Every complicated endeavor needs a plan in order to succeed. And one of the most difficult things parents may have to plan for is how to handle child custody issues after finalizing a divorce. In a perfect world, both parents would be in total agreement on such issues as visitation, physical custody and decision making for the child. Unfortunately, sometimes a divorce is filled with acrimony, making child custody issues extremely contentious.
A parenting agreement, also known as a settlement agreement or perhaps more commonly as a custody agreement, is the finalized version of a couple's decisions regarding custody and visitation issues. Parents may be able to negotiate the terms of the agreement informally between themselves, or they may involve other parties, such as attorneys. They may also choose to work through their issues using an alternative resolution process such as collaborative law or mediation.
The agreement can cover any number of areas, depending on specific family circumstances. However, in addition to the aforementioned areas of visitation, physical custody, and decision making, the agreement will typically also address the following:
- The handling of disputes.
- Holiday, birthday and vacation schedules.
- Contact with family, friends, grandparents, and other parties.
Once a judge approves a parenting agreement, it is legally binding and bestows parents with both rights and obligations. This is why it is so important that you give careful consideration to every aspect of a parenting agreement prior to passing it on to the court for approval. You don't want to agree to terms that do not afford you the conditions that you deserve. Likewise, you don't want to be accountable meet impossible requirements.
By speaking with an experienced family law attorney, you may be able to get a better idea of what you want included in your parenting agreement. In addition, the attorney could represent your interests during the negotiation process.