In the ideal situation, parents can put their differences aside during a divorce and work out a parenting agreement that prioritizes the best interest of their children.
However, it can be challenging with emotions running deep and some parents simply not knowing where to start.
Nobody wants to see their children suffer because of divorce but it may be difficult to agree on co-parenting, visitation rights, and other important details without professional guidance.
At the Law Offices of Mona R. Millstein, we can help you and your spouse negotiate a comprehensive parenting agreement in the best interests of your children to help you all move on with your lives.
With a collaborative approach or through mediation, you remain in full control of raising your children – with significant input and contact from both parents possible.
What is a parenting agreement?
In New York, parents going through a separation must have a parenting agreement in place that covers some of, or all of the following (depending on circumstances):
- The terms and conditions by which you intend to raise your child
- Proposed physical and legal custody of the children
- Visitation rights for the noncustodial parent (the parent who does not live with the child)
- What will happen during holidays and school breaks
- Travel arrangements for the child
- The process for decision-making and resolving disputes
- What happens if one parent relocates
- Access to the child’s personal information such as medical/educational records
- How communication with the child will be managed between parents
- How communication between the children and other family members will be managed
- Other ways in which parents can cooperate for the benefit of their child
For all custody decisions in New York courts, the standard of the best interests of the child is used. The same standard should be used when creating your agreement and courts will usually follow a parenting agreement as long it meets this standard.
Once signed and approved, the document is legally binding. It can act as a roadmap for the co-parenting arrangement between you and your spouse and should benefit your family in the long run by avoiding misunderstandings and preventing disputes.
The agreement will also provide consistency when raising your child as he or she makes the necessary adjustments after divorce.
If you’re worried that your agreement will lock you into long-term commitments, you can include a provision to accommodate future revisions as circumstances change. The agreement is not set in stone.
Joint vs. sole parenting
In the majority of cases, the child lives predominantly with one parent but both parents are involved in decision-making and the parent with whom the child does not live enjoys significant time with the child.
This is called joint custody, shared custody, or joint parenting and it is the most common way to manage divorces with children in New York. It is also the most preferable scenario.
The more detailed the parenting agreement can be in these situations the better, as it will reduce confusion. If one parent spends considerably more than 50 percent of the custodial time with the child, he or she is regarded as having primary physical custody. This parent then has greater decision-making authority on day-to-day matters if there is no parenting agreement.
However, sometimes, joint parenting is neither practical nor possible.
In such cases, sole legal (and physical) custody may be awarded to one parent. That parent then makes all decisions regarding both the day-to-day upbringing and the educational, medical, and religious upbringing of the child.
Even if one parent has sole custody, it should not prevent the other parent from visiting the child, providing the child is not put in any danger by the situation.
Visitation rights are usually an integral part of a parenting agreement in New York. They allow a parent who does not live with the child regular access to see the child and spend time together.
The courts in New York generally want to see that both parents have adequate contact with the child and frequent visitation rights are an essential part of this.
In the majority of cases, parents get together and agree on the schedule for visitation in a parenting agreement – either around the kitchen table, in mediation sessions, or by collaboration between lawyers.
This is easier when both parents live nearby and maintain contact and communication during the divorce process and afterward.
If a reasonable visitation schedule cannot be agreed upon, the court will need to intervene and decide for the parents, again based on the best interests of the child.
For instance, if the child is of school age, visits with the non-custodial parent every other weekend and alternate holidays may be deemed reasonable. Overnight visits and weekday visits may also be included in the visitation schedule.
However, the provisions of a court-ordered parenting agreement will depend on the unique circumstances of the case.
It can help to have an experienced lawyer making your case to the judge in these situations. We partner with child advocates who foster custody and parenting resolutions in the children’s best interests.
Hire a parenting agreement lawyer in New York
At The Law Offices of Mona R. Millstein, we have helped many parents in New York create agreements that help them face the future with confidence that their children have the necessary contact, support, and care from both parents.
Start with a case evaluation with an experienced divorce attorney who can advise you on the recommended next steps.