Custody Agreements: Increasingly Complex

Times have changed for custody agreements. Once, courts reflexively gave custody to the mother. The order would describe when the father would have the child or children on weekends or holidays and possibly not much more.

Now, they can be painstakingly detailed. The Washington Post in an article, notes of one agreement which "bars either parents from speaking critically of the other's faith" and other very specific requirements for the children's religious education and experience.

How Precise Do You Want To Be?

The parenting plan can be as detailed as the parents want them to be. The agreements can list how long a child must attend Sunday school, which religious domination they will belong to, who picks the guests for a bar mitzvah, the schools will the children attend, how the parents may date, and who determines whether the child will receive medication for undiagnosed medical and behavioral issues.

Developing a parenting plan is a complex task. Think of it as the blueprint for your relationship with your children and your ex-spouse until your children become adults. The advantage of a detailed and comprehensive parenting plan is that it reduces the likelihood of conflict occurring over situations that were contemplated within the plan.

The disadvantage of a comprehensive plan is that there will always be some circumstance that will not quite fit any of the plan's categories. Raising children simply is not predictable enough to be reduced to a document that absolutely covers every eventuality.

But, even with that, if you have taken the time to develop a detailed parenting plan, complete with procedures to resolve disputes that will inevitably arise, chances are you and your ex-spouse will have the ability and process to arrive at a reasonable accommodation for unforeseen circumstances.

An Increase In Complexity

As custody agreements have evolved, some states have codified the minimum requirements for a parenting plan.

While Connecticut still has a general standard, exhorting parents to serve the best interests of the child, others, like Missouri have created a statutory scheme that breaks the parenting plan into three parts; physical custody, decision making and financial considerations.

Each area has specific points that must be addressed by the plan, which means a final parenting play will have 22 separate categories explicated. However, just because Connecticut does not statutorily require a similar level of specificity, does not mean you cannot tailor your plan in this fashion.

Building a workable parenting plan/custody agreement with your attorney can be a good exercise in how you want to live with and raise your child or children in relationship with your ex-spouse. As difficult as it may appear when you begin, the more thought you put into it and the more realistic you are, the more likely it is to be successful.