The divorce process can be overwhelming, and you likely have a long list of tasks to handle, none of which are very pleasant. One of the most important things you and your spouse will have to do is come up with a parenting agreement. Though tensions may be high, and you may be angry with your spouse, it is vital that you put your children first. If both parties fail to communicate and make decisions, the court will step in and make decisions for you. Thus, do whatever it takes to reach a successful agreement with your spouse, even if that means seeking professional help. A child custody attorney
can help you negotiate a plan that best suits your family's needs.
How Does a Parenting Agreement Work?
Parenting agreements are documents that outline how you and your former spouse will split parenting duties. These duties can include the time each parent gets to spend with their children, as well as what decisions both parties can make. Because these agreements set the expectations of each parent, they often set the stage for a successful post-divorce relationship. You and your spouse will be able to discuss early how you will both handle important life event's throughout your children's lives. Cover these important topics when outlining your agreement:
- living arrangements and custody
- visitation rights
- how you will handle holidays
- financial support and expenses
- religious practices and training
- medical care
Once your parenting agreement is complete, get it made into a court order. Doing so holds both parties accountable and legally enforces the terms of the agreement.
Crafting a Successful Parenting Agreement
Gathering the Documents
While you can work with your former spouse to draft and negotiate a parenting agreement, you may want to seek assistance from a child custody lawyer or mediator. Whether you seek help or not, collect all relevant documents before you begin the writing process. If you're already in the middle of your divorce proceedings, and have been involved in custody negotiations, gather the following documents:
- any document you've filed or received in court, including "petitions," "summons," "complaints," responses," "declarations," or an "affidavit"
- any correspondence shared among mediators, court officials, attorneys, or counselors that regard your divorce, separation, child support, paternity, visitation, or custody
- all court orders that regard divorce, legal separation, declaration, award of custody, or paternity
- any agreement that has been previously mediated, arbitrated or negotiated between you and your spouse
- documents that dissolves your religious marriage or states your martial status
- letters, evaluations, or reports from school counselors, therapists, school officials, or other people with insight into your children
Though you may not utilize all the documents outlined above, having certain documents ready can help expedite the process. This is especially helpful if you're currently going through divorce or legal separation. Often, once the court proceedings begin, you and your spouse will be given a deadline for completing and submitting your parenting agreement. Remember to carefully read each document you gather. If you ever need help understanding or finding certain documents, consider consulting an attorney, paralegal, marriage counselor, court clerk, or mediator. Furthermore, these same people can also help you and your spouse reach a successful parenting agreement.
Negotiating With Your Ex
Once all the necessary documents are gathered, it's time to meet with your spouse. If you opt for professional help, invite the third party to the meeting. More often than not, parenting agreements take multiple meetings to complete. Effective communication and a level head is key to drafting a successful agreement. If arguments or disputes arise, mediate through your professional help or conclude the meeting for the day. The more you and your spouse are willing to negotiate, the faster and easier the process will be. After the parenting agreement is complete, you should get a judge to approve it. You will also be able to keep the agreement in your divorce file. When the judge signs the agreement, it then becomes legally enforceable. This ensures that both parties are held accountable to their responsibilities and terms. If one parent fails their duties, the other parent can use the agreement to seek legal action.
Contact a Divorce Lawyer for Help
If you and your spouse need help creating your parenting agreement, you may consider seeking guidance from a family law attorney. An attorney can help you work out any issue and create a plan that meets everyone's best interests. To schedule a no obligation consultation, call (559)222-4891