10 Things You Need to Put in Your Child Custody Arrangement
When parents disagree, it sometimes means divorce or separation. When children are involved, this means you typically have two people who love them but cannot raise them while living together. Thus, the law must act to protect the children and ensure that their best interests are put first. The best case scenario is generally an amicable custody arrangement. This is a contractual document that sets forth the various rights and responsibilities of the parties.
In most situations, the parents will create an arrangement, and a judge will review and approve it. If the parents cannot agree, they can also opt to take their dispute before a neutral mediator. Under Maryland law, mediation is a process that allows them to work out their differences privately, rather than in open court.
But what goes in a custody arrangement? Technically, you can put just about anything you want in the agreement, but there are 10 specific things you should definitely make sure are in there.
#1 Who Has Custody?
Maryland law says that both parents are natural guardians with equal rights to raise and care for their children. A court can award three types of custody: (1) Sole, (2) Split, or (3) Joint. These can actually get a bit complicated, so be sure you talk to your lawyer if you don’t understand what they are.
The goals is to keep children in their routine. Make sure the arrangement accounts for their typical weekly schedule. What days of the week will the child be with each parent? Who will pick up from school? Is one parent better suited to handle soccer practice? Try to be detailed and include these things in the schedule.
#3 Pick Up and Drop Off Routine
This sort of goes hand-in-hand with scheduling, but make sure that you are explicit in detailing how and when each child will be picked up and dropped off for visitation or shared parenting. Some parents prefer neutral public places; others don’t mind meeting at their homes. Just be sure to include the range of time for these meetings, and how rescheduling will be communicated. Life happens, but frequent violations of these arrangements can lead to problems. The arrangement must be clear and unambiguous.
Where will the child attend school. School Choice allows a lot more flexibility in where children will attend school, so even with a divorce, families usually have options. Still, make sure it’s clear which school children will attend.
#5 Religious Upbringing
This is not a problem for all families, but if there are strong religious beliefs, the arrangement should account for how upbringing will be handled. This should not be left to chance.
#6 Health Insurance
As Time reports, despite the repeal of the health insurance mandate, at least for 2018, you must still carry minimum creditable health insurance coverage. This includes children. Therefore, any good custody agreement should include some clear discussion of who will provide for that coverage.
#7 College Planning
There is no legal obligation to put your children through college, but when you get divorced or separated, a court may order you and your spouse to contribute equally to college expenses. In some situations, this can create an obligation. Maryland offers terrific 529 Savings options that are deductible on your state income taxes. You may wish to include a provision that requires each person to contribute a portion of their income to one of these investments.
#8 Other People Around the Children
Grandparents, new partners and spouses, uncles, aunts, and various forms of in-laws all might want to participate in the children’s lives. The times and frequency of visitation these people will have with children should be set forth clearly.
It’s common to want more time with children around the holidays and summers. Make sure you set up a good rotation so that both parents get time with children during these memorable times.
#10 Future Changes
One thing is for sure, things are bound to change. What works today may not work after a job change, a new spouse, or some other major life change. Make sure you include provisions for going back to the drawing board to revise the agreement, as needed, in the future.
Working With a Custody Lawyer
Whether you’re in Columbia, Glen Burnie, or one of the neighboring areas of Maryland, Todd K. Mohink, P.A. is available to answer your child custody questions. Call or visit the firm online 24/7 to set up your confidential consultation today.