Are you trying to settle a custody agreement but don't want to go to court? If so, you're not alone. Here's how to make that happen.

How to Reach a Custody Agreement Without Going to Court

There are a lot of misconceptions about divorce and child custody. Many people assume that custody is set in stone, with all courts favoring the mother.

In reality, custody laws are always changing. 39 state legislatures have worked on more than 200 bills relating to child custody in 2021. Lawmakers and lawyers are working to make the custody arrangement easier to achieve.

How can you draft a child custody agreement without court template? What are mediation and arbitration? How can you turn your temporary custody agreement into a permanent one through some edits?

Answer these questions and you can make the perfect child custody agreement in no time. Here is your quick guide.


Direct Negotiation

You don’t need to get anyone involved but you and your ex. Sit down and have a conversation with them about what both of you want.

Talk about the issues that you are facing as co-parents. Many people focus on how much time each co-parent will spend with their child. That’s important, but you should also figure out how to make decisions for your child and cover their needs.

Once you’ve agreed to some terms, put them into writing. Bring them to a lawyer and see what they think. Each of you should have your own lawyer.

A lawyer may advise you to change some of the terms or make them more detailed. Take their advice. They may offer their assistance in changing them, so set some money aside for their services.

You should consider the best interests of your child in any custody agreement you make. If your child is old enough, you should talk to them. Incorporate their suggestions and opinions into your agreement.

Do some research before you meet with your ex. Visit websites like and read tips on developing a custody agreement without court appearances.

Lawyer-Assisted Negotiation

You can hire a lawyer to negotiate with your ex in your stead. This is a good option if you and your ex live in different parts of the country. You should do this if your relationship ended acrimoniously.

Your lawyer should interview you and figure out your needs. Then they should talk to the lawyer of your ex and work out exact terms.

Your ex’s lawyer may want to speak with you. You can always bring your lawyer with you, but a meeting may not warrant that. They may want to authenticate your wishes and look over the language of the agreement with you.

Once the lawyers have conferred with each other, one side will draft a statement. The other will sign it, then it is up to you and your ex to live by it.


You can go to a mediator right away, or you can find one if negotiation is not working. A mediator is best for couples who can meet with each other but need help working out problems, and in such cases, you can consider involving a mediation lawyer to facilitate the process.

A mediator is a third party who hears the concerns of two disputing sides. They ask questions and investigate problems.

Mediators do not make decisions. They create an environment in which the two sides can find a middle ground. They have no power to impose a decision on you or your ex.

You have the option to bring a mediation lawyer to your mediation meetings, or you can attend them alone. A mediation lawyer will offer legal counsel and support during the mediation process. If you choose to go alone, then you may find it beneficial to take notes, and then later consult with a lawyer to review what has transpired during the meeting.


Arbitration is very similar to mediation. The difference is that an arbitrator imposes their decisions on the disputing parties. Whatever decision they make, you must adhere to it.

As with mediation, you can go to arbitration directly. Arbitration works best for couples with significant disputes.

You can appeal decisions to court, but appeals are not often successful. You cannot appeal just because you disagree with their decision. There must be substantial legal reasons to launch one.

If your relationship involves domestic violence or child abuse, you should have a lawyer at your arbitration. You can avoid seeing your ex entirely if you want.

How to Modify Your Custody Agreement

You may need to make changes to your agreement once you have agreed on one. You can do so without going to court.

If you have not already done so, you should hire a lawyer to make your modifications. They can create satisfactory terms that will not require another edit.

Once the new terms are drawn up, you can both request a change. Depending on which jurisdiction you are in, you may need to submit documents to the court.

Your ex may be happy with the agreement as it currently stands. You cannot make one-sided edits without going through a court. Talk to your ex about what is happening and why you want to make modifications.

If you cannot reach an agreement, you should file documents with the court. This may not be ideal.

But a judge will not change your agreement unless you have a good case. A reason like one co-parent moving away may be enough to warrant a change.

Avoid Court With Legal Help

You don’t need to go to court for your custody agreement. Start with direct negotiation if you can. Talk to your ex directly and draft a statement together.

Get lawyers involved if it’s hard for the two of you to talk. If that doesn’t work, you can turn to mediation. A third party will create a productive environment for dialogue.

An arbitrator can impose their decisions on you. This is good if you need expert help. Revise your agreement with a lawyer’s assistance.

Take advantage of your legal rights. Follow our coverage for informative guides.

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