Crucial Details to Consider When Making a Joint Custody Agreement

Navigating the world of shared child custody is difficult for parents and children alike, especially as they first adapt to their new life. Both parents need to set their personal desires aside and work together to provide their kids with a stable, happy childhood. Reaching an agreement concerning important details when they draft their joint custody agreement reduces the likelihood of arguments so that parents can work together as a team.

1. Who will claim the child on taxes?

Only one parent can take the dependent deduction, child tax credits, and dependent care credits per tax year. Generally, the parent who cares for the child the most is entitled to the tax benefits, but parents can agree to an alternate arrangement. If the child spends a similar amount of time with each parent, they must reach an agreement.

For example, there are parents who alternate claiming their children. One parent takes the tax benefits one year, and then the other parent takes the benefits the next year.

Parents who have multiple children can split the benefits. For example, for a family with three kids, one parent might claim two kids and the other one can claim one kid.

2. What happens when the child attends school?

An arrangement that works when children are younger may not be the best schedule when children enter school. Parents must make sure they can get their kids to school, especially if one of the parents lives outside of the school district and cannot bus the kids to school.

Extracurricular activities are another issue as kids get older. They must be able to get to and from games, practices, and recitals.

Some parents find that having the children stay predominantly with one parent during the week is best for handling school and school related events. The other parent may take the kids on the weekend, or they might visit with the kids during evening hours.

3. How will supplies for the child be handled?

A child needs clothing, grooming implements, toys, school supplies, and appropriate outdoor wear for each household. They can take items back and forth or the parents can make sure each household has everything the child needs.

When kids take things back and forth, this opens the possibility that something may be misplaced at the other parent's household. Outfitting two households with a set of everything a child needs is costly. There is no right or wrong answer, but parents should choose the method that they are comfortable with.

4. Who pays for transportation costs?

Though transportation costs for parents who live in the same city are not insignificant, transporting children when the parents live hours apart can quickly add up.

Parents may decide to incorporate transportation costs when determining child support, or they can decide to have each parent pay for costs associated with traveling to his or her home. Regardless of what the parents decide, having the policy in writing reduces aggravation and confusion.

When creating a child custody agreement, putting vital components in writing spells out everything clearly for both parents. They know what is expected and how tricky matters will be handled. Taking the extra time to cover multiple facets ensures that parents can prepare financially and emotionally for the world of co-parenting. For policy writing, talk to a professional like Shipman, Dixon & Livingston Co., L.P.A.