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Barbara L. Jouette, Attorney, P.C.
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Resolving child custody disputes

When parents or other involved parties have a dispute over how child custody is handled, they may need to take legal action to create an agreement that will define each person's role and obligations related to the child involved. This is commonly referred to as a parenting or custody agreement. Texas residents would do well to be informed about what is commonly included in such an agreement and how the agreement is made.

Custody agreements are as unique as the families that need them, and each one is tailored to the individual family situation, but most agreements have some similar elements. They will define the child's primary residence and physical custody. For the non-custodial parent, they will outline a visitation schedule or general agreement. The visitation plan is often the core of most agreements. They may also outline who has legal custody and is allowed to make major decisions for the child, such as medical and educational decisions.

A child custody agreement can be created in a variety of ways, depending on the willingness of those involved to work together. Many agreements can be created outside of court with some help from attorneys. If that approach is too informal, then mediation may be used to give structure to the process. Going to court for child custody is usually the option of last resort. Once the agreement is drafted, it is submitted to the judge for final approval. The judge will ensure lawfulness and that the agreement best serves the child. It then becomes a binding court order, and those involved have the right to legal action if it is not followed.

An attorney may be able to assist a client with drafting a custody agreement even if the process is done informally. Since the agreement becomes a binding court document, ensuring the accuracy and completeness of its wording is important. If there is disagreement, then an attorney may also be able to help negotiate the terms.

Source: FindLaw, "The Parenting Agreement," Accessed Feb. 26, 2015

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