Creating a Child Custody Agreement
This article explains the basics of creating a custody agreement. Examples of what to include, explanations of the different parts of the agreement, and how to make it official.
You can write up your own custody agreement (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional custody agreements and parenting schedules.
Your agreement should contain:
- A custody and visitation schedule
- A holiday visitation schedule
- Parenting plan and other provisions
- Child support information
- Anything else that will help you and the other parent raise the child
The custody and visitation schedule outlines when the child spends time with both parents. The schedule should show where the child is every day of the year--including holidays.
A complete schedule will have the following:
- A residential or weekday schedule: this is the basic schedule that repeats through the year that shows when the child is with each parent during the week and on weekends.
- A holiday schedule: this schedule shows where the child will spend time during holidays, school breaks, and other special occasions.
- Vacation time: this is an alternate residential schedule for school breaks and vacations. It also shows each parent's vacation time with the child.
- Special events: these are the one time events where the normal schedule changes.
If you create your schedule with Custody X Change you'll be able to:
- Easily make changes to your schedule as circumstances change
- Explore different options for your schedule until you find the right one for your child
- Maximize the parenting time you have with your child
- Sync your custody schedule with your Blackberry, iPhone, Palm/PDA, Outlook, Google Calendar, Yahoo Calendar, Windows Live, etc.
- Print multiple copies of your schedule so you and the other parent always know what's going on
Parenting provisions are the rules and stipulations that both parents agree to follow when raising the child.
Provisions that your agreement should contain include:
- Information about legal custody (legal custody is the authority parents have to make decisions for the child--the parents can share legal custody or one parent can have legal custody)
- How the parents will handle medical and dental care for the child (including how the parents will provide medical insurance)
- Information about the child's schooling and education
- Information about the child and religion
- How the parents will handle disputes about the agreement
- How the parents will make changes to the agreement
Some other helpful provisions for your agreement are:
- Information for how the parents will handle transportation for visits
- How exchanges for visitation will go
- How the parents will decide which extra-curricular activities the child can participate in
- A rule about the parents not saying negative things to the child about the other parent
- The right of first refusal (which means when a parent is not able to have the child during his/her time the other parent has the first right to have the child)
- Information about how the parents will communicate about the child
You can choose provisions from a list in Custody X Change to add to your agreement, and you can also create your own provisions and include them too.
Child support information. The calculations for child support depend on the state where you live. Your local courthouse should have the information about child support for your area, and you can put that information into your agreement.
Generally, the calculations require the income of each parent and the amount of time that each parent has the children. The amount of time each parent has the child is called the visitation timeshare calculation.
It's important to correctly calculate the timeshare percentage so that the right amount of child support is paid and received. Custody X Change has a timeshare calculator that shows you the exact percentage that each parent has the child so your child support will be accurate.
Joint custody can mean joint physical or joint legal custody.
- Joint physical custody is when the children spend significant time living with both parents. Some states require a certain parenting timeshare to qualify as joint physical custody.
- Joint legal custody is when parents both have authority and responsibility to make decisions for the children.
To make a joint custody agreement, you usually have a joint physical and joint legal custody arrangement. Sometimes you can have a a joint custody agreement with just joint physical or legal custody.
Some states prefer joint custody agreements so you should find out the guidelines for your state. Generally a joint agreement shows that both parents want to be equally involved with raising the children.
A joint custody agreement has the same information as a regular custody agreement, but the parents share parenting time and the duties of raising the children.
Your joint custody agreement with have a joint custody schedule where both parents have time with the children. You can easily make any type of shared or split schedule in Custody X Change and you can explore options for your joint schedule.
Joint custody agreements usually work best if you cooperate with the other parent when you make it.
First, you need to check your local and state laws to find out how to file your agreement. You may be able to submit your own written plan, or you may have to fill out specific paperwork to file your agreement.
The following documents from Custody X Change can help you when you file:
- a calendar of the custody schedule
- a written report of the schedule
- a list of the provisions
- a detailed timeshare report
In many places you can submit these papers when you file. Or, you can write the information from the reports onto the required court form. The software also lets you export all of your documents to Word, PDF, and Excel so you can make changes as you need to.
If you and the other parent agree on the plan, then you simply submit it to the court and the judge will approve it. If you and the other parent do not cooperate on the agreement you will go to court and the judge will decide on the custody agreement.
Once your agreement is filed and the judge approves it, it becomes an official court order. This means that you can go to court if the other parent violates the agreement. If you make your agreement and don't file it, the court cannot help you.
If you and the other parent agree on the changes to the plan, you can file a new agreement with the court. If you and the other parent don't agree on the changes, you will have to return to court and the judge will decide if the change is in the best interest of the child.
Once your agreement is in place, Custody X Change helps you know if it is being followed by letting you track the actual time that each parent has with the children and keep notes about parenting time. You can use these documents to help you know if your agreement is working, and to make appropriate changes to your agreement.