In New York State, when divorcing couples cannot settle important issues independently, the court will intervene. This can be necessary when the spouses cannot get along, but even the most well-intentioned judge may not issue an order that works for them.

For example, parents may have children that need to be raised and provided for financially. The judge overseeing the parents’ divorce case has the authority to decide on child custody, visitation, and child support. He or she has the guideline of the “best interest of the child” to go by when doing so.

But no matter how much experience the judge might have in family law, he or she likely knows very little about your family. He or she has little more to go on than the evidence presented in court. Despite his or her best efforts, the resulting order may not work for your particular family dynamic or culture.

Just as couples can use negotiation or alternative dispute resolution to settle their property division disputes out of court, so too can they reach an agreement on child custody and support. An out-of-court settlement of these issues is called a parenting agreement.

With each spouse getting the help of a family law attorney, parents can combine legal expertise with their own intimate knowledge of their kids’ personalities and needs to craft a plan that is the best possible arrangement for everyone involved.

Some issues will likely spark conflict, such as with which parent the children will spend summer vacation or the holidays. But an experienced attorney knows how to guide his or her client through these rough spots and achieve a satisfactory agreement.