How to Write Up Your Own Custody & Support Agreement
By Anna Green
Although the court can help parents reach consensus on child support and custody issues, reaching an agreement on your own can create an atmosphere of cooperation and save time and money. Each state has its own laws on child support and custody, and you must understand your jurisdiction’s guidelines before preparing any agreements. You can find sample agreements specific to your state by contacting the clerk of court or an online legal document service. Once you have prepared a mutually agreeable support and custody document, you will need to file it with the court. After you file it, the judge will review the document and enter an order reflecting the terms you and the other parent have agreed upon, unless she finds good cause to reject certain provisions.
Describe the type of arrangement you and the other parent have agreed upon. Custody can be classified as joint or sole. Joint custody is shared by both parents, while sole custody means one parent is the custodian. Custody can be either physical or legal. Legal custody refers to the right of a parent to make decisions for his child while physical custody involves the daily care for the child. The custody agreement should state in detail what responsibilities each parent will have.
Justify any deviations from the state code. If you and the other parent agree to an arrangement that is not well-grounded in your state’s child custody or support guidelines, explain why you made this decision. If you do not explain your line of reasoning, the judge might be reluctant to approve your agreement.
Provide a detailed visitation and parenting plan. This plan should include the child’s daily or weekly schedules and explain how you will handle parenting time during summers, holidays, school breaks and special events. Additionally, this plan should list where you will drop off and pick up the child after visits. If there are any parent-specific issues, such as a mother who often travels out of town for work, discuss how each party will handle custody exchanges during these situations.
Use language that reflects your willingness to cooperate with the other parent. The custody and support agreement should be positive and indicate that both parties are willing to comply with the terms the document outlines.
List the amount the noncustodial parent will pay the custodial parent. Calculate this amount using the formulas specified in your state’s code. Additionally, specify the manner and time frame in which the noncustodial parent will make support payments, such as through the court’s registry.
Outline non-monetary support. If one parent is offering non-monetary support, such as employer-supported health insurance or a private insurance policy, list this in the support documents.
Discuss who will pay for special child-rearing costs. For example, state who will pay for the children’s education, extracurricular activities, childcare or exceptional medical or educational expenses.
If you do not understand any processes or have questions about your rights, contact an attorney or legal aid bureau.
Child support, custody laws and procedures vary between jurisdictions. Verify your state's regulations before submitting any documents to the court.
Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.