One of the most difficult processes for parents to undergo after a divorce or legal separation is making a child custody decisions. Most often, child custody and visitation issues arise during the divorce or legal separation proceedings, although such issues can arise outside the divorce context. During or after the divorce, your ex-spouse may be the last person you would want to talk to – let alone negotiate with. Nonetheless, you and your ex-spouse must work together, putting emotions and differences aside in order to create a custody arrangement that benefits your children. If not, the court will make the decision for your family. A child custody arrangement decided by the court may not suit best to you and your child’s requirements or circumstances. Both parents can come up with an arrangement that works best for them and the children if they can sit down and talk rationally. Below are few important factors to be considered by co-parents when negotiating a child custody arrangement.
What are the benefits of negotiating a child custody arrangement?
During or after a divorce, many parents find themselves negotiating a child custody arrangement, determining where children will live, visitation schedules and which parent will be responsible for providing primary care. Unless you and the other parent agree completely on such arrangement, you must engage in negotiations with the other parent in order to come to an arrangement on how your children will be raised after the divorce. If parents do not (or cannot) negotiate, then the custody decision will be made in court, usually by a family court judge. The judge will weigh on a number of factors such as “who is the child’s primary caretaker?” and “what are in the child’s best interests?” to make the custody decision. It is not easy to predict how the court will decide on the custody arrangement issue. Therefore, negotiating a custody arrangement with the other parent gives you some control of the outcome. It will allow you to create a detailed, customized agreement that fits your life better.
In addition, negotiating a custody arrangement can save you time and money because you do not have to file motions in court. If, however, the other parent is physically abusive to you or your children, do not attempt to reach any kind of agreement unless you have an attorney acting on your behalf. You and your children’s safety must come first.
What happens if you and the other parent cannot agree in negotiating a child custody arrangement?
If you and the other parent cannot come to an agreement in negotiating a custody arrangement, a family court judge will decide for you and the other parent. The judge will generate an order that determines custody and visitation. The decisions will be based on that the judge believes in the best interests of the children involved.
Sometimes, when negotiations break down, the judge may ask you and the other parent to attend workshops, classes or other programs to help you and the other parent to work out the differences and reach an agreement. Some of the programs or services you may be asked to participate in include divorce education class and co-parenting class.
Things to consider before negotiating a custody arrangement with the other parent.
Negotiating with the other parent about a custody arrangement can be difficult. Both you and the other parents are likely dealing with complicated feelings such as anger, frustration, sadness, and anxiety after the divorce process. However, high emotions interfere with negotiations, preventing both parents from being calm and rational. Accordingly, you and the other parent must set aside emotions when negotiating. Avoid quarreling with the other parent. You will not make any progress if one of you is constantly sabotaging the discussion. Consider only the best interests of your children and work together to create a custody arrangement that benefits the children.
If you and the other parent are having trouble negotiating in a calm and reasonable manner, getting help from a mediator with negotiating the custody arrangement can also be a good idea. A neutral, third-party mediator, such as a professional mediator or an attorney, will help to ensure that both you and the other parent are being treated fairly. Many co-parents actually choose to consult a professional family mediator to help them along with child custody negotiations. Keep in mind: You must inform the other parent in writing or in person if you want to involve such third-party negotiator to the negotiation process.
Additionally, before you and the other parent negotiate, you need to clearly define what is your goals and priorities when it comes to the child custody arrangement. Whether you and the other parent will have a joint or sole custody and arranging a suitable living and visitation schedule. Make a list of certain things that you feel most strongly about and other things that you can be more flexible about because negotiation requires give-and-take. It is very unlikely that either you or the other parent will be completely happy about all of the decisions that are made regarding the custody arrangement. So, you need to be prepared to give as well as take when it comes to negotiating a custody arrangement.
More impotently, be sure to discuss any decisions you and the other parent have made with the children. Decisions will heavily impact the children’s life. So, you and the other parent owe the children clear explanations on any decisions both have made.
Things to keep in mind after negotiating a custody arrangement with the other parent.
Writing down anything you agree to during the negotiation process will prevent any future confusion. Also, if you and the other parent want the agreement to be legally binding, you or the other parent must consult with an attorney or go to court to have the agreement formalized.
A custody arrangement can be revised as long as the revision continue to benefit the children. Reasons to make changes include one parent moving to a different state or remarrying after the divorce. If you and the other parent agree, both will re-negotiate the current custody arrangement to better suit the changed circumstances. Even if the other parent does not agree to the revision, you can start the process on your own and file a motion in court. You have to show the court that the current custody arrangement results in substantial problems for your family and that modifying and revising the arrangement will solve the problem. The judge must agree that the revision represents the best interests of the children.
If you and your spouse are getting a divorce, you may not agree on who gets custody of the child. There are a lot of things that needs to be determined either by you and your spouse or the court. An out-of-court agreement between the co-parents can better suit to your family’s circumstances. So, where possible, be sure to approach the negotiating process with an open mind and be prepared. One way to be prepared for the negotiation is to consult with an experienced family law attorney before or during your divorce case.
Getting legal advice for your Georgia uncontested divorce child custody case.
If you are facing a divorce in Georgia and need help negotiating a child custody agreement, call us at 770-609-1247. Many uncontested divorce cases in Georgia can be resolved in less than three months if the parties are motivated to settle the case and agree on all the terms.