Customize child custody orders to avoid parental conflict
By Scaringi & Scaringi P.C.
While most parents take it for granted that they’ll be on hand to share in the major moments of their child’s life, estranged parents sharing custody can never make that assumption.
Instead, they need a custody agreement with stipulations that take into consideration family funerals, reunions, weddings, birthdays, vacations and other special trips and occasions.
This document will literally and legally control the access that you and your estranged partner will have to your child. Only the items and stipulations contained in the child custody agreement – which is then approved by a judge – will have this force of law.
It’s not uncommon for problems to arise when agreements are not well thought out, and changing them turns into an emotionally draining court challenge. Far better to take the time up front and draft an agreement that anticipates as many circumstances as possible. Not only does this make life easier for the parents, but it’s in the best interests of the child.
Custody agreements crafted for when life happens
In short, a cookie-cutter custody agreement just won’t do.
Imagine if one of your parents passes away. It’s only natural that you’d want your child by your side for the funeral and mourning process. But if your custody agreement wasn’t crafted to anticipate such an event, you could find yourself at the mercy of the other parent, should he or she happen to have custody of the child during this period.
Experienced family law attorneys spend as much time as necessary discussing the lives of their clients before drafting a single line in a custody agreement. A customized custody order contains numerous stipulations for when the normal shared custody schedule will be superseded and overtaken by specified events. This way, you will never be put at the mercy of the other parent in order to have your child with you for a relative’s funeral or a treasured trip.
When parents have shared custody, they essentially enjoy equal parenting rights. That means that arriving at a mutually acceptable custody agreement is all about give and take. Should you request a stipulation to have your child for the funeral of your parent, sibling or other close family member, it is only right to give the other parent the same consideration.
Custody agreements can have stipulations to cover just about anything and everything. Say dad goes on a camping trip the same week every summer. If this is his top vacation priority in drafting the custody agreement, then mom can ask for her top stipulation next. The process goes back and forth until all circumstances are covered – right down to assuring that the child spends Mother’s Day with his mom and Father’s Day with his dad.
At the end of the process, you, your former partner and your child have a custody agreement that works in real life.
Extended vacations can be tricky
The most popular shared custody rotation has parents splitting time in some fashion during the week and then having their child on alternating weekends. When it comes to scheduling vacations, a full week away is usually the most time parents are comfortable granting. But what if a parent is planning a trip of a lifetime, perhaps overseas for extended travel?
Negotiating trips that separate the child from one parent for two weeks or longer is almost always difficult to achieve. The parent who is taking the extended trip will surely have to give up similar time to the other parent down the line.
Willingness to negotiate
Only through proper planning, level-headed negotiation and fair-minded compromise can a customized custody agreement come to life. Without a detailed custody agreement that’s given the force of law by the court, bitter conflict between the parents can occur. And this is good for no one, most especially the child caught in the middle.
When parents separate, they are beginning a new life with their child. They are setting forth as an independent parent and single head of household. Yet they will always share their child with the other parent.
A custody agreement that anticipates both parents’ wants and needs and that always places the child first can hold the promise of positive growth for all involved.