Many couples who divorce amicably decide to DIY their divorce and custody agreements, often using templates that allow them to tweak the details to fit their own situation. However, DIY custody agreements may not be thorough enough, leaving room for misinterpretation and conflict later on. Here are five often overlooked things your custody agreement should have.
- Religion: Religion can be a big issue, and a frequent source of fighting between co-parents. What may have seemed like workable differences when you were together often becomes insurmountable once you’re no longer in a relationship. Make sure the custody agreement spells out very specifically what religion the children will be raised in, how religious holidays will be handled, and whether they’ll go to church and who with.
- Child care: Another provision that is often overlooked in the custody agreement is the issue of child care. Many parents want there to be a “right of first refusal” in the agreement, so that if it’s not technically your time with your kid, but your co-parent needs child care, the child can go with you as a first option instead of going to a babysitter or childcare center. The parenting agreement should establish the details of any such arrangement, such as whether it should be handled as a swap for parenting time.
- Vacations and holidays: A parenting agreement typically lays out a schedule for when each parent will have time with the child, and you’ll need to have a plan for handling major holidays or possibly, vacations. But don’t forget the impact that vacations and holidays can have on a parenting plan. For instance, summer vacation is a long stretch of time that may require child care or camps, and it’ll be important to establish a plan for who will have parenting time during that period so that everything is fair. Family vacations are another issue to make provisions for, as they may not always fall within the parenting schedule laid out in the custody agreement. And finally, don’t forget to address minor holidays as well. Smaller holidays often mean days off of school and three-day weekends, so it’s important to determine how they’ll be handled ahead of time to prevent conflict later on.
- Transportation: Who is responsible for transporting the child to the other parent for scheduled parenting time? Does one parent pick the kids up, or does the other parent drop them off? If not laid out in the parenting agreement, this issue can become a frequent source of conflict, especially when the scheduled time switches between parents several times a week. A similar issue is who pays for the cost of transportation when one parent is long distance. Establishing these things in mediation or court will ensure that transportation doesn’t become a power struggle down the road.
- Telephone contact: Finally, it’s important to address the question of telephone contact, especially in cases where there is one long-distance parent. Make sure the custody agreement specifies what telephone contact is allowed, so that you don’t find yourself cut off from your child with no opportunity for recourse through the courts.
Putting together an effective custody agreement that checks all the boxes can be a lot of work. Your best bet is to have professional guidance from someone who knows your situation, plus common pitfalls others make. For legal assistance drafting your agreement, contact the Simon Law Group, PLLC, today.