terms of agreement for your child custody plan. It’s helpful to keep these issues in mind:  

  • The more detailed your plan is, the less room there will be for confusion or disputes.  
  • There are templates available online to draft a child custody plan, or you can type up your own plan. 
  • Always incorporate terms for legal and physical custody.  
  • Unexpected life changes may prompt a need to modify your agreement, which is why you should write out terms for modification, as well.  

If you determine that you need the court’s intervention to execute a child custody plan, you can request litigation. Whether you develop a plan outside of a Pennsylvania courtroom or ask a judge to make decisions on your behalf, you can make sure your children’s needs are satisfied and that support is available in case legal complications arise.