You and your spouse are splitting up, and you dread the thought of having a judge tell you what you're supposed to do with your kids. The two of you want to work together to come up with the best possible plan on your own. No one knows your kids like you do. Are you legally allowed to do so?
You are. You can draft and sign a parenting agreement. It could contain things like:
- The children's living situation.
- Decisions you want to make on the children's behalf, such as where they'll attend school.
- What you'll do over summer vacation, when kids' schedules change.
- What you'll do for holidays, birthdays and other special events.
- How any changes to the schedule or the rest of the plan will be made.
- How any disputes will be settled in the future.
- What roles other people will get in the children's lives. These could include grandparents, aunts, uncles and more.
By no means is that a comprehensive list, but it's a good place to start. These are all big decisions that married parents have to make, so you just use the parenting agreement to make them in a divorce.
One key thing to note, though, is that you still have to give your parenting agreement to the court, and it still has to be approved. It can't contain anything illegal. It has to focus on the children's best interests. It has to be fair. You must both sign it without duress or coercion, of your own free will.
When drafting a parenting agreement, be sure you know what rights you have, what obligations it gives you and what legal steps have to be followed to make it official.
Source: FindLaw, "The Parenting Agreement," accessed Feb. 16, 2018