When children are allowed to have a relationship with both of their parents, they are better able to adapt to the changes in their family situation after their parents divorce.
Divorcing parents are not always able to reach an amicable custody arrangement and in many cases, a judge of a family court will have to determine how parental responsibility, custody, and visitation will be allocated.
However, if the parents can agree on how custody and visitation will be arranged after their divorce, then a custody agreement should be drawn up.
What is a custody agreement?
A custody agreement is a written document which is signed by both parents and sets out the agreed upon arrangements for child custody and visitation pursuant to a divorce or separation.
A custody agreement outlines each parent’s responsibilities and rights with regards to how custody of their children will be shared.
A custody agreement can deal with many issues, including:
- Which parent the child should live with
- How much time the child spends with the other parent
- How parental responsibility will be allocated
- How the child will communicate with the other parent
- Any other aspect of the care, welfare, and development of the child
Often, a custody agreement is reached through mediation where the party’s, along with their attorneys, work together in order to draft an agreement that incorporates everyone’s respective terms and conditions.
Once the parties have come to an agreement and have finalized all of the issues regarding custody of their children, the written custody agreement is filed with a family court where a judge will rule on it.
If the judge approves of the arrangements made in the custody agreement, he or she, as part of the overall divorce decree or judgment, will issue a legally binding and enforceable custody order reflecting the terms of the agreement.
The advantages of child custody agreement
A custody agreement offers a number of advantages for divorcing couples:
- It puts everything in writing – a custody agreement memorializes all of the terms agreed upon by the parents pertaining to child custody and visitation.
- It helps to speed up the divorce – child custody is arguably the most acrimonious aspect of any divorce or separation. The faster the parties can resolve the major issues involving child custody and visitation, and then draw up and sign a custody agreement, the less expensive, time-consuming, and stressful the process will be.
- It can help avoid court – a custody agreement provides couples with a vehicle to reach an amicable custody arrangement on their own and in lieu of further litigation or a trial in front of a judge.
In the event that the parties are unable to come to terms and draft a custody agreement to be submitted to the court, then litigation will most often ensue towards a contested final hearing or trial, where the court will decide all of the issues pertaining to custody of their children after their divorce or separation.
The requirements for a valid custody agreement vary from state to state. For help with drafting a custody agreement in your state, consult with a local family law attorney.