Every child custody agreement will have its own unique elements. But in general, there are certain items you will absolutely want to include in your own agreement. Here are a few of those most essential elements:
- Custody descriptors. You need to clearly outline who has both physical and legal custody of the children. Physical custody refers to who is the physical guardian, while legal custody refers to a parent’s ability to make decisions on the child’s behalf. There are different arrangements. Sole custody gives one parent both legal and physical custody, while joint custody gives both parents a shared amount of legal and physical custody.
- Who makes certain decisions. If you want one parent to be in charge of specific decisions regarding the upbringing of the child, such as medical care, education, religion and extracurricular activities, it should be included in your custody agreement.
- How you’ll divide costs. Raising a child is expensive. Even when taking child support into account, both parents will likely need to split certain costs. You should have a clear outline of who is in charge for which expenses — or how much of a particular expense. For example, who pays for medication? Who pays for school costs? Which parent claims the child as a dependent on tax returns?
- When visitation will occur. If one parent has sole physical custody of the child, you should have a thorough, clear visitation schedule implemented in your child custody arrangement so there can be no debate later on about the non-custodial parent’s rights. This plan should address holidays, frequency of visitations and any other issues that could arise between you and your spouse.
- Future plans. You need to leave some room for flexibility to either amend the agreement down the road or to cover how you will address general issues not currently covered by your agreement.
Complexities of Child Custody Involving Unmarried Parents
When unmarried parents end their relationship, they must go through many of the same motions to establish custody as legally married parents. Nevertheless, there can be certain complexities that apply when establishing custodial rights of unmarried parents.
Importance of establishing paternity
Unlike their married counterparts, when an unmarried couple has a child paternity is not assumed, but must be established. During and after the unmarried couple’s split, the unmarried mother is typically given a primary right to custody, care and control of children resulting from the relationship.
If an unmarried father wishes to have partial or full custody of a child, he must establish paternity through a court order or by having his name listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate. However, if a child was born while the mother was married to someone other than the biological father, the mother’s legal spouse will be listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate. In this case, the biological father may file a paternity petition.
Once paternity is established, the father may be awarded partial custody of the child. If the mother is deemed to be unfit to parent or has abandoned the child, then a father may be able to establish full custody.
Child Support for custodial parents
Unmarried parents who have custody of their child may receive child support. As with married couples, child support is determined based on incomes of both parents and the amount necessary to properly look after a child. An exemption to this standard would be if a non-biological parent adopts the child. When another party adopts a child, the biological parent’s financial responsibilities to that child are terminated.
Free Consultation with Child Custody Lawyer
If you have a question about child custody question or if you need to collect back child support, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will aggressively fight for you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506