When comprising a co-parenting agreement, many factors must be considered. The needs of the parent are always important, but Family Law courts always place priority on the child and their needs. What are the issues to look out for when going through this process and what is a co-parenting agreement?
A legal co-parenting agreement is a provision for the parenting rights and duties for each adult that is assigned a job for the child. This can include anything from where the child goes to school, where they live, or even what medical care they should receive. The agreement will dictate many life changing decisions for the child and needs to be carefully thought out when being created.
Houston Family Law attorney, Susan Myres, from Myres & Associates describes a co-parenting agreement as a three-legged stool with each leg being a crucial part of the order. She explains, “First, the co-parenting agreement has to have provisions on who does what, who is responsible for the job of raising the children? The second part of the stool is what time do you do those things? Things right down to which house the child will be sleeping in or what time will the child be picked up from school are considered. The third leg of the stool is who pays for what? This includes child support, it could be the payment of expenses for the child in a joint account, or it could be who takes care of the health insurance. There’s your three-legged stool.”
A co-parenting agreement, or as it is also commonly called, a divorce decree or an order for a child-parent relationship, is when parents that were married resolve their child custody issues. There can also be a parent-child relationship that is not part of the married relationship and these also have agreed orders that must be followed. These agreements factor in the important aspects of a child’s life and puts them in writing so everything from where the child goes to school to where they spend their weekends and who has custody is considered.
In short, everything that is court ordered is legally enforceable; however, this doesn’t mean that everything in the original agreement makes this list. There are some components a parent might not deem as high of a priority as some living essentials like housing and healthcare. It’s not that these components aren’t important, they might just be harder for parents to make a legally binding commitment. “All the components are orders of the court even if they are originally part of an agreement. You could have some agreements where the parties decide some of the components will not be ordered. An example of that is college. The parties have every good intention of giving their children the access to college, but some people don’t want to court order it because they could go to jail for violating it. Generally speaking, the core issues of rights and duties under the age of 18, child support that must be paid monthly, and time are going to be court ordered,” Myres explains.
To avoid confusion, co-parenting agreements are as specific as possible so there is no room for any gray areas. For example, in Texas an order cannot have any vagueness or ambiguity in the terminology, so these documents must be very clear. Questions that must be answered in every component in the document while it is being comprised are who, what, when, where, how, and why. Who pays what, at what time, by what medium, and why are examples of questions asked while in the creation of this document.
One of the most important questions is always why as it creates intent in the document or in the court order. “In order to provide for the continuous well-being and security of the child the court orders different injunctions, prohibitions, or provisions in the best interest of these kids,” Myres says.
There are always caveats created so the represented party is set up for success. Ways to eliminate vagueness and create these caveats could boil down to agreeing to an intent or provisions like agreeing to pay for something as long as it is financially possible. There must be pin-pointed specificity with all of the important issues like time spent with kids, payment for child support, and parenting rights or the relationship could take a turn for the worse.
When alcohol is a concern, alcohol monitoring can be a vital component of a co-parenting agreement that is also enforceable by the court system. Soberlink offers quick, portable, and accurate alcohol monitoring that has been used in Family Law since 2011. While random lab tests could only be ordered a few times a month and take a few days to receive results, and ignition interlock systems only ensure sobriety before operating a vehicle, Soberlink measures blood alcohol levels discreetly and in real-time to promote child safety. Monitoring parents on a daily basis or during parenting time through Soberlink’s Level 1 and Level 2 programs is key when trying to successfully and safely co-parent. Myres supports the device, claiming her firm started using it from the beginning and has seen much success in co-parenting because of it. To discover how these two programs can benefit your co-parenting agreement, click here.
Since you can never predict what will go right or wrong in these situations, having a solution process for instances that don’t go according to plan is key in co-parenting agreements. An example is when the parents don’t agree on educational decisions. You could add to the document that if an agreement cannot be reached then both parties agree to seek counsel from professionals for advice. Their guidance is then considered by the parents in order to reach a mutual decision.