Custody battles should be avoided at all costs. It should be the last resort after all efforts to settle and mediate have been exhausted. You should try to work out custody through medication with an attorney mediator, judge mediator, child psychologist, or co-parenting counselor. Of course, it takes two parents to settle and one to litigate. Despite your best efforts, you may have to go to a judge for a decision.
Having a judge, who is a stranger to your family and children, decide custody can result in a decision that is not tailored to meet you family’s and children’s needs. It can be costly, financially and emotionally. Having your dirty laundry exposed in an open courtroom can lead to resentment and anger that may last a long time and adversely affect your and the other parent’s ability to co-parent in the future. Going to court for custody is an uncertain proposition. Both parties may be unhappy with the judge’s decision. The Judge may not consider the special needs of your children. Rather, the judge might just determine custody and visitation.
A custody agreement, as opposed to going to court, can specifically address and determine your family’s and child’s needs. You can walk away knowing that you have reached the best agreement that works for your family and children. In a custody settlement agreement, you can address issues that are concerning to you, such a use of alcohol when a parent has custody, exposing the kids to romantic partners, sleep overs with romantic partners, what schools the child should attend, exposure to firearms, second hand smoke, religion, how medical appointments will be scheduled, bedtime/curfew issues, chores, allowances, proper dress, attendance on field trips, removal of children from school, visitation while a child is sick, sharing of school, medical, extra-curricular activities, phone calls, text messages, and Facetime with the kids during non-custodial times, discipline, corporal punishment, non-denigration of the other parent, notice of travel, restrictions on travel; exchange of information regarding travel itineraries. These are just some examples of provisions that can be included in your agreement.
In short, whatever concerns you have about the children can and should be raised during settlement discussions so that these issues are included in your custody settlement agreement.
Most people think custody agreement only deal with decision making and a parenting schedule. But that is shortsighted. You need to think long and hard about current and future child related and child rearing issues that matter to you. Your agreement should address and resolve these issues.