Why You Should Have a Co-Parenting Contract

Why You Should Have A Co Parenting Contract

For most of modern history, marriage has been the legal structure that gives parents rights over their children.  Marriage is a status that comes with rights and responsibilities, and all a person has to do is get married in order to automatically get the rights of marriage.  Being a parent works much the same way.  A woman who gives birth to a child is usually given all the rights and responsibilities of motherhood, and her husband or the biological father is typically given the rights and responsibilities of fatherhood.  

In some situations, parents may not want to simply rely on the rights and responsibilities automatically granted by the law.  Instead, some parents may want to write a co-parenting contract that will allow them to set specific rights and responsibilities for their unique situation.  This makes a lot of sense for couples that are not married but are raising a child together.  Most commonly, this comes up with divorced parents.  A co-parenting contract can also be useful for people that had an accidental pregnancy, are in a same-sex relationship where the law on parentage is murky, or even some people that choose to raise a child together without being in a romantic relationship.  

You can find parenting agreement form here- Parenting agreement form

It may not be enforceable

A quick warning before you go any further, remember that the idea of contractual rights within the family are fairly new and many courts do not like the idea.  

So, just because two parents agree on something does not mean a court will enforce it.  For example, if two parents sign a contract saying their child should not be exposed to organized religion but one parent later decides that the child should go to a church Sunday school, it will be very unlikely that a judge will bar the child from Sunday school.  

Contents of a co-parenting contract

The first step in a co-parenting contract will usually be to provide the background of the situation.  This can help people, especially judges, that read the contract later to understand the purpose of the agreement.  For example, the parents might want to explain if they are seeking equal time with the child or if they expect the child to live primarily with one parent.  It is hard to predict all the issues that could come up in a child’s life, so this background section can provide important guidance for unexpected challenges.  

Probably the most important content in a co-parenting contract relates to physical custody.  This is where parents can decide how to divide the time they spend with a child.  

For example, they may have the child alternate weeks at each parent’s house.  Or the child may spend the school year with mom and the summer with dad.  The agreement should also have a procedure for changing this over time.  For example, an infant may need to spend more time with mom and then time may be split equally when the child is older.  

Child support should also be addressed.  

The child will need clothing and toys, for example, and one parent should not get stuck paying for all of that.  The other important issue to address is legal custody.  This relates to the long-term decisions a parent makes for his or her child.  One parent may have a strong preference for a certain religion or a certain type of education, for example.  These issues should be addressed but again leave room for change later.  If the child wants to be a musician, for example, the parents may want to reconsider their earlier preference for a vocational education.

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