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Child Custody
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Negotiating & Writing a Child Custody Agreement

When a couple with children decides to divorce, negotiating and writing a child custody agreement should be one of the biggest priorities. If the divorcing couple cant negotiate a custody agreement, then a judge will make those decisions. However, the process of negotiating and writing a child custody agreement can often seem overwhelming and exhausting. While every parent wants what is best for their children, its often hard to work together with the person you cant even live with anymore.

A written custody agreement should address several items:

  • The regular custody schedule
  • Which parent will have custody during holidays and vacations
  • How parents should communicate about their children
  • Religious upbringing
  • Medical care
  • Schooling and activities
  • How to adapt and change the agreement if future events change

An experienced attorney can make the process easier for each parent and lead to a custody arrangement that is at least acceptable to everyone involved. In difficult cases, divorcing couples who cant settle custody disputes may want to consider using a mediator.

Negotiating a Child Custody Agreement

Sometimes, a neutral third party, or a mediator, can help break through the emotions that often occur while negotiating custody of children. If you are considering using a mediator, its a good idea to discuss this with your divorce attorney first, since a mediator does not offer legal advice or provide counseling to either party.

Instead, the mediator can help determine which issues need to be resolved. Sometimes, its best to focus on the easiest decisions first, then work your way up to the more difficult problems. By successfully negotiating early on, you and your former spouse will hopefully develop a more cooperative approach.

During the negotiations, its important to remember what is in the best interests of your child-no matter how angry and hurt you may be, taking this opportunity to get back at your ex will only hurt your kids. And simply hearing your ex out, even if you dont agree, can help create a better atmosphere and make the process easier.

Writing a Child Custody Agreement

Once you and your ex have agreed in theory, at least, its time to develop the written custody agreement. Be sure to consider as many different situations as you can and get those in writing. The more specific the agreement you have, the less chance there is that misunderstandings will arise.

Once you and your ex have negotiated and written the agreement, it will be presented to a judge. The judge will either approve it or ask for changes before approving it. Once the custody agreement has been approved, both sides are required by law to follow it.

Its important to remember, though, that situations change-former spouses may remarry and have more children, one parent may relocate for personal or professional reasons, your childrens needs will probably change as they get older. An agreement that worked very well at the time of the divorce may need to be updated in five years. When negotiating and writing the custody agreement, be sure to make it flexible enough to allow for changes in the future.