Signing a custody agreement is a big decision, and it’s one you want to go into with your eyes wide open. If you are unfamiliar with legal jargon relating to your divorce, now is the time to start getting familiar with common terms. Understanding the lingo will give you the tools you need to negotiate a fair agreement and ensure that you aren’t signing away your rights while you work with a custody lawyer for women.
1. Sole Custody vs Joint Custody
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your divorce, the judge will award you either sole custody or joint custody. Sole custody means that you will be 100% responsible for the child, whereas joint custody means that you will be splitting responsibility with another party, although it does not guarantee an equal split of responsibility which will be discussed further down.
2. Physical Custody
Physical custody is awarded to either or both parents and refers to who will physically care for the child including who will provide their primary housing. This also covers caring for them on a daily basis, transporting them to and from school, and more. In order for the judge to award joint physical custody, the child must spend a substantial amount of time living with both parents. Otherwise, you are likely to see a sole physical custody decision with a visitation agreement for the other parent.
3. Legal Custody
Legal custody is a more complex concept that has to do with legal decision-making rights for the child. Legal custody comes into play when a child needs major medical care or is changing schools. These are the types of decisions that the judge feels both parties have a right to negotiate for the good of the child, and it prevents one parent from making a slew of decisions without input, especially if those decisions would introduce hardship for the other parent.
4. Visitation Agreement
Visitation agreements come into play when the child lives primarily with one parent. In this case, the visitation agreement will outline a specific schedule for the child to spend time with the other parent. Visitation agreements typically cover weekends, after-school hours, and holidays where the child is not in school for an extended period of time.
It is unreasonable to expect that you and your former partner will not go through a variety of life changes in the future. As such, a good custody agreement is one that also outlines methods for modification of the original agreement. If one of you is moving to take another job or simply has a change in availability, there must be a way to reconvene and renegotiate the terms to ensure that the child is still cared for. Custody lawyers for women in Columbus, OH can review this with you so you know what to expect.
6. Financial Obligations
Custodial financial obligations fall into many categories. While child support is the most common form of support awarded for the care of the child, your agreement might also include specific financial obligations for schooling, clothing, extracurricular activities, and more. Depending on the age of your child, these additional obligations will also come with instructions for how they are to be paid and when.
7. Dispute Resolution
Even when you think you have everything covered, you will also want to have a clear dispute resolution clause in your custody agreement. This way, if a payment is missed or you feel that the other parent has not met their obligations in some other way, you have recourse to seek restitution. A dispute solution clause will typically involve some kind of mediation process before the case is escalated any further, and your custody lawyer for women will tell you how to arrange for mediation.
8. Any Additional Provisions
Additional provisions are sometimes added when you are looking for support outside the normal range of topics covered above. Sometimes this is in the form of financial support, but it can also cover more unique topics like homeschooling provisions and educational expectations, transportation to and from events, and how you and the other parent will communicate with one another. These provisions are meant to make all aspects of your agreement function smoothly and ensure that every topic of importance is covered.
The eight terms listed above cover the vast majority of custody arrangements. As a parent, you want to be familiar with the various types of custody that can be awarded to you, as well as how they will affect your decision-making rights in the future. You will also want to make sure that you have a firm understanding of your visitation schedule and know who to call if you run into trouble down the road or need help making a change in the future.