When you make the decision to divorce your spouse, part of you may look forward to saying goodbye to your spouse and moving on with your life. However, the other part may understandably worry about how your marital breakup will affect your children.

Fortunately, a majority of divorce cases that involve child custody are handled in a relatively amicable manner, without needing to proceed to court. You, too, can attempt to resolve your custody matters with your future ex-spouse outside of a Colorado courtroom by engaging in informal negotiations or mediation.

What is involved in handling child custody outside of court?

If you and your future ex-spouse can find common ground regarding who should receive physical custody of the children — in other words, with whom the children will live —  you both can put together a document that spells this out, known as a parenting agreement. This agreement can also specify who has legal custody of the children — or who can make important decisions about the children’s welfare as well as their upbringing.

What other kinds of details should the parenting agreement feature?

In addition to specifying who has physical and legal custody of the children, your parenting agreement can provide the visitation schedule that you and the other party have agreed to follow for the noncustodial parent. In addition, you can discuss how you will handle vacations, holidays and even birthdays with the children.

Another area that might be easy to overlook is how you will handle having family friends or even grandparents see the children following your divorce. In addition, how will you and the other party deal with any future disputes regarding the agreement, or any changes that you need to make to the document over time? This is a wise topic to discuss and address in your parenting agreement as well.

Does the court have any say in the parenting agreement you create?

Yes, the court must approve your agreement before it can go into effect. To kick start this process, you can expect to take part in an informal hearing where you will answer some factual questions from a judge.

For instance, the judge might ask you and the other person if you both understand the agreement and each chose to sign it on your own. If the judge has no problems with your responses, and if the agreement appears to have been created with your children’s best interests in mind, you can expect the court to accept it.