Joint Custody - What is it?
Joint custody represents two components of your arrangement with your children's other parent:
1. Physical Joint Custody: Where you equally share living arrangements of your children. They spend half time with you and half with the other parent.
2. Joint Legal Custody: The shared ability of decision making in regards to all your children's needs, school, medical, extracurricular, travel...
Things don't need to be completely 50/50, but they try to get as close as possible.
In comparison, sole custody is where there is one person who has primary physical custody and/or primary legal custody of the children.
Instead of just giving blanket of sole custody, our state now delineates the separate areas of decision making and then assigns "Parental Responsibilities" vs. joint/sole custody to that particular areas.
Custody isn't only about which parent the child lives with - it's all about the legal right to make decisions for the child.
So while I am the primary physical custodial parent, Mr. Ex and I share the legal right to make decisions in regards to our son.
As the name states, Mr. Ex and I agreed to joint custody, with me being the residential parent (meaning our son resides with me).
Most states favor Joint Legal Custody. However, in my opinion, shared custody is not something that works well in a relationship that is contentious between the parents. And, I would also add that, to have the right to make decisions should come with skin the game - and I don't mean, just paying child support. Both parents should be doing work for the child/children, spending time, being involved in their lives - you need to know and engage with your child/children to be able to make decisions in their best interests.
Joint Custody - Joint Parenting Agreement Mistakes
I would say that given the information I had at the time, our Joint Parenting Agreement is reasonable.
One thing I would consider a mistake, now that it's years after this was entered, is that initially I wanted to go for sole custody, but was not into the fight. Plus, I thought that Mr. Ex would engage as a parent.
During the divorce he exercised visitation, but after the divorce was final, he all but disappeared.
Maybe the only clue I had to that is that he only exercised visitation when his mother was able to be with him, never on his own.
As a side note, if you are reading my divorce story, you'll know that I went back to divorce court to request child support modification. Months into the process, Mr. Ex and his attorney tried to get the entire case tossed out of court using Point 8 to try and force us into mediation.
Divorce Checklist Lessons:
- Do not sign any agreements until you've thought through the long term repercussions of them.
- Talk with friends and co-workers on what they wish they would have known prior to their divorces regarding finances and children. While situations vary, there may be things that neither you or your attorney have thought about.
- Joint custody really needs both parents to be on the same page with what is best for their kids. While Mr. Ex and I have joint custody, he does not see our son, and therefore, in my opinion, should not have the right to make decisions. You can not have opinions on something that you do not understand or know.
- I have friends who have 50/50 joint physical and legal custody arrangements. They are able to work things out, for the most part. However, I would argue that if you are going to do a 50/50 living arrangement, you assign a home to the children and the parents shuffle in and out of that home. Making kids spend half time here and half time there is really stressful. This concept is known as "nesting.*"
JOINT PARENTING AGEEMENT
This matter coming to be heard on the agreement of the parties as to joint custody of the minor child XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX pursuant to 750 XXXX Sec. 602, the court being advised in the premises and having jurisdiction herein and the court making the following findings:
The parents possess the ability to cooperate effectively and consistently with each other towards the best interest of the child;
The maximum involvement and cooperation of both parents regarding the physical, mental, moral and emotional well being of the child is in the best interests of the child;
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED
1. XXXXXXXXXXX (hereinafter Father) and XXXXXXXXXXX (hereinafter Mother) agree that both parties are fit and proper persons to have the joint legal custody of the minor child of the parties XXXXXXXXXXX. Mother and Father both recognize the continuing need of the child for close and frequent contact with both parents and the importance of both parents remaining actively involved in the life of the minor child, and therefore, Mother and Father agree that they shall have the joint care, custody, control and education of XXXXXXXXXXX. The physical residence of XXXXXXXXXXX shall be with the Mother. And Father shall have frequent and liberal visitation in accordance with the terms of this order. Each party shall make the day-to-day routine decisions concerning XXXXXXXXXXX when he is with Mother or Father, except as otherwise herein provided. Father shall have the right to visit and have the company of XXXXXXXXXXX at such reasonable times and places, pursuant to the terms of this agreement and/or as the parties may decide but not less that the schedule as set forth below.
2. Except as set forth below, either parent may remove the child from the states of XXXXXXXXXXX for visitation, trips, or vacations purposes without further leave of Court or consent of the other party, provided that the party intending to remove the child shall give the other parent reasonable notice of his or her intention to do so, and shall supply the other with information regarding the contemplated period of time outside the state and the address and telephone number where they shall be located. Each party shall permit reasonable telephone contact between XXXXXXXXXXX and the other parent. Neither party may travel with the child outside the United States or Canada without written permission from the other party. Nothing contained in this paragraph shall be construed to permit either parent to permanently remove the minor child from the state of XXXXXXXXXXX without first securing the approval of the Circuit Court of XXXXXXXXXXX County, XXXXXXXXXXX or written permission f the other parent.
3. Each party agrees to do everything within his or her power to foster the love, respect and affection of the minor child for the other party, and to make every possible effort to agree on all questions involving said minor child, including the minor child's welfare and future, so that he may have proper physical and emotional growth and retain respect and affection for both of his parents. Neither party shall prevent or hinder telephone or other communications between the minor child and the other parent. Neither party shall make disparaging remarks about the other parent to, or in the presence of, the child, and shall request that friends and family members refrain from doing so as well.
4. Both parties covenant and agree to share all information in connection with the medical, dental and psychological needs of the minor child, as well as the education and progress in school. Medical and school records, as well as all other information concerning or relating to XXXXXXXXXXX shall be made available to each party. Each party shall notify the other and shall request both parties be notified of any and all communications between the school and other parent concerning XXXXXXXXXXX. Each party shall be notified of consultations and invited to confer with teachers, counselors or medical professionals concerning education and health care and to attend any and all extracurricular events of XXXXXXXXXXX. Both parties shall have the right to communicate with teachers, school personnel, counselors, physicians and dentists to discuss XXXXXXXXXXX standing and progress and shall have the right to attend all school events and conferences as well as all appointments with health care providers. The parties further agree that on Mother's weekends with XXXXXXXXXXX he shall be allowed to attend a XXXXXXXXXXX school on Saturdays.
5. The parties agree that they shall jointly discuss and jointly determine major decisions concerning XXXXXXXXXXX including, but not limited to (a) education, (b) choice of and attendance of after-school activities, transportation to and from school, extracurricular activities, religious services and child care providers; (c) medical care and choice of physicians, dentists and the like (and all other significant questions relating to the health, welfare, and education of the minor child) except in the case of an emergency. In the event of a medical emergency, the parent with the child, or making first contact with the child shall make all necessary decisions during the emergency and shall promptly notify the other parent, if time does not allow consultations with the other parent prior to the necessity of a vital decision.
6. The parties' acknowledge that XXXXXXXXXXX presently suffers from severe, life threatening food allergies and they will follow all directives and recommendations of their son's medical allergist (presently at XXXXXXXXXXX Hospital) as to what he can eat and be exposed to. Each party shall insure that the other parent is notified about any reactions to food or other aspect of his environment and shall further insure that the other parent receives specific instructions (if necessary) on how to address the reaction(s).
7. Father shall have reasonable and liberal parenting time with XXXXXXXXXXX as follows:
Alternating weekends from Friday between 1:00pm and 3:00pm until Sunday at 7:00pm. If the parties cannot agree as to the commencement time of visitation on the alternating Fridays, then it shall commence at 2:00pm.
Alternating Tuesdays from 7:00pm to Wednesday at 7:00pm on the Tuesday immediately following Mother's weekend.
Alternating Thursdays from 7:00pm to Friday at 7:00pm on the Thursday immediately preceding Mother's weekend.
8. The parties shall divide the holidays as follows:
December 24 at 11:00am to December 25 at 9:00am. Odd years with Father and even years with Mother.
December 25 at 9:00am to December 26 at 9:00am. Odd years with Mother and even years with Father.
December 29 at 1:00pm to December 30 at 1:00pm. Odd years with Father and even years with Mother. (XXXXXXXXXXX birthday)
December 30 at 1:00pm to December 31 at 1:00pm. Odd years with Mother and even years with Father. (XXXXXXXXXXX birthday)
December 31 at 1:00pm to January 1 at 1:00pm. Odd years with Mother and even years with Father.
XXXXXXXXXXX January 6-7: always with Mother
American (Western Christian) Easter: always with Father.
(Eastern Orthodox) Easter: always with Mother, unless it falls on Father's Easter in which case it will be spent with Father.
Mother's Day: Entire weekend shall be with Mother every year, however, neither parent shall have Bubba more than two weekends in a row.
Father's Day: Entire weekend shall be with Father every year, however, neither parent shall have Bubba more than two weekends in a row.
July 4: 11:00am overnight to July 5 at 11:00am; even years with Father and odd years with Mother.
Parent's birthdays: XXXXXXXXXXX shall be with Father all day on his birthday and with Mother on her birthday.
Labor Day: From Friday through Monday: even years with Father and odd years with Mother.
Halloween: Odd years with Mother and even years with Father. Until XXXXXXXXXXX starts school full time the schedule shall be from 11:00am on October 31 to 11:00am on November 1.
Note: It's so odd that this is the only place that school is mentioned. It still riles me that my attorney never discussed our school options and financials. But alas, I'm to blame as well for not thinking that far ahead. Think about school, not just the schedule, but also the cost. Don't just think about it, get it all in writing in mind-numbing detail.
Thanksgiving: Father shall have XXXXXXXXXXX from Wednesday to Friday at 11:00am in odd years and from Friday at 11:00am to Sunday in even years; Mother shall have XXXXXXXXXXX from Wednesday to Friday at 11:00am in even years and from Friday at 11:00am to Sunday in odd years.
King Day: Odd years with Father and even years with Mother.
President's Day: Odd years with Father and even years with Mother.
Pulaski Day: Odd years with Father and even years with Mother.
Columbus Day: Odd years with Father and even years with Mother.
Veteran's Day: Odd years with Father and even years with Mother.
Grandparent's birthdays: With each grandparent on his or her respective birthdays.
8. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement regarding a medical decision for XXXXXXXXXXX they shall seek a second opinion. If after obtaining a second opinion the parties cannot agree as to a medical decision for XXXXXXXXXXX, or in the event of a conflict over any other aspect of this Joint Parenting Agreement, the parties agree to confer with a mutually agreed upon mediator before instituting any litigation to settle such conflicts except in cases of emergency where the life or health of the child is imperiled. In the even that they cannot agree upon a mediator, they shall use a mediatory qualified by the XXXXXXXXXXX Mediation Counsel. If mediation is unsuccessful, the costs of the mediator may be included in a Petition for Fees and Costs in connection with any enforcement or modification proceeding.
9. In the event the parties do not agree as to a vital decision regarding the welfare of the minor child and mediation is unsuccessful, the Circuit Court of XXXXXXXXXXX County shall retain continuing jurisdiction to adjudicate any disputed issue.
10. The parties shall meet once a year to review the Joint Parenting Agreement at or near the anniversary of the entry of said Agreement to determine whether it is meeting their needs and the needs of the child.
11. The parties shall adhere to the following rules with respect to the custody and visitation with the minor child:
A. Each parent shall refrain from discussing the conduct of the other parent in the presence of the child except in a laudatory or complimentary way.
B. Under no circumstances shall the question of child support be raised in the presence of the child.
C. Neither parent shall threaten to withhold visitation from the other parent. Neither parent shall threaten to prevent or delay the return of the child after a period of visitation.
D. Both parents shall not unreasonably question the child regarding the activities of the other parent.
E. Neither parent shall expose the child to any immoral conduct between the parent and any member of the opposite sex or the same sex.
F. Each parent shall work with the other parent to arrange visitation schedules that take into account the child's educational, athletic and social activities.
G. Both parties shall, at all times conduct themselves in a manner which promotes the beneficial effect on the minor child of visitation with the other parent.