Filing for divorce involves a wide range of challenges, but drafting a parenting agreement often tops the list. More than merely determining custody, the parenting agreement also includes all issues related to the visitation schedule, care and well-being of the child.
Ideally, these decisions can be made collaboratively through mediation or an honest discussion between the parties. These discussions can get contentious, but many believe that it is best for all involved if the parents draft their agreement rather than leave matters for a judge to decide. This way, parents can tailor it to the unique needs of the children while also accommodating their own scheduling needs.
What should the agreement consider?
The needs of each family are different, and they change as the children get older. Nevertheless, some key areas include:
- Visitation schedule: This weekly schedule should outline times and how to structure pick-ups and drop-offs.
- Holiday schedule: Alternating years and holidays is standard fare, but parents should also look at summer schedules, when vacations can happen and how the family celebrates birthdays.
- Where the children will live: Parents may have joint custody, but typically the kids will have their primary residence with one parent.
- Custody: This enables parents the right to make significant decisions regarding the children’s welfare.
- Contact with family and friends: This determines how to schedule time with grandparents, extended family and friends.
- Communication: Clear lines of communication are needed to address how to handle deviations from the agreement, and even how parents communicate (phone, text, email, etc.).
- Disputes and changes: There can be a format for discussing changes in schedules and any conflicts that arise.
Making decisions that work for all
Family law attorneys work on parenting plans all the time and often can provide solutions if there is an impasse. They also can help protect the parental and individual rights of the client if the other side is not working towards a fair agreement.