What to consider when preparing a written custody agreement
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The Family Law act is in place to set guidelines across a broad range of topics related to separating families. Family Law Act 1975 – Relevant Sections. It encourages all involved parties to come to an arrangement that is most beneficial for the children.
The written agreement is the first step in developing a set plan/routine for the children within a separated family.
There is a wide range of considerations to make when developing a written agreement, these are some of the broader yet very important considerations to make:
- Where will the child/ren live?
- Will there be a shared care arrangement where the child/ren live with each parent for part of the week or fortnight?
- Are there any religious, cultural, educational or other considerations you want to include in your agreement?
Try to think of things that may happen in the future and what arrangements you can make to help with those events. Ask “what if…” questions, for example:
- What if the children are sick?
- What if there is a pupil free day following the weekend the children are spending time with the other parent?
- What if the children want to attend swimming lessons, football, or dancing — Who will pay for it and who will take the children?
- Are there religious ceremonies they should attend? Who will take them?
- What if I want to take them on an overseas holiday?
The agreement reached between the parents must be one that is reasonable and practical for your circumstances.
When you are trying to decide what are reasonable and practical arrangements for your child/ren, put yourself in their place and ask how they might cope with the arrangements you propose. Think about the following things:
- How far will they have to travel to school from each parent’s house?
- Will they be able to maintain their friendship groups and activities if they are living in two different households?
- Are they old enough to remember to move the things they might need, such as sports equipment, between the two households as needed?
Also, think about how you and the other parent will manage things like:
- before and after school care
- school holidays
- your employment or study obligations
- the financial costs of shared care.
Ask yourself “Is this agreement workable?” and “Is it in the child/ren’s best interests?”.
Consider the arrangements that appear ‘equal’ or ‘fair’ on paper may not be the best arrangements if they are too difficult for the children or for one or both parents.
It is important your agreement is written in a way that is short and clear to not only you and the other parent but to any other party who may need to refer to it (eg school, daycare centres, Child Support Agency, Centrelink).
For more information on written custody agreements, speak with or team at SLS our team have helped hundreds of separating families come to fair and equitable arrangements for written custody agreements.