Parents who are able to reach a child custody agreement on their own can avoid an adversarial child custody procedure. In a child custody agreement, the parents draft an agreement that works to their satisfaction and present it to the court. The the court will then either accept the child custody agreement or alter its terms. Let's explore the best ways to draft an agreement to avoid contention:
What's Contained in a Child Custody Agreement?
A child custody agreement should include the following:
- Which parent or parents have legal and/or physical custody
- Parenting time schedules, including visitation schedules, weekends, holidays, and any other information regarding the parenting schedule
- Pick-up and drop-offs to and from parental home
- How decisions will be made regarding religion, education, and extra-curricular activities
- Lastly, parent should discuss how changes to the child custody agreement will occur
How Specific Should the Custody Agreement Be?
The best thing parents can do is be specific with all of the terms in the child custody agreement. If the terms are not specific, it may leave the door open for a new child custody suit. Examples of specific terms are:
- The exact days when each parent will have the child
- Don't forget school vacations. Determine in advance how school vacations will be handled.
- Determine how schedule changes will occur. If one parent needs to switch days with the other, set an appropriate notice period such as 24 hours in advance.
What Should We Do If We Reach an Impasse in Determining Our Custody Agreement?
Parents should try to avoid the adversarial process, especially if there only a few decisions that cannot be agreed upon. Parents should seek assistance in the form of arbitration or mediation. Arbitration or mediation will involve a third-party neutral party who will probably assist a parent in coming to an agreement that is beneficial to all parties.
Should We Use Custody Agreement Software?
Parents who'd like to formalize their agreement or those that seek additional help may choose to use specific software programs to assist with drafting the custody agreement.
For more information about the child custody agreement, speak with a qualified attorney or visit the specific child custody guidelines in your state.