How to Draft a Custody Agreement

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Parents who are able to reach a child custody agreement on their own may be able to avoid adversarial child custody proceedings. You can create an atmosphere of cooperation while potentially saving time and money.

Each state has its own laws on child support and custody, and you must understand your jurisdiction’s guidelines before preparing any agreements.

In a child custody agreement, the parents draft an agreement that works to their satisfaction and present it to the court. The court will then either accept the child custody agreement, alter its terms, or reject certain provisions. Let's explore the best ways to draft an agreement to avoid contention.

Contents of a Child Custody Agreement

A child custody agreement is very similar to a parenting plan. Make sure to classify what kind of custody each parent agrees to. Custody can be classified as joint or sole. Joint custody is shared by both parents, while sole custody means one parent is the custodian.

It should include which parent or parents will have legal or physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right of a parent to make decisions for his child while physical custody involves the daily care of the child. 

The agreement should outline parenting time schedules, including visitation schedules, weekends, holidays, and any other information regarding the parenting schedule.

The child custody agreement should detail what the pick-up and drop-offs to and from the parental home will be like.

Important decisions, like issues related to religion, education, and extra-curricular activities should be ironed out in advance in the document.

Lastly, there should be a clause that outlines how parents can make changes to the child custody agreement should the need arise.

The Specifics

The best thing parents can do to protect each other, and the child, is to 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.

For examples be specific about the exact days when each parent will have the child. Keep in mind that children have time off for school vacations, factor those dates into your visitation calculations.

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.

Are You at an Impasse?

Parents should try to avoid the adversarial process, especially if there only a few decisions that cannot be agreed upon. If you have come close to ironing out the details, then seek assistance in the form of arbitration or mediation to conclude the last details.

Arbitration or mediation will involve a neutral third-party party who will work to assist parents in coming to an agreement that is beneficial to all parties.

Custody Agreement Software or a Law Firm?

If you would like to formalize your agreement and bypass the use of a law firm, you can use specific software programs or online services that are designed to assist with drafting the custody agreement.

If you need more specific information or wish to have legal advice on drafting a child custody agreement, speak with a qualified attorney and look up the specific child custody guidelines for your state.

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