There are two basic ways to decide child custody after you divorce your partner or spouse. Either the court will decide custody, or you and your ex can reach an agreement about how you will all care for your children. Parents can avoid expensive court hearings and the bitterness that comes with a court battle. We recommend that parents reach a child custody arrangement concerning their children, and then have a consent judgment signed by the court, making it an enforceable court order. It is crucial that your agreement be binding so that if one party does not comply with the terms of the consent judgment, you can seek court action to enforce the agreement. It is also recommended that you have your consent judgment prepared by an experienced family law attorney.
Consent judgments, which are enforceable, are preferred as they keep conflict to a minimum, save both parties substantial money on legal fees, and serve the best interests of the children. This blog will cover the top five things to consider when negotiating a child custody agreement with your ex-spouse.
This blog will cover the top five things to consider when negotiating a child custody agreement with your ex-spouse.
1. Legal Custody – Sole or Joint, and Shared Joint Custody
Louisiana has three (3) types of legal custody for children: sole custody, joint custody, and shared joint custody. If one parent has sole custody, it means that all decisions regarding the child's upbringing are made by him or her. Joint custody is where both parents are involved in the decision-making process regarding the child's upbringing, and the custodial schedule can vary significantly. In a joint custody agreement, one parent is normally designated as the domiciliary parent. In a shared joint custody agreement, the parties typically share custody on an equal or 50/50 basis. Sometimes, no domiciliary parent is needed in a shared joint custody arrangement. In that case, it is important that these custody plans designate how certain major and minor decisions concerning the children are made by the parties.
2. Physical Custody
Physical custody is similar to legal custody. It can be either sole or joint or shared joint physical custody. A parent will only be granted sole physical custody in extremely rare cases. You can choose between unsupervised or supervised physical custody. The majority of physical custody is unsupervised. It can range from every other weekend (in certain cases, less physical custody may be necessary) to 50/50.
Although it is not necessary, it is recommended to include a holiday plan in your custody agreement. It will ensure that there is no surprise as to where the children will be over the holiday time. These are some of the most common ways parents split and share holiday time.
Alternate holidays every year: Each parent can be given holidays for even years, and the holidays can then be swapped in odd years. This arrangement will ensure that you don't miss a holiday with your child for more than one year.
Split the holiday in two: You can divide the holiday days so that your child has a day with each parent. This arrangement will require planning and coordination as you don't want your children to travel all day on holidays.
You can assign fixed holidays to each parent: Each parent can celebrate the same holiday with their child every year. Parents can celebrate different holidays if they feel it is important.
These are just a few of the many ways you can divide and share holiday time. This will allow you to make holiday arrangements that allow your children to have family traditions and spend quality time with both of your parents.
4. Guidelines for Co-Parenting
Louisiana courts require that custody agreements include the Co-Parenting Guidelines. These guidelines provide expectations for parents in order to work together towards the best interests of their children. Below are the standard Co-Parenting Guidelines.
To exchange information about the child with one another in a timely fashion so that they can coordinate and facilitate their parenting. This information could include, but is not limited, to the medical, educational, and psychological aspects of the child’s life. The goal is for the parties to reach any decision regarding the children together, and to always consider what is in the children’s best interest.
Communication between parents regarding material items, child sharing, and court-related matters, as well as financial, must take place when the child isn't present or within hearing distance. These issues should not be discussed during exchanges with the child, or telephone visits.
5. Tax Credits
Although technically child support is part of the agreement, it's important to identify which parent will claim the children each year on their taxes. Below are some common scenarios that can be used to claim the children on taxes.
All children are claimed by one parent: For all children, the parents alternate years (one parent takes odd years, one parent takes even years).
If there is more than one child, each parent is entitled to claim at least one child per year
SEEKING OUT HELP FROM A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY
A detailed custody agreement can reduce conflict in difficult situations when co-parenting with an ex. If you and your spouse are working on a child custody agreement, contact Alfred R. Beresko who is an experienced Board Certified Family Law Specialist, and trusted Family Law lawyer, at Bowie and Beresko, APLC today to discuss your child custody agreement and case.