There are various kinds of custody agreements.
Some custody agreements are simple. They contain the basic required information and not much else. The provisions in simple agreements can often be misinterpreted since they can be vague.
Some custody agreements are generic. These are often just a standard form that an attorney or mediator will enter your names and case number on, check off a few boxes on, and stamp it to be filed with the court.
Some custody agreements are very elaborate and extremely detailed. They contain pages and pages of rules and provisions. Almost every imaginable scenario is addressed in the plan.
What kind of custody agreement should you make for your child? The answer is simple: Find out what works for your child, reach an agreement, and put it in writing.
The most effective custody agreements are the ones created by parents who strive to meet their child’s needs. There is no right or wrong answer or some magical formula that is going to tell you how to create your custody arrangements.
You will need to create your custody agreement according to the needs of your child and the desires of the parents.
Some parents (despite their divorce) are able to put their differences aside for the sake of their child and create an amiable custody agreement. They don’t feel the need to include a lot of details since they are willing and able to cooperate with each other and do what is best for their child on their own.
Other parents do not get along so well but are able to prepare a parenting plan detailed enough to be effective and successful. They may not like each other but their common bond with their child enables them to work together to create an effective plan. They rely on the parenting plan to keep them on track.
Other parents are so volatile that they follow every detail of their custody plan to the letter. They do not bend or deviate from the plan. They will even try to sabotage the other parent by doing things just to irritate the other parent when things are not covered in the plan. Parents like this need to have as many details as possible in their custody agreement.
You don’t have to be at each other’s throats in order to include a lot of details in your plan. In fact, a thoroughly detailed custody agreement can actually prevent conflict. A detailed parenting plan will have clearly stated rules and should run smoothly as long as the rules are agreed on and followed.
To have an effect custody agreement you will need to know what to include.
Basic custody agreements should contain provisions that address legal and physical custody, a process for reviewing the plan, a method for modifying the plan, a form of dispute resolution and an effective visitation schedule. It should also include additional provisions to serve as the extra “rules” in your agreement. These elements should be discussed with your ex and all aspects of the custody plan should be agreed upon if you want to have an effective custody agreement.
You may want to create a temporary agreement and give it a trial run before you finalize your custody arrangements. This will allow you to gauge what works, what doesn’t, and will give you the insight you will need to make changes.
The bottom line is if you want an effective custody agreement, you are going to have to work together to create one. You both love your child and want what is best for him. This should serve as the common ground you will need to stand on as you move forward in the custody process.
A child visitation schedule dictates when the child will spend time with each parent.
Whether you share joint custody or one parent has sole custody and the other has visitation, a visitation schedule is a key component of an effective custody agreement.
There a few things you should keep in mind if you want to create an effective visitation schedule:
Create a schedule you can follow. You should consider your work schedules and your child’s school schedule when you are preparing your visitation schedule. Your schedule should be easy to follow.
For example, if a parent gets off work at five but often has to work late or can be held up in traffic, you should start the visitation time at 6:30 instead of 6:00. This will allow the parent enough time to get there and no one will be inconvenienced.
Create a schedule you can agree on. Reaching an agreement can be challenging but it is imperative if you want to have an effective visitation schedule. It is easier to follow a schedule you create than one created for you by a judge or mediator.
As your child’s parents, you have intimate knowledge of the details and circumstances that may have an effect on your child’s schedule. You should make every effort to create a visitation schedule that both parents are satisfied with.
Take the time to include a detailed holiday schedule. It is common for parents to alternate holidays in even and odd years but you should not feel obligated to do so. Your child should be able to spend ample amounts of time with each of you on holidays and special occasions. How you choose to divide the holidays is up to you.
You may want to base the holiday schedule on family traditions. If one parent celebrates Easter and the other does not, it would make more sense for the child to spend every Easter with the parent that does.
You may include any holidays and special occasions you would like to in your schedule, including birthdays.
Be flexible with vacation time. You may want to include provisions that address vacation time instead of assigning actual vacation dates. For example, instead of stating that a parent’s vacation time with the child shall be the last two weeks of July, you can include instructions for reserving vacation time.
You may want to declare the length of the vacation time and require each parent to get the other parent a certain amount of advanced notice prior to taking the child for an extended vacation. This will benefit your child because work schedules can vary and a parent may not be able to take the time off from work during a specifically assigned timeframe.
Disregard child support. Child support should NEVER be a motive for seeking more visitation time with your child. Whether a parent is trying to receive more support or trying to avoid paying more support, financial matters should have no bearing on the amount of time you and the other parent spend with your child.
Create your schedule according to the best interests of your child and let the judge worry about the financial aspects of your custody case.
You will be legally obligated to abide by the terms of the child visitation schedule once it is approved by the court. You should create your visitation schedule with careful thought and consideration. It will have a lasting effect on the relationships your child will have with each of you.
A custody agreement should include everything you need to ensure the rules for raising your child apart are clearly defined. Different states have different laws, so you should be aware of the specific legislation in your state to ensure you are not leaving anything out. The principles of a custody agreement remain constant in all of the states.
A basic custody agreement should contain:
- The kind of legal custody each parent will have and specific provisions delegating parental decision-making authority to either or both parents
- The kind of physical custody each parent will have and a basic visitation schedule that details the child’s living arrangements and how the child’s time will be divided between the parents
- A method for reviewing the plan in the future to ensure it is still relevant and meeting the child’s needs
- A method for modifying the plan should the child’s needs or circumstances change in the future
- A method for dispute resolution to help the parents reach an agreement should they need help finding solutions to any future conflict
- Any other provisions the parents feel are relevant and beneficial to the child
The “other provisions” you choose to include now may save you a lot of stress in the future. If you both establish the rules now, there will be little to argue about in the future.
Think about what issues you may be having now and try to predict future ones.
Do you send your child in nice clean clothes, only to have him returned in old stained up sweatpants? Does every toy your child takes disappear after she takes it to your ex’s house? If you are having problems with the child’s clothing and other possessions, you can include stipulations in the agreement that will act as a solution.
You may address the problems you are having with your child’s belongings in your custody agreement. You may stipulate that anything the child brings with him must be returned with the child or you may wish to include some other solution.
Do you envision your child returning from a visit with cropped blue hair? You can include provisions that state which parent will be responsible for making decisions about the child’s hair and other physical changes, such as piercings if you feel this may be a potential problem.
Did your ex buy your eight year old a cell phone when you feel she isn’t old enough to have one? Address it in your custody agreement. While you certainly cannot dictate what the other parent buys for your child, you certainly can request that these possessions are left at his or her house.
There is no limit to the amount of stipulations you may include in your custody agreement as long as you both agree to the rules. If there are issues that you do not agree on, you can ask the judge to make the decision (whether or not to include the provisions) for you.
You should always be prepared to provide the judge with a valid reason for your request. If you do not want your child around your ex’s new girlfriend simply because you don’t like her, your request will probably be denied. However, if the new girlfriend lost custody of her own children due to abuse and neglect, it is a reasonable request. (Be sure to bring proof of this to court!) You can even include a stipulation that protects you child from being exposed to anyone convicted of a violent crime or other potentially detrimental offenses.
Including your stipulations doesn’t have to be complex. You can create your basic custody agreement and just add them in at the end or include them as an attached page. You should never have to feel hesitant about adding in rules to protect your child and prevent current and future conflict.
Once a custody agreement is accepted by the court, it will become part of the custody order and you will be legally obligated to comply with it. The agreement will serve as the rules and regulations for raising your child apart. It is wise to make the extra effort to create a good plan now in order to spare yourselves conflict in the future. All parts of your custody agreement should be created with care and contemplation.
The child visitation schedule is a part of the custody agreement. A basic visitation schedule addresses the living arrangements of the child and defines when the child will spend time with each parent. You don’t have to map out an entire year’s worth of visitation, though. You can simply create a visitation schedule that repeats on a regular basis.
For example, you could state that the father shall have visitation with the child on Wednesdays and Thursdays and then alternating weekends from Thursday night until Sunday afternoon. The schedule would begin on the day you agreed upon, go through a two week cycle, and repeat.
Aside from a regular residential schedule, your child custody schedule should include plans for holidays and vacations.
Holiday visitation has priority over regular visitation. This means that even if a holiday falls on “your” day, the parent that is scheduled to have the child for the holiday will have the child instead.
You can include any holidays you want in your basic custody agreement. There are the traditional holidays, such as federal, state, and religious holidays, and there are other special occasions (such as Father’s Day and birthdays) that may be included as well.
In fact, you can include special occasions in your holiday schedule based on your own family traditions. For example, if one parent takes an annual camping trip with extended family the same time each summer or a parent has a family reunion/cookout each fall, you may include these occasions in your schedule.
The important thing is to ensure that your child’s needs are being met and your child gets to spend an equitable amount of time with each of you on holidays and special occasions. Some parents choose to alternate having the child on holidays in even and odd years, but you certainly have the opportunity and ability to create the holiday schedule as you see fit.
The custody agreement should also account for vacation time. Work schedules may be difficult to predict and scheduling vacation time may be challenging. Instead of adding actual vacation time to the visitation schedule, you may want to include a provision in your agreement that states how many vacation days each parent will have with the child and how much advance notice should be given to the other parent. If you are concerned about the child being taken out of the state of out of the country, you can include stipulations regarding travel in your plan.
You should also address school breaks and vacations. It is common for the “non-custodial” parent, or the parent who spends less time with the child during the school year, to have the child for extended periods of time during summer vacation, spring break, and winter vacation.
Your child’s school should have a yearly calendar with all of the vacation dates included. This will help you to plan ahead during the school year in order to make arrangements for the school breaks. However, you can include provisions in your custody agreement that state the other parent “shall have the child for six weeks during the summer” or whatever you decide on. You can narrow down the actual dates as the time approaches.
Once you have submitted your custody agreement and visitation schedule to the court, you may want to create a visitation calendar. You can make a copy of the visitation calendar for yourself, your ex, and your child, so everyone will always be on the same page and there is no confusion with the schedule.
Creating a basic custody agreement and vacation schedule doesn’t have to be a chore. Think about your child’s needs, contemplate all aspects of every situation, and create a plan that works for you and your child.
Being in the military adds extra challenges to child custody cases.
The first thing you should be concerned about when filing for child custody or responding to a suit for child custody is jurisdiction.
Jurisdiction is the right and power of a court to interpret and apply the law. Jurisdiction has territories. You will want to make sure your case is filed in the correct court, meaning the court that has power (jurisdiction) over your case.
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is federal legislation followed by all of the United States with the exception of Massachusetts (though a bill is pending as of May 2012). It has also been adopted by the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.
The UCCJEA grants jurisdiction to the child’s “home state”—that is, the state where the child has lived for the six months prior to filing a custody motion. This might seem a little tricky for military families who move a lot or who have recently relocated.
If the child has not lived in a state for six consecutive months, then a court in a state that has “significant connections” to the child and at least one of the parents would have jurisdiction. If each parent is significantly connected a different state, it is up to the courts to decide which state is more significant and which state would have jurisdiction.
To have “significant connections” to a specific state, a parent will also have to show evidence of the connections. This could be done by providing school or medical records and / or by demonstrating the child’s personal relationships in that state.
Some examples of significant connections:
The child was born in Arizona and spent the first seven years of his life there before the family was transferred to Virginia. They recently relocated to California. The child is now ten years old, still has strong family connections in Arizona, and the non-military parent plans on returning there or has recently moved back.
The child was born in Texas and has a maternal grandmother there. However, the family relocated to Washington where they spent the past eight years until their recent relocation to Maryland. The child has ties to her school and community in Washington and one parent plans on returning to the Evergreen State with the child.
The child was born in Montana and has significant connections to New York and Tennessee. The family is currently living in Florida and has been for three months. The child is in school and the parents plan on remaining in Florida. The parents would like for Florida to assume jurisdiction of their case.
Each case gives specific reasons for requesting a state’s jurisdiction. You will need to present compelling evidence when requesting jurisdiction.
Once you file for custody and a state assumes jurisdiction, that state will retain jurisdiction until that state determines that the child is no longer connected to the state and / or neither the child nor the parents live there any longer.
Establishing jurisdiction is just one step in the custody process. You will need to create a military custody agreement that will meet the needs of your child. This will require you to work with the other parent to the best of your ability in order to create a parenting plan for your child.
You will also have to create a military visitation schedule. This can also get a little complicated. As a military parent, you will need to put forth the extra effort in order to have provisions available for your current situation as well as any potential scenarios, such as relocation and deployment.
Your child custody arrangements should be made with care and contemplation. A thorough custody agreement will meet all of your child’s needs while protecting the rights of both parents. You shouldn’t have to feel as though you are being penalized for serving in the military as it pertains to the custody of your child.
The laws pertaining to child custody and visitation vary from state to state. Some states have specific laws that apply to military families involved in custody disputes while others do not. You should become familiar with the custody laws in your jurisdiction in order to prepare for your custody proceedings.
Deployment is a fact of life in the military. Military men and women must leave their loved ones behind while they serve their country from various parts of the world. It is a huge sacrifice for the family and the armed forces member.
A deployment can last for a few weeks, a few months, or even over a year, depending on the branch of service and orders. A typical Navy deployment is about 6 month. An Army deployment is usually for 12-14 months. Deployments can also be extended and may last longer than expected.
Deployment can have a significant impact on a child. When a child’s parents are divorced, it can have an even greater effect. The deployed parent must depend on the cooperation of the custodial parent in order to stay in contact with the child. If the custodial parent refuses to allow the deployed parent to keep in contact with the child, the deployed parent has little recourse and can’t do much about it until he or she returns home.
Regardless of whether or not there are laws to protect deployed parents in your state, you can include provisions in your military custody agreement that address how the military parent and your child will communicate when that parent is deployed.
In fact, as long as both parents are able to reach an agreement, you may include anything in your custody agreement that you feel is relevant and is in the best interest of your child.
In order to reach an agreement, both parents should put their personal feelings aside and focus on the well-being of the child when creating the custody agreement and a military visitation schedule. This will help you create a plan that is fair to both parents and more importantly, fair to your child.
You should decide how the deployed parent is going to keep in touch with the child and include stipulations regarding the frequency of the communication, which parent will be responsible for paying for any necessary equipment and service fees, and any other information you would like to address.
The custodial parent should agree to help foster a relationship between the child and the other parent by cooperating with and encouraging the communication requests of the deployed parent. Once the parent has deployed, a child will need help holding on to the parental bonds he has with the other parent.
Members of the United State military should never have to worry about their custodial rights whilst fighting for our freedoms in far off lands. A well written and comprehensive custody agreement is a great way to help protect the rights of the parent and the child. Adding specific details into your custody plan will ensure your custody agreement is customized to meet your child’s needs and protects parental rights.
Most courts in the United States have some form of standard or generic visitation schedule that is provided to parents who are unable to work out an agreement on their own. As parents, you should want what is best for your child and not feel obligated or required to use a standardized schedule.
The purpose of these generic schedules is to provide the non-custodial parent with the bare minimum amount of visitation time. The amount of time a generic visitation schedule allows a child to see their non-custodial parent is “better than nothing”.
Many of these visitation schedules limit children to seeing their non-custodial parent every other weekend. That means the children spend most of their time with one parent and only get to see the other parent every two weeks.
“Every other weekend” schedules may work for some people. If the non-custodial parent has a busy career or travels a lot, every other weekend may be the only time he or she is available to spend time with the child.
Limited parental involvement may have even been a situation that might have existed prior to the divorce. However, in most situations, children want to see and need to see both of their parents more than a couple of days out of the month.
Both of you are equally important to your child. You each have your own unique roles to play in your child’s life. Children benefit from having both parents actively involved in their lives. You should make every effort to ensure your child has two parents in her life.
If you want to have a successful visitation schedule that benefits your child you will need to decline the implementation of a generic custody schedule and create your own. You will also need to work with the other parent to reach an agreement. If you do not, the end result will more than likely be the generic schedule.
Working with the other parent to create a visitation schedule may be challenging due to the nature of your relationship. It helps to keep in mind that you must do this for the sake of your child. Both of you want what is best for your child. It’s just a matter of overcoming your differences in order to reach a common goal.
You should find a way to work together in a professional manner and set your personal feelings for each other aside. If you have ever had to do it in the workplace, you must be aware that it is possible to work with someone you don’t especially like. Consider this a task you must accomplish regardless of whether or not you get along with the other parent. It must be done.
Every situation is different. There is no “magic formula” that will enable you to create the “perfect schedule” and most successful custody arrangements. You will need to evaluate your circumstances and devise a plan that will allow your child to spend frequent and ongoing time with both of you.
This does not necessarily mean you have to divide your child’s time equally between you. You just need to make sure that your child is given the opportunity to spend quality time with both of you and is able to have a good relationship with each of you.
A child should never have to feel like she has one parent she lives with and another parent that she “visits”. She should feel as if she has two parents and they are both responsible for her care and upbringing.
Once you are able to work out an agreement you should submit it to the court for approval. As long as the court finds it is in the best interest of your child, your visitation schedule should be included in the custody order. You will then experience the benefits of a schedule custom-made for your child.
Once you bring your custody case to court for litigation, you can expect the end result to be a court order that you will be legally obligated to comply with until your child is eighteen.
If you want to create successful custody arrangements for your child, you will have to put forth some effort and be prepared to work with the other parent to reach an agreement.
Here are some things to consider as you make your custody arrangements (The Seven C’s):
Customization: Create a plan specifically for your child.
Your custody agreement should be as unique as your child is. Never feel as if you have to conform to accepting a standard custody plan or generic schedule.
The custody process is your opportunity to create custody arrangement specifically for your child. The most successful visitation schedules and custody agreement are ones that are customized to the specific needs of the child.
It may take a little more time and effort to create custom custody arrangements for your child but the results are well worth it.
Contemplation: Think about the needs of your child and anticipate how things will be in the future.
You will want to create a plan that is realistic and you will be able to follow. You should consider your work schedules and your child’s schedule and make a visitation schedule that will provide your child with quality time with both parents. It doesn’t make any sense to schedule visitation time when you know your child will be in daycare during that time.
You will also need to plan for the future. If you are making a custody plan for a school age child, you will want to include provisions for the needs of your child when she is a teenager. Thinking ahead will allow you to address future issues and find solutions before there is any conflict.
Concentration: Focus on the needs of your child and don’t leave anything out.
Your custody arrangements should include:
- A residential schedule
- A schedule for holidays and vacation times
- Provisions for legal custody and making major decisions for the child
- Provisions for raising the child apart, such as how to handle transportation and optional expenses
- Methods for reviewing and modifying the plan
- Methods for dispute resolution
Cooperation: Work together to reach an agreement.
A judge will generally approve any custody agreement that is agreed upon by both parents.
If parents are unable to reach an agreement, the court will create the custody arrangements for them.
It is always better to create your own agreement. This allows you to retain control of your child’s custody arrangements and to make a plan you are both satisfied with. Custody arrangements are easier to follow when you make them yourselves.
Communication: Listen to each other and keep each other informed.
Communication is so important when parents live apart. You will need to develop an effective method of communication if you want to have successful custody arrangements.
Some parents are able to talk in person or on the phone. Other parents may prefer to communicate in writing. The method you use to keep in touch isn’t important. Doing it is.
Can you imagine picking up your feverish child without having any idea as to when or if he was given Tylenol?
Communication is vital to the health and well-being of your child. Decide how you will communicate and include it in your plan.
Clarification: Know what your plan means.
If there are any portions of your custody agreement that are vague or could be interpreted more than one way, clarify them.
You can never have too many details in your custody agreement. If things aren’t clear, it could cause conflict in the future. Take the time to ensure your custody plan is clear, concise, and complete.
Consideration: Respect the other parent and your child.
Keep in mind that you are not the only parent. Both of you are equally important to your child and your child should be able to have a relationship with both of you without interference from either of you.
The sooner “my child” becomes “our child”, the better. You should always consider the feelings and rights of your child and your former spouse when making custody decisions.
You should also be considerate of your child’s feelings when speaking about your ex. You wouldn’t want someone talking bad about your mom or telling you what a jerk your dad is. If you must speak ill of the other parent, do it when your child is elsewhere.
Keep these “Seven C’s” in mind as you create your custody arrangements. Your diligence will be rewarded with a successful custody order that meets the needs of your child.
When you create a child visitation schedule for a younger child, you have a lot of flexibility since the visitation times mainly revolve around your employment schedules. Once children start school, your scheduling must accommodate your work schedules and also the child’s school schedule.
Scheduling visitation would not be too difficult if children had set schedules. If school started at the same time each morning and let out at the same time each day five days a week, it would be quite easy to establish a routine.
Unfortunately, it seems like many schools have various reasons for deviating from a set schedule. There are teacher work days, minimum days, late start days, and even weather related school closures that may interfere with a predictable routine.
When you factor in those days with school closures for vacations and holidays it can be a logistical challenge to create a visitation schedule for a school age child.
Most schools post their calendars online so you will be able to consult their calendar as you plan out your visitation schedule. However, you may want to include provisions for what to do when there is a three day weekend or other times when school is out.
You can include as many stipulations as you would like in your custody agreement so you might as well address how you will handle deviations from the normal school schedule.
Another concern you may want to address is what you will do when your child has to miss school or leave school early due to illness. Most daycares will not tend a sick child so if you cannot find someone to take care of your child when he is sick, someone is going to have to miss work to take care of him. Once your child is a teenager he should be able to stay home alone when sick but someone may have to pick them up from school if he becomes ill.
If you and your ex are both employed full-time, you may want to consider taking turns staying home from work when your child is sick. Sharing the responsibility of taking care of your child when she is sick is a fair way to ensure that one parent doesn’t have to use all of his or her sick days and vacation days to care for the child while the other parent stockpiles paid time off. Alternating sick time in this manner is something you can verbally agree to or incorporate into your custody plan.
Making sure your child gets home from school is also something you may have to worry about. When a child has two homes, a parent may assume that the child is at the other parent’s home when they are not. Teenagers and older school children have been known to decide to go to a friend’s house or somewhere else after school instead of home.
If you want to know where your child is at all times, stick to your custody schedule. If you follow your plan then you will be less likely to assume your child is with the other parent when she is really at the park or the mall because you will notice her absence with concern.
You will have plenty of challenges and other things to deal with as your raise your child. Struggling with the visitation schedule should not be one of them if you are able to create a comprehensive custody plan and visitation schedule for your teenager or school age child that addresses all of your child’s needs.
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Children benefit tremendously from having both parents involved in their lives. Children that have both parents actively participating in their lives are generally happier and better behaved than children with an absent parent are. Most courts concede that it is … Continue reading
Teenagers are always on the go. They have school, extra-curricular activities, some have part-time jobs, and of course, they have “social lives” and spend a lot of time with their friends.
All of these things keep teenagers busy. Married parents often find that they are not able to spend much time with their teenagers because the kids are rarely home.
How do divorced parents manage to spend time with their teenage children when they have to divide their busy child’s time? They do the best they can.
Start with creating a visitation schedule for your teenager that allows your child to spend an appropriate amount of time with each parent. You will need to decide when you child should spend time with each of you while working around their schedule.
This may look great on paper–until you find out that the schedule you wrote to accommodate football practice just doesn’t work a few months later when basketball season starts.
The key to creating a successful visitation schedule for a teenager is flexibility. Once you have established your visitation schedule, stick to it as best as you can.
For example, if visitation is supposed to start at 6pm but your daughter has cheerleading practice until 6:30pm, you may want to add the extra time that was missed on to the end of the visit.
The visitation schedule may start to feel like a “which house is my child going to sleep at tonight” schedule because sometimes it may feel like the only time you see your teen is just before he or she goes to bed.
You should try to establish some sort of routine that requires your teen to take time out of his or her “busy schedule” to make time for family.
This could be as simple as requiring your child to be home by 7:30 each night for dinner, regardless of who has visitation time. This might not work if your child has to work, but you could have your child request to have certain days off from work (such as every Wednesday) so he or she is able to spend that time with the non-custodial parent on a regular basis.
If you have had a visitation schedule for a school age child, all you had to worry about was working around his or her school schedule. Now, with all the activities and “plans” your teenager has, it may start to feel like he or she doesn’t need you.
In fact, teens need their parents more than ever. As they struggle to figure out who they are and become less dependent on their parents, teenage children still need to have their parents actively involved in their lives. They need guidance, discipline, and advice. These things should come from their parents.
You should also keep in mind that just because a teenager wants to do something doesn’t mean you have to grant them permission to do so. While having a sullen teenager sulking around the house isn’t appealing to most people, it is better than having no teenager sitting around the house at all.
Set down some ground rules and let your child know what is expected of him or her regarding family time and let him or her know that denying a social time request isn’t a punishment. Let him or her know that they are wanted and needed at home. It might not be a popular choice according to your teen but it is a good way to be able to spend a little time with your teenager.
When creating a visitation schedule for a toddler or young child, you will want to make sure that your schedule is age appropriate and meets your child’s needs.
It is important that a child is given the opportunity to bond with and establish a relationship with both parents. Your child’s visitation schedule should provide your child with frequent, ongoing contact with both parents.
The age and developmental stage of your child will likely have an effect on the nature of your visitation schedule.
For example, if your toddler is quiet, reserved, and especially clingy to his primary caregiver, shorter (but frequent) visits with the other parent may work better for him. You can work up to longer visits as time progresses and your child adjusts to the routine.
If your young child is independent and does not become distressed in the absence of her primary caregiver, you should allow your child to have lengthier visits with the other parent.
Once children are old enough to understand the situation, it becomes a lot easier on both parents because the child realizes that she will be coming “home” after the visit and has the ability to verbalize his or her feelings.
While a toddler may express her emotions by crying, screaming, and throwing a fit, a pre-school age child is equipped with better communication skills should not have a problem voicing her opinion. Young children can also be reasoned with. This makes the visitation schedule easier to follow and execute.
As you create your visitation schedule for a young child or toddler, you should take cues from your child but it is also important to realize that the schedule should not be entirely based on the feelings and reactions of your child. If this were the case, a child suffering from separation anxiety would never see the non-primary parent.
It is up to you to judge what is best for your child and incorporate your child’s needs and best interests into your visitation schedule.
The best way to have your schedule approved by the court is to sit down with the other parent and work out a plan. If both of you are able to agree on a visitation schedule, the judge will review it to make sure it serves the needs of your child and will then approve it.
That sounds easier to do than it is. It can be difficult to work with the other parent and hard to agree on any aspect of your child custody case.
You should do everything you can to set aside your differences and focus on what would be best for your child. Unless your ex is a bad person and a danger to your child, you should not stand in the way of your child’s relationship with that parent.
Mediation is an available option parents make use to work out an agreement. In some jurisdictions, parents involved in a custody case are required to attend mediation.
Regardless of whether or not mediation is voluntary or mandatory, you should approach it with patience and an open mind. Mediation can be a valuable tool if you choose to use it to the advantage or your child.
Keep in mind that as your child grows, your visitation plan should grow as well. The schedule you make now for your toddler or young child probably won’t be very relevant five years from now. Your parenting plan should include a method for modifying the schedule in the future as circumstances will change.
You can also anticipate the needs of your child as he grows older by including schedules for future use. They may or may not serve the needs of your child in the future, but at least you will have something to fall back on.
States have different laws regarding child custody, especially when one parent lives in a different state from his or her children. Negotiating child custody is difficult enough without adding the challenges of a long-distance parenting relationship after your divorce.
Whether you are currently divorcing or you are interested in seeking to revise your current child custody arrangements, your state’s laws may prevent you or the other parent from moving out of the state with the children unless you meet certain conditions. Become familiar with your state’s laws concerning moving out of state and how that affects your custody status.
Here are 5 things to know that will help you negotiate your out-of-state custody arrangement:
- Know what state is considered to be your family’s home state. In most situations, you can file for custody in what is considered the children’s home state. A home state is generally considered to be where you and your children have lived for six consecutive months.
- Know the laws of your state concerning the right of the custodial parent to move out of state with the children. With a greater emphasis on equal parenting rights, many states have made tighter restrictions on what a custodial parent can do when it comes to relocating.
- Know that the family court will only approve changes or revisions to the child custody agreement if they are in the best interests of the children. In other words, you must show how your solutions to the out-of-state challenges you face will help your children’s development rather than hinder it.
- Know what an interstate custody arrangement means to your lifestyle and that of your children. New challenges may include providing all or part of the transportation cost for your children’s visits or driving them all or partway to the other parent’s home.
- Know that today’s technology can have a significant impact on maintaining the children’s bond with the long-distance parent, and that any out-of-state custody arrangement should include details on frequent, open and accessible communication between parents and children.
Whether you are moving away for a new job or the other parent is seeking to live closer to aging parents, negotiating an out-of-state custody agreement can trigger negative emotions. The thought of living far away from your children may cause you to dig in your heels and refuse to be flexible.
Although refusing to negotiate may bring you some satisfaction in frustrating the other parent, it is not the best thing for your children. Your intimate relationship with the other parent may be over, but you will always be in a partnership when it comes to raising your children.
To help them become well-adjusted, emotionally stable adults, it’s critical that your children develop meaningful relationships with both of you. Don’t stand in the way of your children creating lasting bonds with either of you.
Once you and the other parent recognize that it is in your children’s best interests to maintain deep and meaningful relationships with both of you, you can shift your focus from conflict with each other to agreeing on what’s best for them.
If you are involved in a custody case, you should do everything you possibly can to increase your chances of having your custody agreement successfully accepted by the court.
The best case scenario is that you were able to reach a custody agreement with your ex. You were able to set your differences aside and work out an agreement for the sake of your child.
The worst case scenario is that your ex disagrees with every single thing that comes out of your mouth. You took the time to prepare a custody agreement for mediation and he or she refused to even look at it and was so hostile that you are unable to work out a single detail of your parenting plan with him or her.
Even if you were not able to reach an agreement with your ex, you should still submit a proposed custody agreement to the court. This will offer the judge some insight into the unique needs of your child. If you offer the judge valid reasons for your proposed parenting plan, he or she may be inclined to accept your plan instead of ordering you to follow a generic custody order.
The judge will review your custody agreement and has the power to make changes to it even if you both agreed to the plan. You should strive to create a custody agreement that the judge will approve “as is” so you retain control over your child’s situation.
There are three basic elements you should consider as you prepare your custody agreement for court:
Appearance–The phrase “You can’t judge a book by its cover” does not apply when you are in the courtroom. After all, you will be standing before and presenting your proposed custody agreement to a judge. Not only should you dress appropriately and present yourself in a respectable manner, your documents should be crisp and clean, as well. They should be free of folds, wrinkles, rips, stains, and smears.
The contents of your documents should be written with uniformity and you should use an appropriate font and font size. The judge will not consider a 20 point swirly font to be cute or amusing.
If you want a truly professional looking custody agreement, you should use Custody X Change to create your documents. Then all you have to worry about is entering the information. The software does the all of the formatting.
Clarity– Your custody agreement does not have to be written in “fancy” or very technical words. It should be easy to comprehend and it is acceptable to use common terms when writing your agreement.
If your custody agreement is easy to read, there should be no confusion about any of its contents in the future. You can be articulate without overwhelming the reader with “big words” and excessive legal terminology.
Content–This is the most important aspect of your custody agreement. First and foremost, your custody agreement should be written in the best interest of your child. This means that everything in your custody agreement should be written with the best intentions of doing what is best for your child. The best interest of the child is the main priority of the court and is what the court’s decisions will be based upon.
You will be legally bound to follow the terms of your custody agreement once it becomes a court order so what you choose to include in your custody agreement is very important. There are certain elements that your custody agreement must contain, such as a child visitation schedule, but you are free to include additional provisions and stipulations that are relevant to co-parenting your child.
Every aspect of the contents of your custody agreement should be extremely detailed so there is no room for interpretation. A comprehensive custody agreement with clearly stated rules will help you avoid conflict in the future.
Don’t worry about the length of your agreement. It can be 150 pages long provided that the content is relevant, agreed on by both parents, and is what is best for your child.
If you incorporate these tips into your plan, your chances of having your custody agreement approve should increase dramatically.
Too often, people involved in custody disputes focus on what they want and getting their own way. They allow their desire to “win” to overshadow what is most important—their child.
Children with good parents benefit from having both parents actively involved in their lives. The child is the one who suffers the most harm when parents try to prevent each other from having a relationship with the child.
Since most courts concede that it is in the best interest of a child to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents, you should mirror this philosophy in your custody agreement.
Part of the custody process involves attending mediation. Mediation is mandatory in some states and voluntary in others so you should check your local statutes to see which situation applies to you. Regardless, mediation is an excellent opportunity to negotiate an agreement with the other parent.
Mediation allows parents to sit down with a neutral third party and find solutions to their custody disagreements. The mediator will serve as a much needed buffer between the parents and will help them create custody arrangements they can both agree on.
It is very important to come to mediation equipped to create the best possible custody agreement for your child. Preparing a custody agreement for mediation isn’t a difficult task but you should put careful thought and consideration into all aspects of your agreement.
You should keep in mind that your custody agreement will eventually become a court order that you and your ex will be legally obligated to follow until your child reaches adulthood or you go back to court to try to modify the plan. You should include as many details as possible when making your agreement.
For example, if you both agree that each of you will be responsible for paying for half of the child’s medical expenses you should include that in the plan. However, simply stating that “The parents shall each pay for 50% of the child’s medical expenses” is a pretty vague statement. When you leave things open to interpretation in your custody agreement, you create the opportunity for conflict to arise.
Instead, try to predict all possible aspects of every situation. A more thorough stipulation might state:
- Each parent shall be responsible for paying 50% of the child’s medical and dental expenses incurred for preventative and medically necessary health care.
- The parent that incurs the medical expense shall provide a copy of the medical invoice to the other parent within 10 days after receiving it from the medical provider.
- If a parent should fail to provide the other parent with a copy of an invoice within 30 days of receipt, that parent shall be solely responsible for paying the invoice.
- Each parent shall be responsible for paying their portion directly to the provider according to the terms of the invoice.
- Should a provider require payment in advance, the parent incurring the charges shall pay the upfront costs and provide the other parent with a copy of the invoice and the receipt in order to be reimbursed.
The details in the above example may seem a bit excessive but Luke B. from Nashville was forced to go back to court to modify his custody order to include similar verbiage after his ex-wife presented him with a “bill” for $1800 for his portion of their children’s medical expenses.
The provision in their prior custody order was generic and non-descript so she felt compelled to “bill” him for an entire year’s worth of expenses all at once.
Your custody arrangements should be thoroughly detailed in order to prevent conflict, misinterpretation, and to protect yourselves from being taken advantage of.
To start preparing your custody agreement for mediation you should make a list of everything you want to include in your custody agreement. You will need to determine what kind of custody each of you shall have and decide on a visitation schedule. You will need to decide who will make certain decisions or have the final say regarding important matters in the child’s life. You will also need to include the provisions that will serve as the rules and regulations for co-parenting your child.
Once you have decided what to include in your agreement, consider each topic carefully and create specific instructions. Then you will need to incorporate everything and write your proposed custody agreement.
Custody X Change is a great way to create your custody agreement. The software guides you through many common topics and allows you to enter your own provisions as well.
Bring copies of your proposed parenting plan to mediation for the mediator and your ex. You should be prepared to explain why you feel your proposed agreement is in the best interest of your child and give valid reasons for your requests.
The other parent may have different ideas. Some of them you may agree with and you may have to compromise on some issues. Try to keep an open mind and remember that this agreement is for your child and you want what is best for him or her.
There may be some unresolved issues even after attending mediation. As you prepare your custody agreement for court you should notate which portions of your proposed custody arrangements were agreed upon and which portions need to be decided on by the judge.
In the end, all of your thoroughness and hard work should pay off because the details in your custody agreement will help things run smoothly. You child will be happier because you will have more time to focus on him or her when you are not wasting time fighting with your ex.