A child custody agreement or parenting plan is a document that states important issues and concerns regarding child custody, visitation, financial support, parental responsibilities, and other matters that involve child-rearing. Making a parenting plan makes it easier for divorced or separated parents to co-parent their kids and keeps parenting in line with the kids’ general welfare. Although it looks simple, making a fair and objective parenting plan is quite challenging, most especially if the parents are not in good terms. But here is a guide that can help.
- Make your own parenting plan. If you are not comfortable sitting down with your ex-spouse, you can create your own parenting plan and discuss this with your ex-spouse in the presence of a mediator or attorney. Your ex-spouse might have even made his own, so you can try to consolidate both plans and come up with a parenting plan that works for both parties.
- Discuss child custody. Will one parent have the primary custody? Or will you adapt joint custody? Primary custody means the kids will live with one parent, while the other parent earns visitation rights. This works if you and your ex are living far from each other. You can discuss who is going to have primary custody and how and when the kids will be brought to the other parent. Joint custody, on the other hand, means the kids will live with both parents at any given time. In this setup, you need to create a schedule with which the kids can spend equal time with both parents. For example, the kids will spend alternating weeks in their parents’ homes or spend the whole summer and all holidays with one parent and school months with the other parent.
- Be specific with the schedule and manner of transfer. You have to be clear about the days of visitation (in the case of primary custody) or house transfer between the parents’ homes (in the case of joint custody) and how the transfer should be done. For example, make a visitation arrangement that states that the non-custodial parent can spend the weekend with the kids. He should pick them up every Friday at 5 in the afternoon and bring them home to their other parent every Sunday at 8 in the evening. If the animosity is severe between the parents, a third party can pick-up and drop-off the kids.
- Discuss decision-making duties. In the case of primary custody, the custodial parent usually has the primary responsibility of deriving legal and big decisions for the kids, although the other parent can also share his thoughts. Regardless, it is for the kids’ benefit if both parents have a say on matters that deal with their general welfare.
Read the parenting plan several times to ensure that there are no loopholes. If anything appears ambiguous or unfair, talk about it until both parties have arrived at a fair and reasonable decision. And finally, file the parenting plan in court to make it a legal document.