Can we use a self-prepared custody agreement?

Q: If using self prepared custody agreement, signed by both parties & notarized, do I file anything with Allegheny County courts? I will have sole physical custody of my son & both his father and I will sign the document and have a PA notary witness it. I just want to make sure he can’t take our son without permission since his “family” and friends are out of state.

A: This is highly inadvisable. This “self prepared custody agreement” will not be worth the paper it is written on if there is a disagreement over custody. Only a custody order of court with a judge’s signature on it which states who between the warring parents has physical custody and who has visitation, and when and where such visitation occurs, is binding and can be legally enforced. Without a custody order, either parent can move the children out of state or even out of the country. I would take your agreement to a lawyer who can then turn it into a Consent Order of Custody, and present it to a judge for signing. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may be able to do this through Allegheny County’s pro se court.