A Brief Introduction About the Joint Custody Agreement
When parents separate, the most important thing to worry about is their kids’ custody. When courts decide that the parents will have joint custody of the minor kid (or kids) instead of sole custody, both parents have to comply. Parents can also decide this themselves and draft an agreement.
The courts, however, can also specify if the joint custody is only physical or only legal. Sharing responsibilities for a kid include deciding his school, his religious beliefs, medical decisions, and many other extremely crucial decisions. In goes without saying that in such cases, both parents have to communicate with each other for making crucial decisions regarding the kids.
When physical custody is also shared, both the parents have to keep the kid with them for some time. This process requires a lot of effort in logistics etc. Shuffling the kid from one house to another may not be the most convenient thing to do, however, if the court orders the joint physical custody, both parties have to comply and follow the court’s order.
Many people also debate sole custody vs joint custody. These two are the complete opposite of each other. In sole custody, the court gives one parent the responsibilities of the kid. Another name for the Joint Custody Agreement is Joint Child Custody Agreement or Joint Legal Custody Agreement.
Who Takes the Joint Custody Agreement – People Involved
This agreement is signed between a divorced or separated couple. Such parents don’t live together or never have lived together. It is signed by the courts and the parents. It involves all the important details about the kid or kids. For the courts to allow joint custody, both parties must be well equipped and must be able to take care of the needs of the kid. Courts always approve a kid’s best interest. If they feel sole custody might work better for the future of the kid, the court will ask the parents to comply with that.
Purpose of the Joint Custody Agreement – Why Do You Need It
As discussed above, a Joint Custody Agreement can be of three types – joint legal custody, joint physical custody, and joint legal and physical custody. When we say Joint Custody, we often mean Joint Physical and legal custody. In a Joint Custody Agreement, parents have to work out a schedule and way to share responsibilities. If they fail to do so, courts will find a middle way and impose certain terms on each parent.
Here are a few reasons why such an agreement is used –
- Allows both the parents to share responsibilities such as medical-related, study-related, religion-related, etc
- Reduces the burden from the shoulder of one parent
- Allows the kid to spend time with both the parents
- It is less expensive when two parents are taking care of the kid alternatively
- Less effect of divorce or separation on the kid
- Kid remains attached to both parents
- Financial obligations are divided between the parents in addition to many other responsibilities
- Both parents remain involved with the child and his important decisions
- To not put the consequences of a divorce or separation on the kid
- To not give only one parent the rights on a kid’s future
Contents of the Joint Custody Agreement – Inclusions
Every state has different rules and regulations for child custody. You must be aware of your state’s jurisdiction or governing laws. It is ultimately in the court’s hand to reject to accept your Joint Custody Agreement. Further, you must be clear what you want to talk about in the agreement. In case you only want to talk about physical custody, you should only add the details about it in the agreement.
For a Physical Joint Custody Agreement, it should be decided where the kid physically lives. In case you only want to talk about Legal Joint Custody, then you must add the details of shared responsibilities. In most cases, when a specific type is not specified, both physical and legal custody should be made part of the agreement. Courts, however, can see if the entire plan is beneficial or fair to the kids. Child custody laws are mostly very stringent. A child custody agreement without court may not hold the legality and strict actions can be taken against the parents depending on the state you live in.
Once the type of custody agreement is decided, both parties should start drafting the agreement. These agreements will have basic details of both the parents and the kid (s). Basic details include name, addresses, phone numbers, etc. Further, it will have to specify the details of each parent’s custody or responsibilities. If both parents decide to involved physical custody in the agreement, then they must specify the number of days the kid will stay with one parent.
The agreement must include a provision that allows change or review of the agreement. It should also have dispute resolution methods specified.
How to Draft the Joint Custody Agreement
Two separated people may have a lot of animosity or distance between each other to have sensible discussions. This is one of the reasons why child custody is one of the most sensitive topics. It requires the maturity of both parents. It is suggested that both parents must be very open and vigilante when it comes to a child’s custody. Hostility between parents can only worsen the situation for the kids.
Further, both parents must discuss what type of joint custody arrangement they want to go with. Parents must see if joint physical custody is causing a lot of disturbance in the kid’s life.
For example, if one parent lives far away, the kid can’t be shuffled frequently. Both parties must be well aware of the consequences of each arrangement and each setting. Kid’s convenience should be kept at utmost priority. It requires also be noted that if you neglect the kid’s well-being, the court may not approve your agreement. Thus, kids’ well being should be on top priority. Generally, these types of agreements are dealt with the divorce paperwork. Either way, the judge must sign the agreement in a hearing to make it legally binding.
Both parties must discuss every little detail that goes on the agreement. For how many days the kid will be with one parent, what is the date, who will pick and drop, etc. are just a few details that must be specified. For legal custody, the agreement must specify how both parties will have a say in different decisions of the kid’s life, such as school, religion, medical, etc.
When it comes to the custody of a kid, there can’t be a lot of negotiations between the couple and the court. However, both the parents can mutually negotiate on certain terms, provisions, or responsibilities. For instance, if one parent is financially unable to take care of the kid, he or she can request the other partner to take the physical custody of the kid.
[Also Read: Temporary Custody Agreement]
Benefits & Drawbacks of the Joint Custody Agreement
A divorce is never a happy event. With it comes many complexities and troubles. But, for a kid’s well-being and future, two fighting parents are worse than separated parents who are also mature about their differences and separation.
Here are some of the benefits of the Joint Custody Agreement –
- Both parties get to spend time with the kid
- Both parties have the option of dividing the financial responsibilities of the kid
- Both parents have a say in the big decision of a child’s life
- If parents remain mature about their separation, the kid can also be less affected
- One parent doesn’t have to go through guilt of not being able to take care of the kid
- One parent can’t absolve from kid’s responsibilities if he or she is mentally, physically fit
- If both parties choose only Legal Joint Custody and not physical, even then one parent can have visitation rights
- Both parents feel equal thus, not disrespected
Here are some of the cons or disadvantages of this agreement –
- The kid will have two homes, and he will have to shuffle from one to another
- It may not be stable for the kid to keep changing his house
- If one parent lives far away, it can be expensive to transfer the kid every time
- Kid’s school may not allow frequent transfers if parents live in different cities
- Both parents will have to communicate with each other a little too often
What Happens in Case of Violation
As mentioned before, a custody agreement has to be passed through a court or a judge. The Joint Custody agreement is legally binding once the court or judge approves and signs it. These agreements can’t be breached or violated.
In case of any breach by any of the parents, the court can punish or enforce severe penalties. If one of the parents behaves irresponsibly the court can withdraw responsibilities and visits entirely. Custody laws(1) are always stringent. Thus, while signing the agreement, both parties should be careful and add a provision that allows timely reviewal or modification of the agreement.
Joint Physical Custody is also known as Shared Custody. It can be seen as one of the two types of Joint Custody. People sometimes use Joint Custody and Shared Custody Agreement interchangeably.