Brief Introduction About a Parenting Agreement
When a marriage breaks and there is a child involved, the parents must prioritize the well-being of the child. They have to communicate with each other for the sake of the child. Divorce has a tendency to affect a child’s psyche. It can cause great emotional stress. To avoid that, the parents must work together after their separation. This can be done with the help of a parenting agreement.
Also called parenting plans, this agreement forms and shared parenting agreement, it is a written agreement between former spouses. It states how they will bring up their children together. It includes provisions relating to child custody, visiting hours, educational expenses, medical care, and child support.
Purpose of a Parenting Agreement
The main aim of this agreement is to prevent the child from being negatively affected by his parent’s divorce. Since his needs will change as he grows, the parents will also have to adjust accordingly. This agreement allows for introducing changes when required. It provides certain predictability to the child’s schedule. In addition, it allows both parents to be equally involved in the child’s life. They can include provisions in the agreement about how they will make major decisions involving the child.
Though all such agreements are not legal contracts, they become a court order if they are approved by a judge. Each state has particular laws about them, which differ from other states.
Contents of a Parenting Agreement
A sample agreement will usually contain the following terms:
- Names of the parties
- Custody of the child
- Visitation for the other parent
- Time schedule
- Education of the child
- Child’s medical care
- Schedule for holidays
- Child support
- Other financial issues
- Contact with other family members and friends
- Obligations undertaken by the parents
- Amendment to the agreement
- Signature of the parties
How to Write a Parenting Agreement
Before beginning with the drafting process, it helps to refer to a parenting agreement template. This will give you an idea about what should be included. The following points can also help:
- State who will have legal custody of the child. The child will stay with that parent. As the child’s legal guardian, that parent will take most of the decisions about the child.
- Mention in clear terms when the other parent can visit the child. Ideally, the child should be able to see his other parent regularly. This will ensure a healthy relationship between them. This provision normally includes visitation during weekends and extended holidays from school. Also, mention the time when the parent should bring the child back home.
- Education, medical care: Both parents should agree on how they will decide about the education and medical care of the child. These are vital for the child. So it is important to be clear about navigating through these issues.
- State where the child will spend his holidays. Most times, the child has to split the holidays between the parents. It may work well if the child is small and requires time from both parents. Depending on the situation later, the agreement can be changed to allow the child to spend one full holiday with a parent. Also, mention where he will spend major holidays.
- Child support: Many states ask for separate child support documents. But it helps to include it in the agreement. Both parents share responsibility for child support. The clause should clearly state which parent will pay how much.
- Have a provision that states how other financial needs of the child will be taken care of. These include music lessons, sports classes, and school trips.
- Both parents should decide how they will make decisions together and conduct themselves. This will vary among people, and so there is no standard template for this clause. But it must include every such obligation which the parents feel is necessary to give the child a stable life. To demonstrate how this provision can be used in a parenting agreement example, consider the following:
The parents agree to always discuss any changes in the schedule with the other parent, before telling the child. They agree to inform the other parent in advance about a change in plans.
- An important provision is to allow the parents to amend the agreement. This is helpful because as the child grows, his needs will change. This term will allow the parents to adjust according to his changing needs and ensure that there is no complication.
When going for negotiations, both parents must realize that they have to work for the benefit of their child. Only with this mindset will they be able to form a good agreement. They have to be open to communication. They should agree to let the child spend substantial time with either parent. They have to be open-minded during negotiations to arrive at a fair conclusion for both of them. To get an idea of what they may be expected to do, they can refer to a parenting agreement template.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Parenting Agreement
- It provides security to the child.
- The parents are aware of their obligations, so there is no conflict.
- It provides a regular schedule, so there are no unpredictable situations that may stress out the child.
- It helps the child to bond with both parents.
It only works if both parents are able to work together. If they are still hostile to one another, the agreement can add to the child’s stress.
What Happens If the Agreement Is Violated?
The final approval of the agreement rests with a judge. If she is satisfied with the fairness of the agreement, she will approve it. This approval from the court makes it a binding court order. If it is violated, the defaulting party can be sued by the other in court(1).
It is important to get this agreement so that the child can have emotional stability(2). It requires work from both parents. They have to keep their differences aside and agree to the terms that best suit their child. But it goes a long way to ensure that the child develops a strong bond with both parents and grows up to be a strong individual.