During divorce, one of the most emotionally challenging matters you and your spouse will have to address if you have a child is custody. Understandably, the fact that you may not be able to spend as much time with your child as you once did can be heartbreaking.
Fortunately, most cases involving child custody in Virginia can be resolved before ever needing to go to court. Informal negotiations or divorce mediation can help you and your future ex-spouse and co-parent to put together a parenting agreement that meets both of your needs, without the stress and lack of privacy that comes with further court assistance. Resolving the issue outside of the courtroom may also illustrate to your child how much his or her happiness means to you both despite the end of the marriage.
What are parenting agreements?
A parenting agreement is a written agreement that explains you and your future ex’s decisions regarding child custody as well as visitation. These types of agreements usually address the following important areas:
- Visitation schedules
- Who will have physical custody of the child (i.e., where he or she will live)
- Who will have legal custody of the child (i.e., who will make major decisions impacting the child)
- With which parent your child will spend vacations, holidays and birthdays
- How you and your co-parent will handle disputes as well as modifications to your agreement
- How you will handle contact with third parties such as family friends and grandparents
The court’s role in a parenting agreement
Once you and your co-parent have put together a mutually satisfactory agreement, a judge will have to approve it. The judge might ask you some basic questions before approving the agreement, such as whether you and the other party understand the agreement and chose to sign it voluntarily. If the judge feels you and your soon-to-be ex negotiated the agreement in a fair way and that you took into consideration your child’s best interests, you should have no problem getting your agreement approved.
Violation of the agreement
You and the other parent will need to comply with the terms of your parenting agreement going forward to avoid facing legal consequences. If the other party violates the agreement by not returning your child to you on time following weekend visits, for example, you have the right to proceed to court, where you can enforce your agreement and finally resolve the issue.