How An Attorney Can Help Parents Draft a Custody Agreement
Custody agreements include information on physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody means with whom the child will live, while legal custody is the responsibility to make major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing such as medical care, education and choice of school, or religion. Each one can be classified as either “joint”—meaning both parents are involved in the physical and/or legal custody of the child—or “sole”—only one parent is involved. Drafting child custody agreements can be difficult. An attorney trained in child custody issues can help you draft an agreement so that it includes all vital custody information, visitation rights, and other important details regarding the child. In this blog, we describe some important details that should be included in a custody agreement by your attorney:
- Significant details on the child’s upbringing: This includes details such as the child’s religion, the child’s education and school, community and school activities, and the kinds of medical and healthcare the child will receive when they are sick.
- Visitation schedule: If the custody arrangement allows for joint physical custody and visitation rights, the parents and their attorneys should include a detailed visitation schedule. This would include the days, times, and length of time that the child will live with and spend time with each parent. Examples include schedules that detail visitation for the non-custodial parent on weekends, every other weekend, school breaks, certain holidays, etc. The goal is to have a detailed visitation schedule that outlines where the child will be all year.
- The parents’ vacation time: Both parents should include in the agreement when and for how long their vacation time from work is scheduled to occur and for how long it will last. This may affect the visitation schedule.
- Child support details: Sometimes custody arrangements include provisions for child support. These support obligations require one parent to make regular payments of money to the other parent to use for the support, care, and upbringing of the child. The attorneys should include a relief process that a parent can follow when the other fails to pay their required child support payment.
- A provision that describes how the parents will handle disputes regarding the upbringing of their child. It is important that the parents have a reliable and agreed-upon plan in place that describes what process to follow when there is a disagreement regarding major decisions in their child’s life. This provision could involve mediation—whereby both parents and their attorneys meet with a neutral third-party mediator to work towards a solution and resolve the dispute—or negotiations with both parents’ attorneys regarding the dispute.
- Modification provision: It is important for attorneys to include a small provision that states that the parents can make changes to the above agreement under certain conditions and if both parents agree. For instance, if one parent is sick and cannot take the child for the weekend or if one parent’s work schedule changes at the last minute, a process for modifying or switching one another’s days of physical custody should be outlined. The parent making the change should be required to immediately inform the other, and both should work towards an amicable solution.