What to Know Before You Put Together a Custody Plan in A Divorce

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When it comes to negating in a divorce, one of the most difficult things to handle is what to do about children, if you have any. It’s one thing for two spouses to part ways after a marriage ends, but children have all the stake in what is going on with little influence or anything done on their part to deserve it. In cases where both spouses are fit parents and want to have a role in the lives of their children, a child custody arrangement comes into play. Custody takes many different forms, and finding an arrangement that works best for all parties will allow your family the smoothest transition possible into this new stage of their lives.

Creating A Custody Agreement

If you’re looking for the best way to save during divorce proceedings, the answer is always being amicable with your former spouse. Some of the biggest costs of divorce are the court fees, but in many cases, you can skip them. By working with an experienced divorce lawyer, divorcing spouses can negotiate out many facets of a divorce themselves. The same applies with custody, even if you have adopted a child. While different states will have different laws, your average custody arrangement will generally cover the following areas.

  • Which parent or parents have legal and/or physical custody.
  • Parenting time schedules, including visitation schedules, weekends, holidays, and any other information regarding the parenting schedule.
  • Pick-up and drop-offs to and from the parental home.
  • How decisions will be made regarding religion, education, and extra-curricular activities.
  • How changes to the child custody agreement will occur, if needed.

As a rule of thumb, you want to be as specific as possible when it comes down to how you put together the arrangements. These include figuring out the exact days when the parent will have the child, as well as how schedule changes will be handled. You can’t predict every single thing that will happen, but the more that you cover, the less potential headaches you will encounter later. This will be a good time to lean on your lawyer of choice, especially if they have experience in this area. They may be able to notice areas that have led to issues in the past and prompt the two of you to discuss and lay those out in the agreement.

As a note, many parents try to shoot for joint custody, as on paper, it seems like the easiest way to keep all parties involved happy. However joint custody has two offshoots: physical and legal custody. Physical custody concerns where the child will live, while legal custody focuses on input regarding major child-rearing decisions, several of which we mentioned earlier. Depending on living arrangements, one parent may be a better match for physical custody, even if both are willing and able to have legal custody. Be sure to keep this in mind.

Making It Work

Many parents try their best to try and put together the best environment possible for their kids post-divorce. However, there are some important things you should keep in mind to make a joint custody agreement healthy for everyone.

For one, when drafting the agreement in the first place, be realistic both about your schedule and that of the children. Some parents, wanting to prove they are effective, make unrealistic custody arrangements that their commitments wouldn’t allow them to handle. The best thing you can do, as hard as it may seem, is to remove emotion from the equation. A business-like frame of mind will guide you to the right decisions.

It’s also important that even if you are separate, let the child see that you are united as far as raising them. This isn’t physically always possible, but something as simple as letting the child see that you are making decisions together can do a lot. By the same token, never try to position your spouse as a villain in any situation. Remember, your child still loves your ex-partner as a parent despite your feelings. Make sure those two mindsets do not spill into each other.

Finally, custody agreements are legally binding, but not set in stone. Children grow, their needs change, and many parents change as well. Don’t be afraid to review the terms of your custody arrangement if both parties take note of this and feel there is need to adapt. Keeping an open line of communication to all three parties is the best way to maintain a healthy family environment.