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Child Custody Considerations for the Recently Separated



Recently separated couples are often not sure if they will divorce and need time to plan the next steps. When such couples are parents, the situation is complicated.

Recently separated parents need to create the following items at least for the period during which they live separately:

  1. Child visitation schedule
  2. Child custody agreement

What is a child visitation schedule and how do you create one?

Many parents assume incorrectly that child visitation schedules apply only to divorced parents. However, parents who are separated (even if temporarily) need a visitation schedule, too.

The purpose of a child visitation schedule is to preserve rights of the noncustodial parent (the parent who left the residence) to be involved with and see the children after moving or having the children move. Separated parents, just like their divorced counterparts, need to plan for the parent who does not live with the children to have contact. The visitation schedule is the vehicle for providing that contact.

A temporary child visitation schedule does not need to be as detailed as a permanent visitation schedule. It does not need to address holidays or vacations. At a minimum, the visitation schedule should include a simplistic outline of when the noncustodial parent has visitation. If there are any holidays or special occasions for the family, recently separated parents should include their plan for those dates.

The end goal is for the children to experience maximum consistency. If there are family traditions or celebrations for holidays or special occasions, parents should strive to continue them after separation to minimize disruption in the children’s lives.

What is a child custody agreement and how do you create one?

After tackling the child visitation schedule, the second part of the equation is the child custody agreement. Recently separated parents must create a temporary child custody agreement that contains the information they want to include about their custody situation. For instance, parents need to pay for their children’s expenses notwithstanding separation. They can devise a plan for those expenses and include it in their child custody agreement.

Temporary child custody agreements are not as involved as their permanent counterparts. But recently separated parents should include in their agreement the basic principles of how they plan to continue child care. Rules about visitation and other custody issues are typically included.

Recently separated parents should do all that is within their power to assist children with the adjustment to separate living arrangements. Even if recently separated parents do not know the end result of their situation and whether divorce will result, the children’s routines should be preserved whenever possible. A child visitation schedule and child custody agreement, even if temporary, will help children best handle the difficult circumstances facing the family.