When parents get divorced (or unmarried parents seek to establish legal rights of
custody/visitation), the divorce (custody) decree must establish plans for child custody and
visitation. In many situations parents can use mediation or their attorney’s help to make their
own decisions about custody. The settlement agreement is then submitted to the court for
approval. When parents are not able to resolve disputes about child custody or visitation, the
dispute may go to trial for a judge to decide. Prior to the trial, the court may require the family
to participate in a child custody investigation (evaluation), which provides information about the
family to assist the judge in making the best decision about the child(ren).

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