A divorce is a traumatic life event, particularly if the divorce involves children. If you're a parent hoping to ensure that your custody agreement is fair and healthy for your children, you must be prepared to fight hard, but also to be flexible.
Here are some tips for negotiating a fair and equitable child custody agreement during a divorce.
Agreements that Grow
Your children won't remain children forever. Thus, your child custody agreement should grow with your children.
Annual Review: What works for a 12-year-old doesn't always work for a 13-year-old. As your children grow, you may need to augment your child custody agreement to meet the needs of your growing child or children. Having your divorce attorney negotiate a formal annual review of your child custody agreement is the easiest way to ensure that your child custody agreement remains the right decision for your children. These reviews can often be facilitated by a determined mediator, which will reduce the cost of the annual review, while maintaining the legal legitimacy of your custody agreement.
Flex-time: When stipulating the amount of time given to each parent in the custody agreement, you should be sure to integrate some flex-time to account for holidays, birthdays, special events, and vacations.
Block Allotments: Allotting one- to two-week blocks within each year can help facilitate family vacations.
Alternating Holidays: Most child custody agreements include alternating holidays. However, this isn't always tenable when you include special events (graduations, dance recitals, big games, etc.). You should be sure to include language in your custody agreement that shifts who has custody of the children on holidays to account for potential specials events that you may not know about at the start of each year.
Embedding this language into your child custody agreement can balance out how equitable the time allotted for your children is.
Similar to child custody, the financial needs of your children will change as they grow.
College Fund: With the growing price tag of college education, it's imperative to start saving for your child's college education long before they even enter high school. If you and your ex-partner wish to contribute to a college fund, it's important that the money be held in a trust. This trust should allow money to be put into the account but not withdrawn unless both parties agree to the withdrawal. Although some divorce attorneys advocate for stipulating an amount to be contributed by both parties each year, these stipulations are not legally binding.
HSA: A health savings account is a great option for divorced parents. This fund not only acts as a tax shelter, but it also ensures that both parties can contribute to health expenses. When creating your HSA, you can set a limit on the amount of money that can be spent at one time, which will require permission from both parties to exceed this threshold. An HSA also makes it easy to track exactly how much each party contribute to your child's health care expenses.
Car Insurance: When your child learns to drive, they will be among the most expensive drivers to insure. You can negotiate how much you're willing to pay for auto insurance to ensure that you aren't forced to pay more for an insurance than you can afford. It's important that you add this clause into your child support agreement to ensure that the cost of a ridiculously high premium isn't thrust upon you. Although you will need to discuss this issue with your child, you should always retain the right to seek the most cost-effective insurance available to you.
Contact a law firm like Kelm & Reuter, P.A. for more information.Share