If you and your spouse have recently separated or are planning to separate, having a child custody agreement in force will ease tension between the two of you by ensuring that you are on the same page as parents.
Although it is usually a good idea, child custody agreements do not always have to be in writing or approved by a judge unless you want a judge to be able to enforce the agreement should either parent decide not to follow the plan. But in order for a judge to be able to sign an enforceable agreement, you and your partner will need to prepare a written child custody plan so that the judge may turn the plan into an Order of the Court (called a “Stipulation).
Although it is recommended to have an attorney assist you in drafting and preparing a child custody agreement you can do it on your own if you choose. There are sample child custody agreements that you can use for direction available online, or you may obtain materials by visiting your local family law self-help center.
If you and your spouse can’t agree on a parenting plan, the court may order you both to attend court-appointed mediation. This happens as a matter of routine before any scheduled court date, in an attempt to help parents resolve their own differences. The court may also order a child custody evaluator to recommend a custody plan for you, for which you and/or your spouse may be responsible for bearing the cost. Sometimes this recommendation is written by a mediator, other times by an expert psychologist ordered by the court (commonly referred to as a “730 Evaluation”).
In certain situations, a judge may also find it necessary to appoint an attorney for your child if the court finds it in the child’s best interest. This is referred to as “Minor’s Counsel.” The parents are responsible for the cost of this attorney, and fees may either be split between you and your spouse or one parent may be ordered to pay the entire sum.
For more information on the topic of child custody, you may read the Child Custody Information Sheet (Form FL-314-INFO), or contact an experienced local family law attorney.
Authored by IRWIN & IRWIN.
IRWIN & IRWIN Family Law is located in Fullerton and Newport Beach, California. We provide a full suite of family law services from divorce litigation, divorce mediation, child custody issues, domestic violence restraining orders and representing minors in court. “Every situation is different, and some come with very complex financial issues. Our legal team is here to support you during a very troubling time and prepare you for court, or to at least help negotiate or mediate the issues out to establish an equitable legal resolution,” says Kelly Irwin, Senior Litigator at the firm.