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Understanding the ins and outs of parenting agreements

As you and your spouse move forward with the divorce process, you probably feel a range of emotions. On the one hand, you are looking forward to breaking free from your unfulfilling marriage. However, on the other hand, you feel unsettled about who will get custody of your children.

The good news is that many family law cases involving child custody are resolved outside of court. Here is a look at what is involved in creating a parenting agreement and securing court approval of it in Wisconsin.

What are parenting agreements?

During divorce, you and your future ex may be able to resolve your visitation and child custody issues through informal negotiations. In this situation, you will finalize your decisions related to custody in a detailed document known as a parenting agreement. These types of agreements also go by the names of custody agreements or settlement agreements.

What should you include in a parenting agreement?

No two child custody cases are alike. However, here are a few key areas that the typical parenting agreement covers:

  • Where your children will live (in other words, who has physical custody of them)
  • Schedules for visitation
  • Who will be responsible for making important decisions regarding your children's welfare and upbringing (in other words, who has legal custody of the children)
  • Which parent will spend vacations, major holidays and birthdays with the children
  • How you and your future ex will handle contact with third parties, such as grandparents and family friends

Your parenting agreement can also highlight how you and your future ex will handle disputes related to the agreement as well as any changes that need to be made to it.

Once you have developed a parenting agreement, what comes next?

After you and the other party have produced a parenting agreement, you will submit the document for a judge's approval. The judge may then hold an informal hearing to ask you and the other parent a few basic questions.

For instance, the judge might ask if you and the other party understand the agreement and voluntarily chose to sign it. If the judge believes that you and the other parent produced a fair agreement, he or she will approve of it. The most important factor that the family law court will consider, though, is if the decisions you have spelled out in your parenting agreement are truly in the best interests of the children.

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