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Can I Get a Custody Agreement Without Filing for Divorce?

Abdallah Law, A.P.C. May 9, 2023

Married couples share legal and physical custody of minor children born during the marriage. If they divorce, child custody is part of this process. If your question is, “Can I get a custody agreement without filing for divorce?”, the answer is “Yes”—but you need to understand how that process works in California.   

At Abdallah Law, A.P.C., I serve the best interests of clients and their children throughout Northern California and the rest of the state. My goal is to provide my clients with the information they need to make sensible decisions during a highly emotional legal process. If you live in Sacramento or throughout Placer County, San Joaquin County, Eldorado County, Yolo County, Solano County, and Alameda County, set up a consultation with me today. 

What Do Custody Orders Do?

Custody orders establish who has legal and physical custody of the children, whether that custody is awarded jointly to both parents or solely to one or the other, and who has primary physical custody of the children. Custody orders also include a visitation schedule which establishes when the non-custodial parent spends time with the children.  

Absent a parent’s history of domestic abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, or other activity potentially dangerous to the health and well-being of the child, custody orders formalize the active relationship each parent will have with the child.  

Child custody agreements may also apply to parties other than the child’s parents. For example, a grandparent or other adult with a parental-like relationship with a child may request custody or visitation if they are being denied them.  

How Can I Obtain a Custody Agreement without a Divorce?

Although custody will be dealt with as part of any divorce involving the parents of minor children, there are ways to obtain a child custody agreement without filing for divorce. Custody agreements are necessary in situations where the child’s parents are not married or if married parents live separate lives. Regardless of whether divorce is part of the case or not, the process for obtaining an order is the same.  

Parents who can agree to the terms of a child custody arrangement, either on their own or through a mediation process, may submit the agreement to the court for approval. After review and with or without revision, the judge will issue a formal court order. You should protect your interests during this process by hiring a child custody attorney to represent you in negotiation and guide you in mediation.   

If parents cannot agree to the terms of a child custody arrangement, they will present their case in family court and the judge will decide what happens. In most situations, only the court can approve a custody agreement and enter a court order which formalizes it.  

Is It Better to Argue Custody with or Without a Divorce?

Sometimes, a child’s parents aren’t married; therefore, there can be no divorce. Sometimes, the parents are married but do not want to divorce due to financial concerns, religious beliefs, health and retirement benefits, or for other reasons.  

Because the process of being granted a child custody order is largely the same whether it is sought as part of a divorce or not, divorce really does not provide any advantages. However, forging an agreement outside of divorce could provide an advantage. Divorce requires many other actions, such as dividing marital assets and debts, and the potential awarding of spousal and child support. Without those factors coming into play, the sole focus can be on child custody, which may make the process briefer, less expensive, and less stressful.  

Why Is Having a Child Custody Order Important?

You may think not having a custody order is working for you and your children. Perhaps paternity of your children has not been established, so you have sole control—but you will certainly need a child custody order if someone establishes paternity.  

Perhaps you and the children’s other parent live separate lives. Having a court-ordered custody agreement can protect against the other parent deciding to move far away with the children. This situation can happen even when it appears you and the other parent agree to share time with your children.  

A child custody order can also help balance the financial support of your children with time spent with them. Parents share responsibility in California for providing financial support to their minor children. If you are providing more than your share when the other parent is capable of stepping up, a child custody order can help balance these factors.  

Ultimately, a custody order formalizes the custody and visitation of shared children when parents are not married or do not live together. It protects you as well as your children.  

Skilled Legal Guidance

For parents throughout California, custody of their children is an incredibly important issue. That’s why it’s vital to reach out to an attorney who will guide families forward. If you want to learn more about child custody agreements in Sacramento, California, and the surrounding counties, I can help. Call Abdallah Law, A.P.C. now to schedule a time to talk.