Additional Considerations with Child Custody and Visitation Agreements – Think About Communication

Rincker Law Family/Matrimonial Law Leave a Comment

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Information Sharing

Most parenting plans include a provision requiring the parents to share information about the child(ren) with such information as:

  • medical records
  • psychological records
  • law enforcement records
  • school report cards
  • school progress reports
  • school event calendar (e.g., school play, parent-teacher conferences)
  • extra-curricular activities calendar (e.g., baseball game schedule or dance recitals).

Some parents decide to keep a shared calendar (e.g., Google calendar) with the child’s schedule to keep the other parent more easily informed. Most schools duplicate information for each parent.

Mutual Respect

Parenting plans should include a provision requiring the parents to respect one another and his/her relationship with the child.  It will also require that the parents not disparage (ridicule, discredit, mock, demean, denounce or derogate) the other parent.  When parents speak poorly of the other parent, it can negatively affect the relationship between both parents and the child.  Courts take disparagement of the other parent seriously.  Along those same lines, children should not be aware of the details of the court dispute between the parents and should not be given access to court pleadings.

Mutual respect extends to respecting the other parent’s time and being on time for drop-offs and pick-ups. Mutual respect extends to giving the other parent advance notice of when you cannot exercise parenting time. As the custodial parent, this gives the non-custodial parent an opportunity for additional parenting time. As the non-custodial parent, this means the custodial parent may need to obtain child-care if you are not exercising your parenting time. Mutual respect means acknowledging that there will be parenting disputes that have nothing to do with the divorce or your dislike for each other and everything to do with parenting decisions. Mutual respect means making decisions that benefit your child even at your expense.

Communication Between Parents

There should be a mechanism in place for the parents to communicate with one another about the care and welfare of the child.  If an order of protection is in place, courts can consider a “carve-out” for communication about the child (e.g., text message and email only).  Parents should consider a clause requiring that communication to the other parent about the child or child support be with the parent directly (or via a third party when there is an order of protection) – such communication should never be via the child.  This is called “triangulation” and can have deleterious effects on the child who is “caught in the middle.”

This is an excerpt from my new book “Onward and Upward:  Guide for Getting Through New York Divorce & Family Law Issues” available on Amazon, Kindle and iBooks. This is an except from the chapter I wrote with the talented Bonnie Mohr.  I also wrote the Chapter on Mediation, which also discusses mediation on disputes like this.  Not only am I a family law litigator, but I am also a trained mediator for divorce, child custody and visitation disputes, and commercial mediation. The book is chalk full of great advice on a myriad of family law issues ranging from prenups, child custody disputes, and divorce/annulments.  The book’s special sauce is that it has over 48 authors, including many nonlawyer authors, writing on both legal and nonlegal topics.  More info on the book can be found here.

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