When a divorce occurs, in many cases only the husband and wife are involved. However, in situations involving children, custody and visitation orders become extremely important. Whether a couple decides on these themselves or do so with the assistance of attorneys, these orders can play a large role in determining the happiness of all involved for many years to follow. If you are involved in divorce proceedings and have questions regarding how to get custody and visitation orders in place, here are some tips you’ll need to know.
Creating Your Own Agreement
While people assume custody and visitation orders must be done by the court, the fact is a couple can create their own custody and visitation agreements without a court order. However, while the agreement between both parties is binding and enforceable, a court cannot enforce it until it becomes a court order. Therefore, if one party chooses to violate the agreement, the other party will need to petition the court to create a court order before they are obliged to comply. Because of this, most divorce attorneys recommend that couples who create their own custody and visitation orders submit them to a judge for approval, which will make it an official court order. Once this step is completed, the agreement must be filed with the court clerk so that a copy of the agreement will be on file within the court system.
If after much discussion it becomes clear you and your spouse cannot agree on custody and visitation orders for your children, a judge may decide to send the two of you to a mediator. A practice that is becoming much more common in today’s courts, mediators often play a key role in helping couples create custody and visitation orders. During these sessions, a mediator from Family Court Services or another related department will sit down with both parents and discuss what each wants included in the agreement. The major advantage of this procedure is that both parents get to express their thoughts to an objective third-party observer, who can then take their suggestions and attempt to find common ground to which both parties can agree.
The Judge’s Decision
When a couple cannot create a custody and visitation agreement on their own and find attempts at mediation to be unsuccessful, the final step is to meet with a judge and let them make the final decision. When this happens, the judge will usually take other steps as well while determining the best course of action. If the judge has certain concerns about the custody and visitation arrangements, they may request that a custody evaluation be conducted by a court-approved evaluator, who will then make recommendations to the judge. Along with this, the judge may order that a parenting plan be established for both parents, and that lawyers be appointed for the children if there are extenuating circumstances that may come into play before the final custody and visitation agreement is finalized.
Seek a Lawyer’s Advice
Since both parents will have attorneys working on their divorce case, it’s imperative to seek a lawyer’s advice if there are any questions about the custody and visitation agreement. This can be especially important if a judge has created an order and then one parent wants it changed, since this can pose a number of potential problems. For example, the parent requesting the change will need to fill out certain forms and prove to the judge circumstances have changed that dictate a change in the custody and visitation order. Along with this, both parents will probably be ordered to meet with a mediator to discuss any proposed changes to the court order. Therefore, if you find yourself involved in custody and visitation issues that are hard to agree on with your spouse, seeking a divorce lawyer’s advice is a smart decision.