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A Child Custody Agreement is used by parents to lay out the details of how they will co-parent their child or children together even though they are no longer romantically involved. The Agreement addresses issues such as physical and legal custody, visitation schedules, health insurance, college, and, if desired, child support. Parents can use this document to come to a mutually satisfactory plan about how they will raise their children together without needing to give up control of decision making to a judge. If both parents can be civil and work in the best interests of their children, they can save time, money, and energy by creating a Custody Agreement by themselves.
If the parents would like to create a document that covers just child support, they should use a Child Support Agreement.
How to use this document
This Agreement covers all of the essential details of how parents will raise their children together. Firstly, the document addresses the issue of custody in the following manner:
The document then goes on to cover additional important details of child-rearing, including transportation to and from scheduled visitation, health insurance coverage,
Finally, the document gives the parents the option to incorporate an existing child support agreement or to create a new child support agreement. Child support is generally based on a calculation that weighs the amount of time each parent will spend with the child and the parents' respective incomes and assets. A number of child support calculators can be found online. However, parents can elect to come up with their own agreement regarding child support without using the calculation. The caveat is that a judge has the final say regarding child support. However, judges generally approve any reasonable support agreement and are willing to give the benefit of the doubt to two parents who have worked together to create a child support agreement.
Once the parents finish creating the Child Custody Agreement, they can elect to have their own attorneys review the document and then sign, either in front of their attorneys or witnesses and a notary. The Agreement can remain an informal agreement between the parents or the parents can choose to file the document with the court if this is desired or required by a pre-existing court order. The parents should keep copies of this document for themselves to refer to in case of dispute, misunderstanding, or a desire to create a written alteration of the agreement.
Child custody and support are matters of both state and federal law. Every state except Massachusetts has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act ("UCCJEA"). The UCCJEA dictates that child custody litigation pertaining to a particular child will occur in that child's home state, defined as the place where they have lived for six consecutive months prior to the litigation. If a child has not lived in any state for six consecutive months, their home state is defined as the state with significant connections to the child and at least one of the parents as well as substantial evidence regarding the child's care. Once a state takes the case, called jurisdiction, they then retain control over the case until a court decides that the child no longer has a connection to that state.
In determining matters related to children, such as child custody, visitation, and support, a Court must approve any arrangement using a "best interests of the child" standard. Generally, if both parents come to an agreement regarding these matters, a Court will be willing include the agreement in the official legal documents. However, the possibility remains that a Court will require an adjustment of the agreement if they determine that the arrangement is not in the best interests of the children involved.
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