Not all child custody agreements are worked out in a courtroom by a judge. Although a judge will need to approve every child custody agreement, there are a few ways to go about arranging the agreement outside of the courtroom.

The Parenting Plan

The result of any determination of child custody will be a parenting plan. The parenting plan will either be composed by the court, the parents, or their attorneys. The plan sets out physical and legal custody of the children including splits. If there are certain times or occasions when the children will be with a certain spouse, it will be in the plan. The plan may be simple or very complex, there is no set form for the plan. Once the plan is drafted and signed by both partners, it must be presented to the court. The court’s focus will be what is in the best interest of the child. If the court believes the plan is not in the best interest of the child, the plan will not be approved.

Direct Discussion

The law encourages the partners to work out the matter on their own as much as possible. If you and your partner are still on good speaking terms, you should try discussing the issue directly with them. This option is very appealing as it removes a lot of procedure from the process and allows the parties to get down to what is most important to them. It is also a low-cost option as the time of a lawyer or the court is not necessary. However, it is recommended that if you draft your own parenting plan you should consult with a lawyer before signing it.


As an alternative to a direct discussion between the partners, the law recommends collaboration between both partners through their lawyers. The lawyers, with their knowledge of the law and their client’s interests, are a powerful asset to getting the deal that is best for their clients and their children. This option keeps a lot of the procedure out of the process as well, making the process quicker and more efficient. However, as it involves a lot of legal work and correspondence, fees can become significantly higher.


A further alternative to the above options is that a mediator may be brought in to help both sides come to the best agreement possible. The mediator will work between the two partner-attorney teams. If successful, the mediator will help the partner-attorney teams come to an agreement. Nothing done or said by the mediator has binding force and the resulting agreement only comes into effect if both parties sign the agreement and the court approves. This option keeps the court out of some of the procedure, which will decrease costs. However, in addition to both attorneys, the mediator must be paid, which makes this option more expensive than the previous options.

There are many options to coming to a child custody agreement outside of the court. No matter which method is used, both partners must sign the agreement they draft and present it to the court. The final step is getting the court to approve the plan. The court will evaluate the plan focusing on the best interest of the children. If the court approves the plan you have just obtained child custody outside the court. 

Should You Consult a Lawyer?

If you would like to discuss these options, it is recommended that you consult a local child custody lawyer to assist you through the process.