A Brief Introduction of Sole Custody Agreement
A sole custody agreement is an agreement that lays down which parent will have sole custody of their child. The parents of the child enter into this agreement and decide all the important aspects relating to the custody and upbringing of the child. When the parents are divorced or separated and are no longer able to take care of the child in a joint capacity, they can decide among themselves how the child will be brought up and taken care of. In a sole custody agreement, only one parent gets custody of the child.
Who Takes the Sole Custody Agreement?
A sole custody agreement is entered between the parents of the child whose custody is the subject matter of the agreement.
Purpose of the Sole Custody Agreement
When filing for sole custody of the child in court, the reasons for sole legal custody must be given. The grounds for full custody of the child are very important and must in accordance with the welfare of the child. The court will then make a decision after taking into account the best interests of the child. Alternatively, the parents can plan among themselves who should get full custody of the child.
The purpose of this agreement is to capture the roles and responsibilities of each parent and the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent. Courts also prefer it if parents create this agreement on their own as they can come up with a plan that is suitable for both of them.
The custody may be physical or legal, or both. Sole physical custody is when the child lives with one parent, and sole legal custody is when only one parent has the decision making power regarding the child’s welfare, education, health, and other important aspects. If a parent has sole physical custody, the legal custody can be shared by both parents.
If the parents are unable to come up with a mutually satisfactory plan, the court will make the decision for the parents.
Contents of the Sole Custody Agreement – Inclusions
The agreement will mention the names of the parents and the date on which the agreement is entered into. It should then mention the name of the child or children.
The agreement should clearly state which parent is getting sole custody of the child and whether the custody is physical or physical and legal both. If the mother is getting sole physical custody of the child, it should be mentioned that the child will be living with the mother. The parents can then set up a plan for the father to meet the child on certain days such as weekends, birthdays, festivals, etc. These days should be clearly specified in the contract.
If the legal custody is shared by the parents, a plan should be created as to how all important decisions regarding the child will be made. The agreement must also be in compliance with child custody law.
The agreement may also talk about child support and the manner in which the costs related to the child’s education, health, and other expenses will be dealt with. Alternatively, the parents may decide to create a separate child support agreement.
The following are the steps to follow while drafting an agreement:
- The parents can decide among themselves who will have custody of the child.
- If the legal custody is being shared, they will have to come up with a plan regarding the key decisions related to the welfare of the child.
- The agreement should be drafted in such a manner that all these major points are included therein.
- The agreement should keep in mind the best interests of the child.
- The agreement must be signed by both parents.
- The agreement should later be filed with the court. Once approved by the court, it is legally enforceable.
- In such an agreement, the parents should negotiate by keeping the welfare of the child in mind.
- All decisions must be taken according to the wellbeing of the child.
Benefits and Drawbacks of the Sole Custody Agreement
The following are the benefits and drawbacks of an agreement:
- The role of each parent is clearly defined.
- The visitation rights of the non-custodial parent are laid out.
- The welfare of the child is given paramount importance.
What Happens in Case of Violation?
There may be situations where either party breaches the agreement. This may include denying the other parent of visitation rights, keeping the child for a longer time than as prescribed, not informing the other parent of the child’s location, etc. If such a breach takes place, the parent who is a violation may lose their parental rights(1). A custodial parent may lose custody rights of the child, and a non-custodial parent may lose some or all of their visitation rights based on the seriousness of the violation. The court may alter the agreement in case of a serious violation.
A question may arise as to how can a mother lose custody of her child? (2) This may happen if the mother abuses the child, is guilty of substance abuse, or any other serious reason whereby the court is of the opinion that the mother does not have the welfare of the child at heart.
This agreement is very necessary whenever parents decide to separate, and the child will live with one of them. The agreement will lay down a framework for the upbringing of the child and how both parents may be involved in such upbringing.