In California, custody agreements outline how parents will share the rights and responsibilities of raising their child(ren). A parenting plan, sometimes known as a custody and visitation agreement, is the document that explicitly outlines the arrangements. Custody agreements of this kind might also be used to negotiate with the other parent, file for a settlement, or present one’s parenting requests to a judge or mediator.

Required Information on Custody Agreements

California law requires custody and visitation agreements to provide information about the physical and legal custody of the child(ren) in question. Physical custody is information concerning who cares for your child(ren) and where your child(ren) lives. When discussing physical custody, it is essential to determine if one parent will have sole physical custody of the child(ren) or if both parents will share joint physical custody. If both parents share joint physical custody of the child(ren), you should include a detailed parenting schedule in both written and visual formats to show the court when the child(ren) will be with each parent.

Legal custody is the regarding who will hold the authority of making important decisions for your child(ren)’s life. Like physical custody, one parent can have sole legal custody of the child(ren), or both parents can share joint legal custody. Moreover, If both parents share joint legal custody of the child(ren), the parenting agreement should specify how each parent will share the decision-making responsibilities.

What Should I Ask for in a Custody Agreement?

While California only requires that custody and visitation agreements provide detailed information about the physical and legal custody of the child(ren), parents are encouraged to provide as much information about the arrangement as possible. Ideally, parents developing a custody agreement will consider all potential future disagreements concerning the care of their child(ren) and provide a detailed approach to each situation. Most often, parents will provide additional information on the following areas:

  • Health Insurance
  • Expectations for Communication
  • Child exchange routines
  • Child care
  • Child-related expenses

When parents consider all of the custody and visitation agreement factors, they should remember that each custody agreement is unique and specific to their family situation. Additionally, parents should aim to make a tailored, thorough, and detailed plan that reflects the needs of the children and parents involved in the custody arrangement.

Custody Stipulations: What are they?

Parents actively developing a custody plan or parenting agreement should include the necessary custody stipulations in their agreement. A custody stipulation, also known as a custody provision, is the part of a custody plan that articulates the rules and principles parents will follow as they raise their child(ren). Custody stipulations are put into custody agreements to ensure that both parents stick to certain standards and conditions when the child(ren) is in their care. Custody stipulations are essential for parents to include in their custody agreements to ensure that both parents are legally obligated to obey any specific practices they wish to be followed. Including these stipulations in the custody agreement is the only way for parents to enforce these standards and regulations legally.

Below are nine examples of some of the most common custody stipulations:

1. Information about joint custody and decision-making

In a custody plan, parents need to include information specific to the decision-making process. Stipulations are an excellent place for parents to provide detailed information and a step-by-step approach to share the obligation fairly.

2. Transportation

Alongside figuring out a custody schedule, parents must develop a plan for transporting their child(ren) between homes. A stipulation relating to transportation can specify the use of neutral exchange location, direct drop-offs at each home, car seats, and seatbelts for the child(ren) while in the car. Transportation stipulations can also include consequences if a parent fails to abide by drop-off and transportation rules.

3. Child Care

To ensure that both the mother and father are on the same page about child care for their child(ren), they can add a child care stipulation in their custody agreement. These stipulations may include the process of hiring a nanny, babysitter, or the other parent’s right to voice their opinion on the matter.

4. School and Extracurriculars

Stipulations regarding school and extracurricular activities can help parents agree on which school or athletic program to enroll their child(ren). For example, a stipulation regarding a child’s education can require that both parents visit all school options and discuss their opinions before coming to a mutual agreement. School and extracurricular stipulations prevent one parent from making one-sided decisions about the child(ren)’s education and activities without consulting the other parent.

5. Traveling with the Child(ren)

Taking vacations is an expected part of a family’s routine. Frequently, including stipulations about what is and isn’t allowed on vacation can be beneficial to parents. Travel stipulations can require that the stationary parent receive a vacation schedule or that each parent must give written consent to their child going on vacation. A common travel stipulation requires that both parents be notified if and when a child obtains a passport. Overall, developing specific travel stipulations can prevent unwanted surprises from occurring while on vacation.

6. Notification of Personal Information Changes

Unless the main body of your custody agreement requires it, parents can move homes without notifying the other parent. Because of this, most parents who are entering a custody agreement will include a stipulation requiring notification of personal information changes. These stipulations can require keeping both parents updated with current phone numbers, home and work addresses, and prior notice of a potential move.

7. Parent-Child Communication Practices

For children in split families, communication is key to avoiding arguments. If parents wish, they can include a contact stipulation that sets rules and standards for contacting and interacting with their child(ren). For instance, contact stipulations may introduce scheduling a time window for contacting hours or keeping parents from speaking negatively about each other in front of their child(ren).

8. Allowed Behaviors

Parents will not always be on the same page about the child’s exposure to certain behaviors. Because of this, parents can include stipulations in their custody agreement outlining what behaviors they are comfortable with their child being exposed to. For example, parents can both agree to refrain from using drugs or alcohol in the presence of their child(ren). Another common example of this stipulation is requiring both parents to submit themselves to random drug testing.

9. Argument Prevention

Argument prevention stipulations are among the most popular kinds to be included by parents and are sometimes even required by the court. These kinds of provisions require that parents outline a detailed conflict resolution plan in their custody agreements to resolve future conflicts and approach any potential changes to the custody plan.

Child Custody Agreement Checklist

Writing and filing a mutually completed custody plan is a difficult task regardless of your relationship with the co-parent. Below is a Child Custody Agreement Checklist to help you gather essential information to make the process as smooth as possible.

Ideal Parenting Schedule
How You’ll Handle or Split Holidays and Special Dates
How You’ll Approach Travel and Vacations
Friends and Extended Family Visits and Rights
How to Handle Schedule Changes
How You’ll Split Child-Related Expenses
How You’d Like To Communicate Parent-to-Parent
How You’d Like To Communicate with your Child(ren)
How You’d Like To Make Important Decisions Regarding Your Child(ren)

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one has more questions about custody agreements, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further inquiries. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.