Even in the best circumstances, co-parenting children with your ex-partner can be tricky. It's beneficial for everyone involved if you adopt an official child custody agreement that dictates specific details regarding each parent's visitation schedule and other aspects of raising your children. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind as you navigate the process of creating a custody agreement with your former partner.
1. Separate Your Custody Agreement from Other Aspects of Your Uncoupling
When drafting a custody agreement, it's essential that you separate the elements in your custody agreement from other items regarding your separation. Your custody agreement should only address items that specifically pertain to effectively co-parenting your children.
For example, don't include financial details that address expenses or debts unrelated to your children in the custody agreement. These belong in your divorce decree or another discussion regarding your separation. However, it would be reasonable to address who will be responsible for expenses that specifically pertain to your kids.
You might specify how you will treat potentially variable items like daycare, medical premiums, and educational expenses. Will these by-items be included in child support, or will you and your partner address them outside of the child support calculations? Whatever you decide, make sure the details are as specific as possible.
2. Consider the Feasibility of Stipulations in Your Custody Agreement
When you're drafting your child custody agreement, it may be tempting to incorporate stipulations that sound like a good idea but that you have little means of enforcing. Or, perhaps the stipulation is more trouble to enforce than you anticipate.
One such stipulation is right of first refusal regarding visitation with your children. Right of first refusal states that if a parent can't care for their children during their specified visitation, they must offer the other parent that time with their children before bringing in a babysitter or family to help with childcare. While this sounds like a wise idea in theory, it's hard and time-consuming to enforce. Also, there may be benefits associated with your children spending time with your ex-partner's family or attending a high-quality childcare program.
3. Check That You Procure Permission Before Leaving the State (or Country)
Before you leave the state or country for a vacation or other trip, make sure that you procure permission from both the court and your spouse before departing. This will prevent the court or your ex-partner from believing that you're trying to take the children away or keep them from their other parent. You should also address requirements for requesting permission for future trips in your custody agreement.
For more information, contact a child custody attorney in your area.