As estranged parents in Missouri negotiate child custody, they will also have to create an agreement that addresses everything from parenting time to decision-making protocols. Drafting a clear, defined agreement can help parents avoid conflicts in the future.
Parenting time should be clearly defined
A central concern of the child custody agreement is the parenting time schedule. This schedule outlines when the child will be with each parent and should be clearly defined. However, schedules can be complex as they can change throughout the year. When a creating the parenting schedule, parents should consider:
- The time the child spends with each parent, which can be defined through joint physical custody or primary physical custody and visitation
- How holidays and special days will be divided
- How school vacations will be divided
- When and where exchanges will take place
- School, work and activities schedules
Decision-making protocols should be outlined
As the child grows, parents will need to make important decisions regarding their child’s educational, health, religious and other needs. The power to make these decisions involves having legal custody of the child. In most cases, courts award parents joint legal custody of the child, even if one parent has primary physical custody and the other has visitation rights. This means that major decisions about the child must be made by both parents. However, a parenting agreement can also include how emergency decisions will be made if one parent is not immediately available, for example. The decisions that concern the day-to-day care and upbringing of the child can be made by each parent when the child is with each of them.
The child custody agreement created by parents should ideally include as many details as possible, anticipating any conflicts that might develop. However, it should also allow for some flexibility as the needs of the individuals in the family change.