Separation and divorce can be extremely physically and emotionally taxing on a couple, so much so, they can forget how taxing it is for their children. The reasons behind the separation are irrelevant in the eyes of a child, they simply know things are changing and they have to be “shared”. When it comes to creating your child custody agreement, there are a few do’s and don’ts necessary to consider to keep everyone moving in the same direction and making it as easy as possible for you and your littles to transition into this new season of life.
Do’s of Child Custody Agreements:
1. Hire a family Lawyer
This suggestion is not simply because it is a service we offer! Custody is an emotional process and issues are bound to arise at some point. It is best to have a legal plan in place before an issue arises so there is a common playing field for all parties involved. A family lawyer can ensure you know all of your parental rights and coach you through perspectives you may not have thought of on your own. They can also serve as a mediator throughout the process to keep everyone involved calm and rational. Even if you don’t think you can afford a lawyer, set up a free consultation to consider all of your options.
Communicate, communicate, communicate!!! When going through a divorce or separation, talking to your ex may be the last item on your agenda, but it is necessary for co-parenting to work effectively. Talk about what holidays are most important to you, talk about activities each child has coming up and who will be responsible, discuss schooling needs, talk about etiquette for future romances, etc. The more you communicate, the less surprises will pop up and conflict will be minimized. Also, communicate clearly with your children what the agreement is once it is finalized so they can prepare to transition with time between one parent and the other. Small children especially require a lot of preparation for drastic changes in their life – communicate!
- Be aware that perception is everything.
This is to be considered both before, during, and after a child custody agreement is set in place. The way you handle pre custody agreement evaluations, conversations with lawyers, and even conversations with your children on the issue will reflect your character in the courtroom. Unfortunately, it does not matter if what your ex says about you is true or not, it simply matters whether the court believes are true. Do everything you can to present yourself to the court in a manner that is appropriate – including promptness, attire, language, facial expressions etc. Also, remember that little things like showing up late to visitations or frequent rescheduling will reflect on your level of commitment.
Don’ts with child custody agreements:
- Don’t ignore court requests
This seems elementary but it needs to be stated; if the court asks you to take a parenting class or attend counseling – do so, and do so as soon as possible. Your actions will show how willing you are to go above and beyond to be a part of your children’s lives.
- Don’t involve your children in court cases
Everyone chooses to parent in their own way, and that is a line we will not overstep. If we can simply offer some advice, when going through a custody battle, keep your children out of the case. Your emotions are likely overflowing into every aspect of your life and parenting…BUT, your children are dealing with everything in their own way too. It’s important to let them be kids and remember that they are adjusting to this new lifestyle also. Ultimately, custody agreements should keep the wellbeing of the child at the focus, which includes keeping the out of it until it’s finalized.
- Don’t put yourself before your children
A parent trying to work with their ex to come to a custody agreement is already showing they love their child and want to be a part of their lives. The idea of being away from your child, especially small children can be painful and those emotions may lead you to act selfishly or be difficult in compromising in an agreement. You are likely to not like at least a few parts of the custody agreement but remember to keep the wellbeing of the children first. In most cases, it is best for the child to have both parents in their lives, which ultimately means you will have to sacrifice some time and holidays. Note that we are not referring to separation due to abuse or other reasons that make it an unsafe environment for a child.
If you need help drafting a child custody agreement or amending an existing agreement, we would be happy to assist! Contact us for a consultation today.