Going through a divorce can naturally be financially unsettling. However, it can also be emotionally challenging, particularly when children are involved.
Fortunately, in Arizona and elsewhere, one can resolve most cases involving child custody outside of court. This is possible through information negotiations or even mediation -- an alternative dispute process. Through these processes, you and your future ex-spouse can work toward creating a fair parenting agreement.
The parenting agreement
If you and the other parent are in a child custody dispute but resolve your issues through effective negotiation, you can finalize your decisions in a written parenting agreement. Although parenting agreements vary from one case to another, as every custody case is different, they generally address the following important areas:
- Physical custody, or where the children will end up living
- Schedules for visitation
- Legal custody, or who will make important decisions concerning the upbringing of the children
- Who will get to see the children for vacations, holidays and birthdays
- How to address contact with third parties, such as friends of the family and grandparents
- How to address alterations to the parenting agreement or related disputes
Once you and your future ex have arrived at a mutually satisfactory parenting plan, it must go to the court for approval.
Receiving approval from the court
If your child custody agreement is a part of your divorce, then you will file this agreement in the same court where you filed your divorce petition. Then, you may have to attend an informal hearing where the judge asks you some basic questions, such as whether both of you understand the agreement and signed it voluntarily. If the judge feels that you both negotiated the parenting agreement in a fair manner and gave priority to the best interests of the children, he or she will approve your agreement.
Parenting agreement violation
Now that the court has approved your parenting agreement, it is a decree that dictates your and the other parent's obligations and rights based on the agreement. This means that, if the other party fails to abide by the terms of your agreement -- for instance, by failing to return the children on time following weekend visits -- then he or she may face unwanted legal consequences. You have the right to return to court in an effort to enforce this custody agreement.