The Parenting Agreement
In majority of cases, the parents settle the issue of child custody before trial either through informal negotiations between themselves (and their lawyers) or through the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms like collaborative law process and mediations. This section provides information about parental agreements.
Parenting Agreement – Definition
If the parents or any other party involved in the child custody dispute are able to negotiate and resolve all the issues related to custody and visitation either through informal negotiation or through the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms like collaborative law process and mediation, then the settlement between the parties is formalized in a written agreement known as the settlement agreement. In some states, this agreement is known as parenting agreement or custody agreement.
Terms of Parenting Agreement
The exact terms of a parenting agreement will depend in the specific circumstances of the case. However a parenting agreement should generally address the following:
• Which parent will have physical custody of the child, i.e. where will the child live.
• When one parent has primary physical custody, a detailed description including schedule of the other parent’s visitation rights.
• Who will have legal custody, i.e. right to take decision that affect the child’s welfare such as education, medical care and religious ceremonies.
• How will the child spend vacation and major holidays.
• Contact with grandparents and other relatives.
• Modification of the agreement in future and resolution of disputes in future.
The agreement must be filed in the court. The judge will review the agreement and approve it. Sometimes the judge may call an informal hearing just to make sure that the spouses understand the terms of the agreement and that the agreement has been voluntarily signed without any coercion or threat. The judge will generally approve the agreement unless it appears to be grossly unfair to one party.
The approved agreement will form part of the divorce decree and has the force of a binding court order. The parents must abide by the terms of the agreement. If one party fails to comply with the agreement, the other can move to court to enforce the agreement. For example if the mother does not allow the father to meet the daughter on weekends as agreed, the father can apply to the court to enforce the agreement.