Usually, child custody arrangements are made voluntarily by the parents. The agreed-upon terms can be made part of their separation agreement or they can draft a separate parenting agreement. In either case, it is a good idea to obtain a consent order from the court to formalize the terms of the custody agreement. This can help to minimize future disagreements and makes enforcement of the agreement easier should that become necessary.
If the divorcing parents are unable to agree on terms of child custody, mediation may be a good next step – especially since mediation will be mandatory if a child custody lawsuit is filed. Mediation involves the parents meeting with a neutral mediator without their attorneys present. If the custody issues cannot be resolved with the mediator, a lawsuit will be filed, litigated and a judge will decide the terms of child custody.