Of all the steps involved in ending your marriage one of the hardest will be settling any custody disputes. However, this part of the divorce process is essential to the mental and emotional well-being of your child, and can play a serious role in your long-term relationship with your spouse. As a parent, it's important that you go into any custody discussion with a clear focus on what's best for your child, rather than any other personal motivations.
Visitation: The Important Part
The most important thing any parent can spend on their child is time, and that's precisely what visitation entails. It's important to make sure that your visitation arrangements take into account a number of factors, and be sure it's flexible enough to grow with your child. No matter their age at the time of your divorce, their habits, ideas, opinions and social life will change over time, so it's important that this is taken into consideration when visitation is agreed upon.
Take into account the amount of distance that will need to be covered for each visitation period. Parents who live in the same city will have less of a challenge than those who have separated a great distance due to the demands of their careers, or a simple need for space. This will help alleviate unrealistic expectations, especially if each visitation period requires a 4- to 8-hour drive of either party, or an even longer commute.
Those Other Obligations
While some people consider the discussion of finances to be vulgar, it's an important part of any custody agreement. State's already have statutes in place for calculating monetary support, but that's not the only thing on the table. Divorcing parents should also take a hard look at the actual cost of raising a child, including school fees, health insurance coverage, and future college tuition.
Unlike spousal support, the commitments you make in a custody agreement don't end just because someone's getting married. However, there are allowances in the event of a change in employment or income on the part of the non-custodial parent. This makes it possible to have support obligations altered in the event of job loss or injury. Bear in mind though, a custodial parent can request similar changes if the non-custodial parent has an improvement in circumstances, such as a raise, promotion or substantial monetary windfall.
Custody arrangements should be a two-way street. Both parties must work together to reach an agreement which provides the greatest possible benefit to the child, while not placing a greater burden on either party. It's rarely easy, but the long-term benefits to your child are well worth the effort you'll put into crafting any legal documents. Contact a local attorney, such as J. Scott Braden, for further assistance.