When many couples file for divorce, the decision is mutual, and the process itself is amicable. They discuss, moving forward, what custody of their children will look like and assume they will be able to work together continuously in the future.
However, even for the most amicable of divorces, in the future, events and circumstances always seem to come up and changes to the arrangement must be made, and they aren’t always met with favorable responses.
For that reason, it is strongly suggested that any custody arrangement made during the divorce process, and thereafter, be in writing.
The Benefits of an Attorney-Reviewed Agreement
Developing a specific custody arrangement and submitting that agreement to the court provides security and protection to both parties. Neither parent is able to move out of a certain geographical location, withhold visitation with the other parent, or make life-altering decisions for the child without consulting the other parent first. It ensures both of the parents’ needs, and the children’s needs, are far more likely to be met throughout the co-parenting years.
In addition, going through the process of writing out the agreement forces the parties to make certain decisions in order to avoid conflict later. Pick-up and drop-off times become simpler to abide by and enforce. Alternative schedules, such as ones typically used during holidays and school breaks, will have already been planned. If child support is involved, missed payments can be penalized. Because of the clear definition of the roles of the parents and the arrangements made, both parties have a formal obligation to stick to the agreement.
The Risks Of Going Ahead Without a Written Custody Agreement
Though two parties may work well together now, life happens to well-meaning partners. New relationships begin, jobs change, and financial circumstances waver. Without an agreement in writing, and one that is updated when necessary, one party is often left at the whims of the other.
In the absence of written documentation, sudden changes in custodial arrangements are largely permissible. A move, for example, could significantly impact a joint custody agreement, or one parent could plan a vacation during the other parent’s agreed-upon time. The written agreement gives each parent actions to take in order to uphold the original agreement.
If you are a parent in the midst of a divorce and have yet to obtain a court-approved custody plan, contact your local family law attorney in South Carolina for counsel and guidance.