Leading Financial and Family Law Attorneys
Child Custody As Part of A Divorce Proceeding
When parents decide to get divorced, child custody is a main focus of the Dissolution of Marriage.
Child Custody is an important focus of divorce proceedings because both parents want what is best for their children. It is important to understand all the options and opportunities to provide for the best possible post-divorce environment for the children involved. As a start, you can understand the vocabulary involved.
The Vocabulary of Child Custody:
Legal Custody: This refers to who has authority to make important decisions for the children.
Physical/Residential Custody: Where and with whom the children will be living.
Joint Legal Custody: This is used to describe a situation where parents have agreed to make major decisions for the children together.
Sole Legal Custody: For whatever reason when parents cannot work together, one parent is typically given the authority to make major decisions.
Right of Consultation: Used in a Sole Legal Custody agreement, this refers to the rights of a parent who does not have legal custody to be kept informed of all issues involving the children.
Parenting Time/Visitation: It is the schedule for when children are with each parent, including a schedule for weekdays, weekends, holidays, and vacations.
Parenting Agreement/Parenting Order: A parenting agreement contains the rules the parents will follow. When signed by a judge, it becomes an order that is enforceable both as a court order and as a contract.
Law Guardian or Attorney for the Child: This is an attorney appointed by the court to represent children in the event of a custody dispute.
Parenting Coordinator: This is a person whose role is to help parents reach an agreement when they have a conflict about the children. They may be used during the litigation or even after the divorce.
Parenting Agreement/Parenting Order: A parenting agreement contains the rules the parents will follow. When signed by a judge, it becomes an order that is enforceable both as a court order and as a contract. The following are items that may be covered in a Parenting Agreement:
- What kind of custody will the parents have (joint legal, sole legal)?
- Which parent has primary residential custody?
- A complete parenting schedule, including provisions for changing the schedule in the event a child is ill or a cancellation is needed.
- Who will pick up and drop off the children when they are exchanged between parenting times?
- Includes any agreement between the parents regarding education and religious upbringing.
- How will the parents share information the children bring home from school or activities?
- Includes the agreement regarding attendance at conferences, special events or functions involving the children (such as parent teacher conferences, graduations, sacraments, birthday recitals, ball games, etc).
- Details the agreement between the parents on how they will handle attendance at family functions that take place during year, including weddings, parties, communions, and the like.
- Can the parents travel outside of the United States with the children, and if so, are their any restrictions to foreign travel. This provision will specify who is responsible for the passports, and what are the notice requirements between the parents.
- How will the children be able to communicate with the other parent and on what schedule (will the children have cellular phones, be able to email or text, etc)?
- Are there any agreed upon restrictions to relocation with the children by the primary residential custodial parent. Are there any other restrictions the parents have agreed upon. As an example: who else will or will not be caring for the children for babysitting arrangements.
Be sure you are working with an experienced Divorce/Family Attorney to ensure your children are respectfully, thoughtfully and professionally represented in your parenting agreement. In New Mexico, contact Don Harris for a consultation.