In this day and age it’s commonplace for couples who divorce to share custody of the children. One parent may be the custodial parent who handles more of the day to day parenting in the original family home, but it’s not uncommon for the non-custodial to take them on weekends or pick them up from Wednesday evening soccer practice and feed them dinner.
While part of divorce agreement involves dividing up assets and other financial details, the welfare of the children should be a priority. A parental agreement goes much further than listing the amount of money a parent is to pay in monthly child support.
Here some things to consider when drawing up a parental agreement:
Address the specific details and needs of the kids’ life. It should also include guidelines for where the kids live on a day-to-day basis, where they will be during the holidays (using even/odd years is common), who takes them on weekends, how to arrange vacations and for how long, celebrating birthdays and nearly anything else pertaining to a child’s life. Also define where they will go to school, how their after-school interests will be supported (who picks them up, how it’s paid for) and how and when they are supposed to be transferred back and forth between the two homes.
Parental communication should be defined. Counting on the kids to relay messages accurately if at all is a bad idea. Divorced parents can communicate via email, text, by phone or in person. It’s a lot to juggle and it may be best to keep an online calendar. Keep the tone of correspondence civil – however you feel about each other, it’s best to keep things constructive.
Decide who handles health insurance. Define who carries on the kids on their health insurance policy and have that as shared information alongside their SSN, birth certificates and other important paperwork. If there is an emergency, one of the first calls after attending to immediate needs of the injury should be to the other parent.
Decide who handles what family and cultural traditions. This will include religion, language study, holiday observation and traditional family events like an annual reunion. Grandparent access should also be discussed.
Be flexible. Not everything outlined in the plan is going to work as well as expected. Schedules also change and the kids will have different needs as they grow older. Perhaps relatives from the other family visit on a holiday that is yours – the kids will want to see them, so make the accommodation if possible and schedule make-up time.
Each family’s needs are different, but an attorney with experience in family law will have a lot of insight into drawing up a workable plan. An attorney can insure that the agreement looks after the child’s best interests. They can help ensure that a parent’s rights are protected to the fullest extent of the law.