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5 provisions that belong in a good custody agreement

If you are thinking about separating from your spouse, you may have a good idea about what marital property you want to keep. If you have children, though, you may have dozens of questions about custody. 

With a good custody agreement, you have a map for caring for your kids after your divorce. Custody agreements come in a variety of styles. As you may suspect, there is no single agreement that works for every situation. Still, there are some provisions that typically belong in any good custody agreement. Here are five of them.

1. General procedural information 

Like all legal documents, custody agreements must address some housekeeping at their outset. In the first section of your agreement, you likely want to describe the custodial arrangement. To do so effectively, you must designate which parent has physical and legal custody. You also need to decide whether custody is joint or sole.

2. A visitation plan 

If you plan to share physical custody of your children with your ex-spouse, you should include a visitation schedule in your custody agreement. When preparing the visitation plan, be sure to address regular visits, vacations and holidays. 

3. An explanation of parental obligations 

You probably want to share parental authority with your former partner. To avoid parenting conflicts, use your custody agreement to explain parental obligations. That is, you should try to clearly define who has the authority to make important decisions. Addressing medical treatment, religion and education is a good idea.   

4. A framework for making changes 

Fighting over changes to a custody agreement can be both expensive and exhausting. To minimize future arguments, consider including a framework for modifying your custody agreement in the agreement itself. Note, though, even if you have a modification plan in the agreement, you likely need court approval to change your custody arrangement. 

5. Instructions for resolving disputes 

You would rather focus on raising your children than fighting with your former spouse. Therefore, write some instructions for resolving disputes into your custody agreement. Counseling, mediation and arbitration are usually effective options. 

Even though your marriage did not work out, you want to provide the best possible environment for your children. By giving some thought to your custody agreement, you can likely make your divorce easier for you, your former spouse and your kids. 

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