When splitting with your spouse, and when kids are involved, you may fear that your time with them will be cut short. You may be fearful that you won’t see them grow up or that your entire lifestyle with your children will drastically change. This doesn’t have to be the case, as long as there is a fair child custody agreement in place at the time of your divorce.
The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to go to court. A child custody agreement can be agreed upon in mediation so that you and your spouse can both agree on how to spend time with the children as the divorce moves forward.
The first step is for you and your spouse to devise an agreement you can both live with, and that is best for any children the two of you share.
What is a Child Custody Agreement?
A child custody agreement is a document that is agreed upon by both parties, or that is ordered by a Judge in divorce court (or decided upon during the mediation process) that stipulates such things as:
- Visitation time spent with the children
- Who will gain primary and secondary custody of the children
- Whether the two of you will split time with the children 50/50
- Child support information
- And anything else that will help you and the other parent raise the children properly.
All in all, the purpose of a child custody agreement is to do what is best for the children in the face of your pending divorce.
While all the above parameters sound straightforward, they usually are not, especially when you and your spouse don’t get along and you plan to fight for primary custody or other factors. This is where it helps to get the advice of a skilled and experienced lawyer who can help you negotiate your way to fair and even child custody in all regards.
What is a Standard Child Custody Agreement?
While the above is a good rundown of a child custody document, matters can get a little more complicated than that. Here is all you must consider when forming an arrangement with your soon to be ex-spouse.
Schedule: A thorough child arrangement will include a residential or weekday schedule, which represents the routine you and your spouse will go through as you each spend time with the children throughout the week and on weekends. For instance, you may plan to split the children half the week, also known as joint custody. This arrangement works if you and your ex-spouse plan to live close to one another, which keeps the kids in the same school. If you don’t live close by, the non-custodial parent may get the children every other weekend while the primary or custodial parent keeps the kids the rest of the time, just to provide another example. Your child custody schedule may vary.
Holidays: This represents the child custody schedule with regards to where the children will spend time on holidays, during school breaks, and on other special occasions. Agreeing on a holiday schedule keeps either parent from taking the kids across the state or out of the country in secret and without the other parent’s consent.
Vacations: Here is where both parents will describe the vacation time they wish to spend with the children, where they will go, and for how long.
Special Events: One-time events can be listed in this section of the child custody agreement, which represents special times with the children where the regular schedule changes. Examples may include which parent will keep the children in the case of weddings or funerals.
Other Considerations: Also included in most child custody agreements are the exact pickup and drop-off times that each parent is required to adhere to. You may list which parent will host upcoming birthday parties, agreements to share medical and school records, and rules not to interfere with the child’s relationship with either parent.
While child custody agreements are often made between two biological parents, the situation may dictate that the agreement needs to be made between grandparents, stepparents, and adopted parents.
Other provisions will include how to handle the children’s medical and dental care, how to handle disputes about the agreement, and how to change the arrangement if needed.
Can Parents Make Their Own Child Custody Agreement?
Yes. Parents are encouraged to come up with their own version of the child custody arrangement. This keeps a Judge from making the decisions for you, which may not be agreeable to both parents. Ideally, you and the other parent will sit down and hash out all of the above parameters, keeping in mind any special considerations like holidays, vacations, as well as the children’s schooling, health, and dental care.
To become official and for the agreement to be enforceable under state law, you will have to submit the finished agreement to a Judge who will then rule the arrangement into law. Keep in mind that a child custody agreement is always ruled upon according to what is best for the children. So even if you and your spouse agree on specific rules, those may change if a Judge decides they should change.
That is unless you choose divorce mediation, which doesn’t require a Judge’s involvement at all.
What Should You Ask For?
You should ask for whatever you feel is best for the children. While you may want to spend all the time with your kids, the kids need the other parent in their lives. Therefore, it helps to be even-minded and fair when deciding what is best for you, your spouse, and the kids.
What is the Best Kind of It?
The best child custody agreement is one where the kids share as much equal time with the parents as possible. The best arrangements are those that have the kids spending holidays and vacations evenly with the parents, while their schooling and other considerations are well taken care of.
Do You Need a Child Custody Lawyer?
It is always recommended that you get the advice of a skilled and experienced divorce attorney who can help you create an arrangement you and your spouse can both agree upon. If you choose mediation, you can still have a lawyer present. Your spouse can also bring their attorney to the mediation meetings, and this way you, your spouse, and your attorneys can develop a fair arrangement you all can agree upon.
How to Find a Good Child Custody Lawyer?
If you are going the mediation route, you will do well to find a child custody attorney who is experienced with the mediation process. That is why we recommend that you call Fresh Start Mediation, which is run by experienced divorce attorneys. Divorce lawyers Amy Lass, John Griffith, and Catie Young have helped countless couples arrange their divorces and child custody agreements without the need for expensive and drawn-out divorce court.
With mediation, you and your spouse will sit down with your attorneys present and discuss matters without your emotions getting in the way, which is often the case with divorce court.
The mediator is simply there to guide you to you and your spouse to a peaceful resolution you both can rely on.
Getting a Notarized Child Custody Agreement
If you and your spouse agree on the child custody agreement during the mediation sessions, the matter can be resolved right then and there. You and your spouse will get a notarized arrangement that describes what’s best for all involved, including the children.
To discuss mediation as an option for your upcoming divorce, and to get a child custody agreement you and your spouse can agree on, call Fresh Start Mediation today for a free evaluation in Carlsbad, Vista and San Marcos, CA.