There are many reasons why you may find yourself in the situation where you have to file a case for custody of your child. This type of situation often involves a lot of detailed information, which makes it difficult to figure out where you need to start. For example, if you are going through a divorce and you have children between the two of you, one of the first things you’ll need to do is have a custody agreement. If an agreement cannot be made with the other parent, a judge will make the custody decisions for you. It is recommended that you talk with your attorney to help you with an Indiana child custody issue. Your attorney will explain the process for filing for custody as well as what the agreement should cover. Here are the basics of what a custody agreement should cover.
Table of Contents
Custody of the Child
It is extremely important to specify in the custody agreement who has custody of the children. Depending on the situation, you may file for and be granted sole custody of the children, which means that you have both physical and legal custody of the children, or the judge may declare joint custody. Joint custody means that both parents have a shared, typically equal amount of physical and legal custody. Physical custody means providing physical care and custody and legal custody means having the ability to make legal decisions on the children’s behalf. It is possible to have varying combinations of custody. For instance, both parents may share legal custody, while one parent has sole physical custody.
Once it’s decided the custody of the children, you will then need to have a visitation schedule. If you have agreed upon sole custody for one parent, it’s essential that you implement a clear visitation schedule. The visitation schedule included in the custody agreement should be as clear as possible, including frequency of visitations, the time for visitation (pick-up and drop-off times), holidays, and any other issues that should be addressed, such as picking up from school or daycare.
In the majority of situations, the parent with sole custody will be responsible for making decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, education, medical care, and extracurricular activities. However, if the parents have joint custody, it’s important to decide who will be responsible for making the decisions regarding the children. This can be the sole responsibility of one parent, or you may choose to divide the responsibilities. For instance, one parent may be responsible for making decisions regarding education, while the other parent may be responsible for determining the religious upbringing of the children. Once the decisions have been made regarding “responsibility” it must be included in the custody agreement.
Even if child support has been determined, both parents will most likely be responsible for certain costs. You should clearly outline who will be in charge of which expense and/or how much of a specific expense. For instance, will only one parent claim the children on tax returns, or will you alternate years, who will pay for daycare or school costs, including extracurricular activities, such as sports, or who will pay health insurance.
The custodial parent will generally be awarded child support, which is determined by the incomes of both parents and the amount that is necessary to ensure the children are provided for. The amount of child support is typically determined by the preceding judge, and it will usually be either included in the custody agreement or a separate document will be created.
Child Custody Involving Unmarried Parents
When a relationship ends for unmarried parents, there is still a need for a child custody agreement. There are a few complexities that may apply to unmarried parents that are filing for child custody. For instance, when an unmarried couple has a child, the child’s paternity isn’t assumed; it must be established. In most situations, the unmarried mother is provided the primary custody; however, the father may file for full or partial custody once paternity has been established. The custody for children of unmarried parents must be as clear as the custody agreement for married/separated/divorced parents.
When developing a custody agreement, there may be additional provisions including regarding the custody and care of the children. For instance, you can include in the agreement that all property the child takes with them on visitation will be returned with the child in the same condition as it was sent. Another provision many parents include in their custody agreement is transportation. For instance, you may include in the agreement that the non-custodial parent is responsible for picking up and dropping off the children at the custodial parent’s home.
The custody agreement will be a legal document, so it is extremely important that everything be clear. However, it is also important to keep in mind that the current custody agreement may not be relevant in a few years, so the agreement should include an estimated time frame for reviewing and making changes to the agreement. If and when changes are made to the custody agreement, it should be reviewed by and approved by a judge.