The end of a relationship can be difficult, regardless of whether the couple was married or not. This is especially true when the couple shares a child. Even though the couple won’t need to file for divorce, they’ll still need to consult a child custody lawyer in the Owings Mills area regarding custody, visitation, and support agreements. It is possible, though not always practical, for unmarried ex-partners to make parenting agreements without going to court.
Identify the custody and visitation issues that must be resolved.
There are many more issues that must be agreed upon other than the type of child custody you’ll have. Consider these questions regarding common child custody issues:
- Which parent will the child primarily live with?
- When will the other parent spend time with the child?
- Will there be overnight visitation?
- Who is responsible for picking up/dropping off the child?
- Will either parent be able to call the child at any time?
- With whom will the child spend holidays and school vacations?
- Will either parent be able to move out of the area?
- How will household rules remain consistent across houses?
- Who will make major decisions for the child’s upbringing?
A solid parenting agreement is one that is specific and easily understood. It’s best to make major decisions ahead of time, but both parents should know that a little flexibility is also important. For instance, a parenting agreement might not specify that visitation time might be canceled if the child has a stomach flu, but if the parents are reasonably flexible, they can adjust their plans to suit the child’s needs.
Agree about the child’s support.
A family lawyer can help you calculate a reasonable child support payment based on state guidelines. This may help prevent disputes about paying too much or not enough. In the support agreement, be sure to specify the amount, frequency of payment, and form of payment (check, cash, etc.).
Establish an avenue for change.
It’s normal for parenting and support agreements to change over time, whether or not a court established them. As the child grows older, his or her needs and preferences will change. It’s a good idea to have a written agreement with your ex to meet at least annually to discuss whether there are any new issues that must be resolved. Some problems may arise before your planned annual meeting. Consider setting guidelines for how you and your ex will manage disputes. A proactive mindset may help you avoid court in the future.