DIVORCE FAQ #12

12. What happens if we cannot agree on custody?

If you and the other parent are unable to agree on custody or visitation, a judge will make the decision
for you. There are several steps to finalizing a custody plan. However, custody and visitation can be
decided on a temporary basis if there are immediate problems. For example, a new school year may
be approaching and you cannot agree on a school for your children. Or, one parent intends to move
and wants to take the children along. (Keep in mind that you may not be able to prevent such a move
unless you typically spend a lot of time with your children.)

Before any hearing or trial involving child custody or visitation, both parents are required to meet with
a trained counselor hired by the court. The counselor will try to help you agree on a custody and
parenting plan. These sessions are arranged through Conciliation Court or mediation offices, and are
held in private offices located in the courthouse. In some counties, the assigned mediation court
counselor will submit a recommendation to the judge even if you and your spouse did not reach an
agreement. In other counties, these sessions are entirely confidential and the counselor can only
report agreements reached by the parents. You should inquire about the rules in your county.

Depending on the nature of the custody dispute, the judge may order a psychological evaluation of
the family as well, and may appoint an attorney to represent the children. If an attorney is appointed
for your child, you and the other parent may be required to bear all or part of the cost.


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