It is sometimes possible for parents going through a child custody case to negotiate an agreement between one another regarding the parenting of their child. Courts generally view custody cases with the idea that it is in the child's best interests to have ongoing contact with both parents in order to develop and continue healthy relationships. When the parents are able to negotiate an agreement, judges generally will grant the agreement and make it an order of the court.
A parenting plan often includes numerous details. Such agreements often detail with which parent the child will primarily reside, if one parent or both will share responsibility for making educational, religious and medical decisions for the child and the child's reasonable visitation schedule with the other parent.
Some parenting agreements call for the parents to share decision-making and custody of the child on a roughly even split, while other agreements may call for primary responsibility to be assigned to one parent. If an agreement cannot be reached in a custody case, the court will instead take evidence at a contested hearing and will make its own ruling, assigning custody and parenting time as it sees fit.
Parents, understanding that they may not be happy with letting a judge determine the custody and parenting of their child, may wish to attempt to reach an agreement without the court's intervention. Even in high-conflict, emotionally charged cases, it is sometimes in everyone's best interests for the parents to try to work together in order to forge an agreement that is beneficial to all involved. In all cases, parents should understand that their child's interests are predominant. A parent who is interested in trying to negotiate an agreement with the other parent may benefit by seeking the help of a family law attorney in order to do so.
Source: Findlaw, "Court Orders on Child Visitation or Custody", December 24, 2014