Questions & Answers / Does there need to be a custody agreement?

Does there need to be a custody agreement?

The parties do not always agree, so a custody “agreement” is not required, but no dissolution of marriage can be completed if there are minor children involved unless some variety of “parenting plan” (not necessarily an agreement) is in place, as well as a child support worksheet and child support order filed. The court needs to make sure that the child is always being cared for and supported by the parents. The parents are encouraged to cooperate with each other if the child’s needs change or temporary situations require slight changes from time to time, but the parenting plan must be in effect so that if the parents cannot agree on minor changes in plans, it will always be clear on who should have the child at any given time. If the parents make changes to the plans that they intend to maintain, they should submit a signed, modified custody agreement to the court so that the new long term change will be in effect officially. 
For example, if the parents have 50-50 custody with each parent having a week at a time, but in football season Dad coaches the team, it’s hoped that the parents will cooperate in allowing Dad to pick up the budding football star and take him to practice after school during football season without the parents having to go in and redo the entire custody agreement, but if Mom joins the Peace Corps and commits to spending 2 years teaching Math to the desert nomad children of the Sahara, then it’s hoped that the parents would bring in a modification of the agreement so that it would be clear that the children are to live with Dad during those years and he would have the right to make sole decisions on issues such as changes of school medical care, etc. In the first case, the parents probably do not need to run to court for every little change in schedule. For the second situation, this is a substantial and continuous change that deserves being formalized in court, especially so that the kids are properly taken care of while Mom is away.

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