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Parents can collaborate on a custody agreement

Divorce can be a time of very high emotions and tensions, and for many Texas couples with children, the animosity can extend to custody and support. However, parents do have options for resolving custody issues together, without ending up in a drawn-out, potentially expensive, and often more hurtful courtroom battle.

One option parents have is to hold informal negotiations about child custody. These can be done by the parents themselves or with the help of their lawyers. The result of these informal negotiations should be a written document that sets forth the agreement the parents have come to regarding all custody issues. If the parents did the negotiations themselves, they can have their lawyers review the document before it is filed in court for a judge to review. Once this document is approved, it becomes a court order that both parents must abide by.

Another way parents can avoid court is through alternative dispute resolution. ADR provides the opportunity for parents to remain involved in custody decisions. The most common ADR option is mediation. In mediation, a neutral third party listens to the positions of both sides and guides them towards solutions of their disputes, but the recommendations are not binding. A more rarely used ADR option is arbitration, where the third party listens to both sides before making the custody decisions for them. However, in arbitration, parents can still opt for settling major aspects of custody in court. Once an agreement is reached, the process for having it become a court order is the same as for informal negotiations.

Whether a parent wants to use informal negotiation or the ADR options, a lawyer might provide assistance in explaining the local legislation and the requirements of the custody agreement. As well, a lawyer can provide representation in court, if the parents cannot reach an accord.

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