What is a Private Custody Agreement?
Whenever possible, it is always better for parents going through a divorce to come to an agreement on child custody without involving the courts. Leaving the decision to a judge should be a last resort. And for unmarried parents, using the courts typically isn’t an option since they aren’t getting a legal divorce. This is where a private custody agreement comes in.
With a private custody agreement, parents draft an agreement that works for them (with or without the help on an attorney) and present it to the court. The court will then do one of three things:
- Accept the agreement as-is
- Alter the terms if they appear unfair
- Reject certain provisions entirely
In order to prevent the court from altering or rejecting a private custody agreement, it’s usually a good idea to work with a family law attorney when drafting the agreement before submitting it to the court.
What’s In A Private Custody Agreement?
Similar to a parenting plan, a private custody agreement outlines what each parent agrees to on a number of different issues. For example:
Joint or sole custody: Custody can be classified as joint or sole. Joint custody means parents share custody of their children, while sole custody means only one parent is the custodian.
Legal and physical custody: Legal custody refers to the right of a parent to make decisions for their child while physical custody involves the daily care of the child.
Visitation schedules: A private custody agreement should clearly outline when each parent will have time with their children. This means weekdays, weekends, holidays, vacations, and any other important scheduling-related information.
Education and religion: Important issues about how a child will be raised should be included in a private custody agreement as well. Items like the child’s education, religion, and even extracurricular activities should be considered and put in the document.
Finally, there also needs to be language in a private custody agreement that specifies how parents can make changes to the agreement should the need arise.
When crafting a private custody agreement, it’s very important to be as specific as possible. This protects both parents, and is helpful for resolving potential disputes. If the terms are not specific enough, it can leave either parent open for a child custody lawsuit down the road.
Examples of how specific things need to be might include exact pickup and dropoff times when children are going from one parent’s house to the other. If one or both parents don’t want their ex to come to their home, they need to agree on a pickup/dropoff location and put that in the agreement.
Working With An Attorney
Working with an experienced family law attorney is usually the best way to create a private custody agreement. An attorney will already know what can and should be in the agreement, and can provide guidance for parents going through the process for the first time.
An attorney can also help with submitting the agreement to the courts, and help handle any feedback from the judge if they don’t accept the agreement as-is.
To learn more about private custody agreements, or to get help drafting one for your children, please contact our offices today for a free consultation.
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