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When you initially decide to get divorced or part ways with someone you share a child with, you may think you can do so amicably. You may come up with an informal custody agreement, and you might figure that you’ll work through issues as they arise.
However, what ends up happening is that things often get more contentious over time.Thinking about doing an informal custody agreement with your ex? Read this article to find out why it's a bad idea! Click To Tweet
Some factors become part of the equation you didn’t initially consider, like new partners or money issues.
Then, an informal custody agreement might not seem like such a good idea.
The following are some general things to know about informal custody agreements and how they can play out legally.
What Is an Informal Agreement?
An informal agreement is simply when parents come up with arrangements and a schedule on their own. For example, they may share their time in a way that works best for their schedule without a formal plan.
If the parents work together, this may be fine for the long-term.
Some parents will even draw up an agreement between themselves, and both sign it.
However, a custody agreement isn’t formally recognized until it’s approved and filed with the court.
So, if there is no agreement filed, there is really no way of enforcing anything.
If one parent is supposed to be at your home at a particular time for drop-off and they don’t show up, without an agreement filed with the court, there’s not much you can do.
You can see how this can quickly be problematic.
Typically, although it varies depending on where you live, the law assumes that with no filed agreement, each parent has an equal right to custody at all times.
This goes back to what’s touched on above—if there is an issue, your only recourse is to try and work it out with the person you co-parent with.
You could then file a custody complaint with the court, and you’d have to go through a custody procedure as outlined by law.
There are a lot of unknowns and variables that can be problematic without a formal agreement.
For example, your former partner can go on an extended trip without your permission, or maybe without even telling you, and there’s little you can do about it.
There are no legal consequences because there is no legal agreement for that person to follow.
Making Your Own Parenting Plan
Rather than trying to do something informal and outside of the courts, there are ways you can decide what works best for your family.
It’s a much better option to create a parenting plan.
This parenting plan will take into account things like legal and physical custody and will define your schedule.
It will also include how certain situations like school holidays and vacations are to be handled.
The more detail you can put in a parenting plan, the better. This leaves less room for confusion and arguments. It makes things clear for everyone involved, and it will provide both you and the person you share a child with a sense of security.
When you make a parenting plan, you can write it up as you see fit. Then, you submit it to the court, and a judge approves it.
It does have to follow custody guidelines in your state, so it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney. They can also help you get it approved by a judge.
Once that is filed, you have legal options available to you if your former partner does something without your permission.
Also, some people avoid doing anything formally through the court because they want to do what’s best for their own life and their child’s life. Plus, they’re scared if their situation changes, they won’t be able to alter their custody agreement.
You can make changes to your agreement
If you agree on the changes with the person you co-parent with, you can simply petition the court to make the change.
If you can’t agree, you will have to go through a court process to request a modification. You’ll then have to show how the change will benefit your kids.
Overall, an informal custody agreement is risky and often creates problems and headaches, so it’s best avoided. A parenting plan approved by the court is a much better option.
Do you have any experience with custody agreements?
Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.