Carlsbad Family Law Attorneys

Can You Get a Child Custody Agreement Without Going to Court?

When splitting with your spouse, and when kids are involved, you may fear that your time with them will be cut short. You may be fearful that you won’t see them grow up or that your entire lifestyle with your children will drastically change. This doesn’t have to be the case, as long as there is a fair child custody agreement in place at the time of your divorce.

The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to go to court. A child custody agreement can be agreed upon in mediation so that you and your spouse can both agree on how to spend time with the children as the divorce moves forward.

The first step is for you and your spouse to devise an agreement you can both live with, and that is best for any children the two of you share.

What is a Child Custody Agreement?

A child custody agreement is a document that is agreed upon by both parties, or that is ordered by a Judge in divorce court (or decided upon during the mediation process) that stipulates such things as:

  • Visitation time spent with the children
  • Who will gain primary and secondary custody of the children
  • Whether the two of you will split time with the children 50/50
  • Child support information
  • And anything else that will help you and the other parent raise the children properly.

All in all, the purpose of a child custody agreement is to do what is best for the children in the face of your pending divorce.

While all the above parameters sound straightforward, they usually are not, especially when you and your spouse don’t get along and you plan to fight for primary custody or other factors. This is where it helps to get the advice of a skilled and experienced lawyer who can help you negotiate your way to fair and even child custody in all regards.

What is a Standard Child Custody Agreement?

While the above is a good rundown of a child custody document, matters can get a little more complicated than that. Here is all you must consider when forming an arrangement with your soon to be ex-spouse.

Schedule: A thorough child arrangement will include a residential or weekday schedule, which represents the routine you and your spouse will go through as you each spend time with the children throughout the week and on weekends. For instance, you may plan to split the children half the week, also known as joint custody. This arrangement works if you and your ex-spouse plan to live close to one another, which keeps the kids in the same school. If you don’t live close by, the non-custodial parent may get the children every other weekend while the primary or custodial parent keeps the kids the rest of the time, just to provide another example. Your child custody schedule may vary.

Holidays: This represents the child custody schedule with regards to where the children will spend time on holidays, during school breaks, and on other special occasions. Agreeing on a holiday schedule keeps either parent from taking the kids across the state or out of the country in secret and without the other parent’s consent.

Vacations: Here is where both parents will describe the vacation time they wish to spend with the children, where they will go, and for how long.

Special Events: One-time events can be listed in this section of the child custody agreement, which represents special times with the children where the regular schedule changes. Examples may include which parent will keep the children in the case of weddings or funerals.

Other Considerations: Also included in most child custody agreements are the exact pickup and drop-off times that each parent is required to adhere to. You may list which parent will host upcoming birthday parties, agreements to share medical and school records, and rules not to interfere with the child’s relationship with either parent.

While child custody agreements are often made between two biological parents, the situation may dictate that the agreement needs to be made between grandparents, stepparents, and adopted parents.

Other provisions will include how to handle the children’s medical and dental care, how to handle disputes about the agreement, and how to change the arrangement if needed.

Can Parents Make Their Own Child Custody Agreement?

Yes. Parents are encouraged to come up with their own version of the child custody arrangement. This keeps a Judge from making the decisions for you, which may not be agreeable to both parents. Ideally, you and the other parent will sit down and hash out all of the above parameters, keeping in mind any special considerations like holidays, vacations, as well as the children’s schooling, health, and dental care.

To become official and for the agreement to be enforceable under state law, you will have to submit the finished agreement to a Judge who will then rule the arrangement into law. Keep in mind that a child custody agreement is always ruled upon according to what is best for the children. So even if you and your spouse agree on specific rules, those may change if a Judge decides they should change.

That is unless you choose divorce mediation, which doesn’t require a Judge’s involvement at all.

What Should You Ask For?

You should ask for whatever you feel is best for the children. While you may want to spend all the time with your kids, the kids need the other parent in their lives. Therefore, it helps to be even-minded and fair when deciding what is best for you, your spouse, and the kids.

What is the Best Kind of It?

The best child custody agreement is one where the kids share as much equal time with the parents as possible. The best arrangements are those that have the kids spending holidays and vacations evenly with the parents, while their schooling and other considerations are well taken care of.

Do You Need a Child Custody Lawyer?

It is always recommended that you get the advice of a skilled and experienced divorce attorney who can help you create an arrangement you and your spouse can both agree upon. If you choose mediation, you can still have a lawyer present. Your spouse can also bring their attorney to the mediation meetings, and this way you, your spouse, and your attorneys can develop a fair arrangement you all can agree upon.

How to Find a Good Child Custody Lawyer?

If you are going the mediation route, you will do well to find a child custody attorney who is experienced with the mediation process. That is why we recommend that you call Fresh Start Mediation, which is run by experienced divorce attorneys. Divorce lawyers Amy Lass, John Griffith, and Catie Young have helped countless couples arrange their divorces and child custody agreements without the need for expensive and drawn-out divorce court.

With mediation, you and your spouse will sit down with your attorneys present and discuss matters without your emotions getting in the way, which is often the case with divorce court.

The mediator is simply there to guide you to you and your spouse to a peaceful resolution you both can rely on.

Getting a Notarized Child Custody Agreement

If you and your spouse agree on the child custody agreement during the mediation sessions, the matter can be resolved right then and there. You and your spouse will get a notarized arrangement that describes what’s best for all involved, including the children.

To discuss mediation as an option for your upcoming divorce, and to get a child custody agreement you and your spouse can agree on, call Fresh Start Mediation today for a free evaluation in Carlsbad, Vista and San Marcos, CA.


Meet Our Team 

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  • John N. Griffith, Esq., CFLS
  • Catie E. Young, Esq., CFLS
  • Amy J. Lass, Esq., CFLS
  • Shirin Asgari, Esq., CFLS
  • Eric Cowdery, Esq.
  • Joshua Yee, Esq.
  • Shaudi Malekzadeh, Esq.
  • Lea Trojanowski. Esq.
  • Greyson Sharp, Esq.
  • John N. Griffith, Esq., CFLS John N. Griffith, Esq., CFLS


    John Griffith has practiced exclusively in the area of family law since 2009. John is a Certified Family Law Specialist certified as an expert in the area of family law by the California Board of Legal Specialization. Prior to opening Griffith, Young & Lass, he worked as the managing partner of one of the largest family law firms in North County San Diego.
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  • Catie E. Young, Esq., CFLS Catie E. Young, Esq., CFLS


    Catie E. Young excels in child custody cases and move-away trials. She has a unique approach to child custody cases and clients of Griffith, Young & Lass tend to gravitate toward her in these cases. Since joining the firm, she has continuously brought her zeal and compassion to representing clients in child custody and domestic violence cases, and in December 2011, she became a partner at Griffith, Young & Lass.
    Catie E. Young, Esq., CFLS Photo
  • Amy J. Lass, Esq., CFLS Amy J. Lass, Esq., CFLS


    Amy Lass, a certified family law specialist, was born in New York and raised in San Diego, California. Amy graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2003 with a B.S. in Economics with a concentration in Enterprise Accounting. Amy went on to earn her law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and graduated cum laude in 2006.
    Amy J. Lass, Esq., CFLS Photo
  • Shirin Asgari, Esq., CFLS Shirin Asgari, Esq., CFLS


    Attorney Shirin Asgari has a broad spectrum of legal experience and has handled matters in family law, criminal law, business law, and national security law. Currently, she focuses on family law matters and is a strong advocate for the rights of her clients. She dedicates time and attention to the needs of each client and the unique circumstances their case presents.
    Shirin  Asgari, Esq., CFLS Photo
  • Eric Cowdery, Esq. Eric Cowdery, Esq.


    Eric Cowdery earned his bachelor’s and Master’s degrees before earning his JD from Golden Gate University as part of the Honors Lawyering Program. He was admitted to the California Bar Association in 2013 and has been working diligently in the field ever since. Taking a personalized approach to each case, Eric Cowdery is committed to working with clients to help them through the often confusing and complex legal process of divorce.

    Eric  Cowdery, Esq. Photo
  • Joshua Yee, Esq. Joshua Yee, Esq.


    Attorney Joshua Yeereceived his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, from the University of California, San Diego. Joshua went on to receive his Juris Doctor degree from University of San Francisco. His experience working with a local Certified Family Law Specialist solidified his desire to become a family law attorney. Since becoming an attorney, Josh has exclusively practiced in family law.
    Joshua  Yee, Esq. Photo
  • Shaudi Malekzadeh, Esq. Shaudi Malekzadeh, Esq.


    Shaudi Malekzadeh is a Carlsbad family law attorney at Griffith, Young & Lass, advocating for the rights and interests of Southern California families in a variety of family law cases, such as child custody, alimony, spousal support, and the division of community property. She is committed to delivering effective legal representation to our clients, aggressively advocating for their legal rights, and offering compassionate legal advice.
    Shaudi  Malekzadeh, Esq. Photo
  • Lea Trojanowski. Esq. Lea Trojanowski. Esq.


    Lea Trojanowski is an attorney with Griffith, Young, and Lass, joining the firm in March 2021. Her pragmatic and level-headed approach to family law has allowed her to be successful in even the most emotional family law cases. Lea has effectively represented clients in a wide range of family law proceedings, but is particularly drawn to domestic violence restraining order cases.
    Lea  Trojanowski. Esq. Photo
  • Greyson Sharp, Esq. Greyson Sharp, Esq.


    Greyson Sharp received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from California State University, Fresno. Greyson went ...
    Greyson  Sharp, Esq. Photo

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