What is a Child Custody and Visitation Agreement?
A Child Custody and visitation Agreement, also referred to as a Child Custody Contract, is a document used to create custody arrangements with your co-parent. The agreement lays down the child custody guidelines between the child and the parents, and this is usually issued in connection with divorce or separation proceedings.
In establishing the child custody agreement, child custody laws emphasize that the child’s interest and background must be put first or also known as the “child’s best interest standard.” The provisions in the agreement may include the following:
- The parent who has the physical custody of the child;
- The parent who has the legal custody of the child, and it is usually the parent who has the physical custody of the child;
- How the custody will be split between the parents, whether it will be split equally or the custodial parent will have more physical custody time than the non-custodial parent; and
- Visitation schedules to the child for the non-custodial parent.
Both parents may include additional provisions in the custody agreements. You may include provisions on child support or other parties who can assume custody of the child, such as an aunt, grandparent, uncle, and other relatives or trusted individuals.
If you and your co-parent can communicate with each other, you can draft a child custody and visitation agreement. Drafting a custody agreement on your own can lessen the expenses in going through a child custody proceeding. However, note that each state has its child custody laws. So be sure to check the laws of the state you’re residing in before proceeding.
States require documents for the child custody agreement. While requirements vary per state, these are some of the primary documents you may need upon drafting:
- Forms of parental rights and responsibilities;
- Grandparent visitation forms;
- Model parenting agreement; and
- Motions for modification.
Child Custody and Visitation Agreements are usually considered as a kind of parenting plan. While families have different needs, the following are essential in a child custody agreement:
- The type of custodial arrangement both parents agreed to;
- Which parent has legal custody and physical custody over the child;
- Parenting schedules, such as visitation schedules, holidays, weekends, and vacations;
- Pick-up and drop-off details from the parental home;
- Details about the child’s education, extracurricular activities, and religion; and
- A clause on how parents can change the terms of the custody agreement when needed.
You have to be specific in the details when drafting your child custody agreement. For instance, you can include your child’s belongings or how each parent will provide the child’s school supplies or clothing. The more specific the agreement, the less time you need for revision and modification on a later date.
Once you have finished drafting the agreement, you must present it to the court. Note that the court must agree to the terms you made with your co-parent before they certify it. If the court rejects the agreement, you need to redraft it. Always remember that the child’s interest must come first before the parent’s.
When the court has finally agreed to the terms of your child custody agreement, have it notarized before a notary public. A notarized child custody agreement binds both parents to the terms and conditions of the agreement, and they are required to fulfill their duties and obligations to their child.
A parent who contests the notarization has the burden to prove before the court as to why the agreement should not be notarized. For instance, the contesting parent may prove that the signing of the document was made through fraud. But if the parent fails to provide a valid reason to not notarize the agreement, the court shall accept the notarized agreement and shall be enforceable.
How to fill out a Child Custody and Visitation Agreement?
Fill out a child custody and visitation agreement with your co-parent by providing the following information:
Name of Custodian
Enter the full legal name of the custodial parent or custodian of the child.
Name of the Child
Enter the full legal name of the child under custody.
The names required to be filled out above are the first part of the agreement. The next items consist of the main content of the custody agreement.
Enter the full legal name of the non-custodial parent. Next, enter the day, month, and time of the non-custodial parent to visit the child under custody.
Enter the day and the time when the non-custodial parent will notify the custodial parent of its intention to visit the child.
In case of a conflict in schedule or inconvenience of time in the day and hour selected by the non-custodial parent, enter the day and time for the custodian to contact the non-custodial parent.
Item 3 explains that this agreement is considered as an obligation or duty of the non-custodial parent to accept the custody of the child for the period provided.
Check the appropriate box if the child has a present immaturity. If the child is still premature at the time of the custody agreement, check “Yes.” In this case, the non-custodial parent shall not be entitled to take the child from the custodian’s home for a certain period.
However, if the child wants to spend time with the non-custodial parent other than the period mentioned, the custodian will consent to the partial custody of the non-custodial parent.
If there is no immature present in the child, check “Not applicable.”
Item 5 states that in cases where the child suffers from an illness, the custodian must promptly inform the non-custodial parent. The term “illness” under this item means that the child is confined or bed-ridden for more than two days.
Item 6 states that the custodian shall consult the non-custodial parent regarding the child’s health and education, as long as they follow a harmonious policy.
Item 7 explains that both parents shall not do anything to estrange the child from each parent.
Signature of the Non-Custodial Parent
Affix the name and the signature of the non-custodial parent.
Signature of the Custodial Parent
Affix the signature of the custodial parent.