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What is a Parenting Agreement?

Anna B. Smith
Anna B. Smith

A parenting agreement is a written document that establishes guidelines for two parents who are rearing mutual children, but who are divorced. The document may be created by the parents personally, or drafted by legal counsel and enforced by a court order, depending on the nature of the divorce. The agreement generally addresses common areas of decision making experienced by most separated parents, such as what type of school to send their children to, how to pay for their medical coverage, and visitation rights between the two homes.

This type of agreement, also commonly referred to as a parenting plan, is used in situations in which two spouses are divorcing and wish to continue making decisions together regarding the rearing of their children. It may also be used by couples who have children together, but who have never been married and no longer live together. The document can be tailored to address the needs of virtually any type of situation the family may have. Both mother and father can use the written parenting agreement as a tool for setting expectations for one another during their post-divorce relationship. Issues such as doctors appointments, medical coverage, and visitation schedules may be included.

Woman posing
Woman posing

Either spouse may create a parenting agreement, either jointly or apart, or they may choose to hire a lawyer to write it. Both parties typically sign the final version of the agreement as a testament to their willingness to abide by its guidelines. During cases in which neither party is able to come to amicable terms regarding the agreement, both sides may choose to allow their legal representatives to negotiate the document in terms of compromise for them. The final draft may be made into a court order so that either spouse may enforce its terms on the other if they become delinquent in any way, though this is not a legal requirement for the divorce. When the parenting agreement is submitted to a court of law, the judge ruling on the case typically has the option of modifying any portion of the document as he sees fit.

The parenting agreement should cover any major issues either spouse wishes to address in regards to their mutual children. It can establish a calendar pattern for visitation rights, including holidays, and declare which parent will serve as the primary residence for the children. Monetary concerns, such as child support, paying medical bills, and health care coverage, are also traditionally addressed in this type of document. Parents can also decide, during the drafting of the document, what type of school they want their children to attend, and how to pay for tuition when applicable.

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