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Creating a Child Custody Agreement

Where do I start?

You can have a lawyer write your custody agreement — or if you want to save money, you can write it yourself. To do this easily, you can use the Custody X Change app.

You can wait to start writing until you've nailed down details with the other parent, or you can create drafts earlier in the process. Ideally, parents should work together closely, rather than have one simply sign off at the end.

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What goes into my custody agreement?

Your agreement should contain:

  • A custody and visitation schedule (including a holiday schedule)
  • Parenting 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 each parent. It should show where the child is every day of the year, including holidays.

A complete schedule has:

  • A residential or weekday schedule: This is the basic schedule that repeats throughout the year. It shows when the child is with each parent during regular weeks and weekends.
  • A holiday schedule: This shows where the child spends time during holidays, school breaks and other special occasions.
  • Vacation time: This schedule shows each parent's vacation time with the child.
  • Special events: These are one-time events where the normal schedule changes.

If you create your schedule with Custody X Change, you'll be able to:

Parenting provisions are the rules both parents agree to follow when raising the child.

Provisions that your agreement should contain include:

  • Whether the parents will share legal custody or one parent will have legal custody (the authority to make decisions for the child)
  • How the parents will decide on medical and dental care for the child (including how they will provide insurance)
  • Information about the child's schooling and education
  • How the parents will handle disputes
  • How the parents will make changes to the agreement

Some other helpful provisions for your agreement are:

  • How the parents will handle transportation for visits
  • How the parents will exchange the child
  • How the parents will decide which extracurricular activities the child can participate in
  • A rule about the parents not saying negative things about the other parent to the child
  • Whether one parent will get the opportunity to watch the child when the other parent needs a babysitter (called the right of first refusal)
  • How the parents will communicate about the child

In Custody X Change, you can choose from more than 140 common provisions, as well as create your own.

Child support details depend on your state's child support formula, unless you and the other parent agree to a different amount.

Generally, support formulas use the number of children in a case, each parent's income and their percentage of time with the children.

It's important to calculate parenting time precisely so the child support award is right. Custody X Change instantly shows you the amount of time each parent has the child — by month or by year, including or excluding school hours.

A few states, such as Washington, keep child support information separate from custody agreements. Check local rules.

What is a joint custody agreement?

Joint custody can mean two things.

  • 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.

In joint custody agreements, parents generally agree to share joint physical and legal custody.

What is a sole custody agreement?

Sole custody can mean two things.

  • Sole physical custody is when the children live with one parent. They typically have visits with the other parent.
  • Sole legal custody is when only one parent has the authority and responsibility to make major decisions for the children.

In sole custody agreements, parents usually agree that one of them should have sole physical and legal custody. States generally approve this arrangement when parents consider it best, even though many states officially prefer joint custody.

How do I make my agreement official?

You need to submit it to the court when you settle your divorce or custody case. You may be able to submit your own document, or you may have to fill out specific paperwork. Check agreement guidelines in your location.

Judges almost always approve agreements between parents, unless it could harm the child. If a parent objects to an agreement, the case goes to trial so the judge can decide custody.

Once your agreement is filed and the judge approves it, it becomes a court order. This means that you can go to court if the other parent violates it. If you make an agreement and don't file it, the court cannot help you.

How do I make changes to my agreement after it is official?

You have two options for modifying your agreement. If you and the other parent see eye to eye on changes, you can file a new agreement with the court. If you don't agree on changes, you'll have to return to court so a judge can decide if they're in the best interest of the child.

Once you have an agreement in place, Custody X Change helps you know how well it's working. With the app, you can track the actual time each parent has with the children and journal about parenting and custody. You can use these and other tools if you ever need to make changes to your agreement.

The easiest way to make a custody agreement

Creating a custody agreement on your own can feel overwhelming. You have to address all possible situations, while using airtight legal language.

Use technology to take the guesswork out of the equation. The Custody X Change app walks you through each step of creating an agreement.

The result will be a professional document that demonstrates your competence as a parent and secures your child's future.

The easiest and most reliable way to make a custody agreement is with Custody X Change.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

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Explore examples of common schedules

Explore common schedules

What's your best schedule?

What's your best schedule?

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Join the 60,000+ other parents who have used our co-parenting tools

Organize your evidence

Track your expenses, journal what happens, and record actual time. Print organized, professional documents.

Co-parent civilly

Our parent-to-parent messaging system, which detects hostile language, lets you collaborate without the drama.

Get an accurate child support order

Child support is based on parenting time or overnights in most jurisdictions. Calculate time instead of estimating.

Succeed by negotiating

Explore options together with visual calendars and detailed parenting plans. Present alternatives and reach agreement.

Never forget an exchange or activity

Get push notifications and email reminders, sync with other calendar apps and share with the other parent.

Save up to $50,000 by avoiding court

Write your parenting agreement without lawyers. Our templates walk you through each step.

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Examples:

Schedules

Long distance schedules

Third party schedules

Holidays

Summer break

Parenting provisions

Scheduling:

How to make a schedule

Factors to consider

Parenting plans:

Making a parenting plan

Changing your plan

Interstate, long distance

Temporary plans

Guides by location:

Parenting plans

Scheduling guidelines

Child support calculators

Age guidelines:

Birth to 18 months

18 months to 3 years

3 to 5 years

5 to 13 years

13 to 18 years

Terminology:

Joint physical custody

Sole physical custody

Joint legal custody

Sole legal custody

Product features:

Software overview

Printable calendars

Parenting plan templates

Journal what happens

Expense sharing

Parenting time tracking

Calculate time & overnights

Ways to use:

Succeed by negotiating

Prepare for mediation

Get ready for court

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