By The Law Offices of Mary Ann Beaty, PC on Tuesday, August 9, 2016.

In the event of a divorce, parents are strongly encouraged to come up with a reasonable agreement about child custody and visitation outside of a courtroom setting. Not only is this the most inexpensive option, eliminating court costs, but even most courts agree that parents are better in deciding what is best for their child and family. As it is such a fragile affair, parents must take extra care in making these decisions for their child.

This blog post will disuss optons for parents when working up an agreement about child custody and visitation rights in Texas.

The negotiated settlement

There are two main ways child custody can be resolved outside of court: through informal negotiations or with the help of an out-of-court alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Parents who get along may be able to come to an agreement without court intervention. During an informal negotiation, both parents must discuss who will have physical custody and who will have partial custody and visitation rights. Decisions must also be made about who will have the child on birthdays, holidays, and other occasions.

The Alternative Dispute Resolution option

If parents are not able to agree on who gets custody of the child, but still don’t want to take the matter to court, they can illicit the assistance of an ADR which comes in the form of an attorney or a mediator. Getting the help of a mediator may be beneficial if there is a substantial degree of conflict between both parents and if the parties involved want to limit information from public record.

In mediation, an unbiased third party helps the parents come to a peaceable resolution if they are unable to settle disputes on their own. Mediator do not impose their own solution, rather they hear what each parent has to say and helps them come to an agreement.

Mediation is beneficial because it enhances communication between both parents, making them more likely to cooperate after a divorce. It also has a high success rate when both parents are willing to compromise and are committed to reaching an agreement. Because of the numerous benefits related to mediation, many states, including Texas, require parents to resort to meeting with a mediator before taking the matter to court.

Whatever option you choose, the plan isn’t official until the court decides

When both parents are able to come to an agreement on child custody and visitation, often referred to as a “parenting plan”, they must then submit the agreement to family court where it will be reviewed, ensuring the contents of the agreement are for the child’s best interests. If the agreement does not present any problems, then the court will formalize it. Once it is formalized by the court, it becomes legally binding.

In a perfect world, all child custody agreements would be made swiftly and with the child’s best interests in mind, but there are special circumstances when two parents are not able to agree on child custody and visitation rights. Custody disputes can arise with unmarried parents and even grandparents seeking physical custody of their grandchild. When these situations arise, or if divorced parents cannot amicably decide on an agreement, then the decision will be made by a family court judge.

In this case, multiple factors are considered during the decision-making process. The judge takes into account the child’s primary caretaker, the best arrangement for the child, and each parent’s personal ability to care for the child. These are generally the same considerations parents use during an informal negotiation. Texas courts prefer joint legal custody so the child is able to maintain relationships with both parents, though sole custody can still be awarded. But the child’s best interest transcends all considerations.

Hire the right Texas child custody dispute attorney for cos-effective solutions

If you find yourself in the middle of a custody battle and are considering pursuing an agreement outside of court, one of the best things you can do to help your case is to find an experienced Texas family law attorney. A lawyer can help you keep emotions out of the discussion when developing your parenting plan and can assist in making sure your rights are protected during this process.