If my husband and I agree on a custody arrangement, can a judge override it?
Question Details: My husband and I are getting a divorce after 11 years of marriage. We have a 10 year old daughter together. Since we separated 3 years ago, my daughter has lived with me full-time and he has been unemployed the entire time and has not paid any kind of child support. We do not have any joint assets and there is no property to separate. I paid off all of the joint bills that we had. I am paying for the divorce myself so I am looking into using a paralegal or just filing the divorce papers myself instead of using an attorney because of the cost. He and I are in agreement on everything including the custody arrangement. I have heard that the state likes to do joint 50/50 custody but that is not what we want. His living situation is not a safe one for our daughter because his roommate has a mentally ill son. He is also trying to go back to work at a strip club and he will be working nights, so overnight visits are not an option. I make sure she sees him at least twice a week, for his birthday, and on holidays. He can see her anytime he wants and he will begin paying me child support as soon as he is financially stable enough to do so, and all the money will go into her savings account to pay for school clothes, soccer equipment, birthdays, etc. He is in total agreement with me on this arrangement and is willing to sign the divorce papers with that arrangement. My only concern is what the judge is going to do. So I'm wondering, is it likely for a judge to force me to give him 50-50 joint custody in spite of him agreeing to the terms?
Call you local Bar Association and ask if there is an attorney referral service for a consultation at a flat fee with a matrimonial attorney in your area. Generally speaking, agreements between parties are upheld by the court so long as they follow state law and are not unconscionable. Joint custody generally means for decision making (such as schooling and medical issues) but one parent is given physical custody of the child and the other visitation. You can certainly agree as to the parameters of visitation. My concern would be if you used an attorney and your husband did not, because if he came back to set the agreement aside (which MUST be in writing) it cause problems. Not to say that he would win but it could unless the attorney is up front about who he represents, encourages him to take the agreement to an attorney becfore he executes it, etc. The support provision must also follow statutory guidelines (and should say that he pays at least $25 a month to conform to federal guidelines). Even if he doesn't pay anything. I woul strongly suggest that you set down the agreement in writing and then consult with a lawyer as to its validity under state law. You do not have to retain the attorney to file it. Just make sure you are protecting your self and your daughter. Good luck.