What to have in divorce custody docs
1. Residency: Where will the children live? This is called physical custody.
2. Parent time: How much time will the non-resident parent have with the children? This used to be called visitation.
3. Decision-making: Who will make decisions regarding education, health care and religious upbringing? This is call legal custody.
4. Discipline: How will discipline be handled?
5. Travel out of state: If either parent takes the children to another state for more than two weeks, notification must be given to the other parent.
6. Extra-curricular activities: Both parents must approve all activity outside of school, including camps and extra-curricular activities.
Sometimes you have have other items as well.
The big advantage of a custody agreement is that it removes the element of surprise in child custody disputes. Rules are clear, and both sides are prepared to make their case. This avoids the situation in which one parent has been living with a child for a few years and suddenly the other parent shows up and says, “I want my child back now.”
It’s also a good idea to have a custody agreement because it makes life easier for custodial parents who need to travel or take time off. They don’t have to get permission from the noncustodial parent; they just go ahead and do what they need to do.
If you are getting divorced, talk with your spouse about drawing up a custody agreement before you ever go to court. If you don’t have children yet, it’s still a good idea to discuss what kind of custody arrangement you would like if you later do.
In the past, property was mostly physical, and custody was mostly of children. These days, property is all digital and custody is of servers, data and intellectual property. As a result, much more care must be taken to define which server is which. Which data is whose.
We are all affected by this shift. Consider a couple divorcing after many years of marriage. They both work in the software industry; they have several shared bank accounts; they own a few houses and cars; they have two children and numerous computers, phones, tablets and other digital devices; their family photos are on Facebook; their email exchanges are stored in a handful of services, including Gmail and Dropbox; their kids use iPad tablets for schoolwork; and so on. The details vary across families but not by that much.
But divorce laws are still based on the antiquated notion of physical objects being divided between two homes. So what exactly do you need to define in your custody agreements? What documents do you need to prepare? What percentage of your property should be marked with your name or hers?
If you are getting divorced, it is important to have custody documents that spell out what your rights and responsibilities are. The problem is, it is hard to write down in words everything you need to say. If you can’t trust your own judgment about whose turn it is to get the kids this weekend, how can you be trusted with a document that powerful?
The standard way of dealing with this problem is to use a custody template. But templates have problems too. A custody template is a list of questions like “Who will pay for braces?” and “How much time will the paying parent have with the kids?” You try to answer them subjectively, and then the software spits out a custody order that looks pretty close to what you wanted.
This seems great, but there are at least two ways it can go wrong. First, as soon as you get stuck on one question, you look up the answer in your state’s law. That answer becomes part of the template—and now if you stay married long enough to want a different custody order, you’ll probably have to pay someone else a lot of money to change it. Second, there’s no easy way to modify templates when the law changes or your circumstances change or science discovers something new.
When two people divorce, the number one most important is who will have custody? Ideally, whoever is most likely to keep the children safe and healthy, and most likely to help them do well in school. If the parents agree on this, it can be as simple as “Jill will have custody” or “Jack will have custody.” In practice, this is harder than it seems. When you need help with custody, call Ascent Law LLC.
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It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
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