if lawyers are involved? What is the proper thing to do with the attorneys?
Yes, they can independently work out the custody and all the financials themselves in a separation agreement, which will commonly survive as an independent contract through the separation, divorce, and afterwards.
You can do this even without the input of an attorney, although I would recommend at least having an attorney look things over. There are small things that can end up being really big things that they know to look for. [color=blue](An example is having it written into the agreement that a spouse will pay for the children’s college. Seems like a good phrase, right? However, there are large differences between state run universities and Harvard as far as paying the bills goes…and what happens if you are hit by a bus and disabled five years down the road? While you would probably be able to get that part of the agreement changed in court for such an injury, you’d still have to incur sizeable court costs to get that obligation removed.)[/color]
Many family law practices do mediation to arrive at a settlement. Or you each can get your own attorney and meet somewhere to sort it all out between all parties. What I don’t recommend is that one of you gets an attorney and the other doesn’t and then signs the separation agreement. That attorney is only obligated to get the best representation for his/her client as possible and will not have your best interests or possibly even equability in mind.
If you and your spouse work out the basic terms of the agreement that is great! It will save you time, and hourly fees charged by your attorneys. Once you have come to an agreement should then have the lawyers drawn up a formal settlement agreement that will ensure everything is allocated correctly and that all of the necessary language and waivers of claims are included.