Options for determining child custody

California parents who are going through a divorce and need to deal with child custody will need to know the options available to them. The three main ways child custody can be determined are through informal negotiations, through one of the alternative dispute resolution methods or by a judge making the decision.

One way parents might negotiate child custody is informally. Some parents do this by themselves while others prefer to have their respective lawyers involved in the negotiations. This type of negotiating varies depending on each family's particular case. Once the negotiations are over, a written document of the parenting agreement is produced. Other parents might use one of the alternative resolution methods, which include mediation, collaborative family law and arbitration. In the mediation process, the most common form of ADR, the parents are able to become more involved in making the decisions related to child custody, instead of leaving them up to a judge or jury. The less used option of arbitration involves a neutral third party who listens to each parent's argument and evaluates their evidence before making child custody decisions. Even in arbitration, however, the parents have the option of arguing important facets of the agreement before a judge.

Whether the child custody agreement was negotiated informally by the parents, or through the ADR methods, the written document must then be approved by the family court judge, who will ask the parties basic questions about the agreement, including if both have voluntarily agreed to it, and who will make sure the agreement is fair and balanced. Once the judge approves, the agreement becomes a court order.

A parent who is struggling with this aspect of the divorce process might benefit from the assistance a lawyer can provide. This includes assisting with the negotiation of an agreement.

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