What Are The Components Of Child Custody Agreements

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family lawyer West VirginiaWV Child Custody Lawyer Discusses What Makes Up A Child Custody Agreement


If you are in the process of getting a divorce, or separating from your partner who is a biological parent of your children, you may be thinking about a child custody agreement. These are also often referred to as a “Parenting Plan,” as it is dubbed in West Virginia courts. 

As West Virginia child-custody lawyers, we can attest that the parenting plan and custody schedule is the single most contentious aspect of a child-custody case. It is also one of the most important, even if the custody “battle” is not so much of a contentious fight, but reasonably amicable. 

The Parenting Plan and child custody agreement details will guide how you exercise your parenting time for many years to come.  Thus, it is important that you get these details right and anticipate situations that may arise over the years in relation to co-parenting a child or children together with someone from whom you are separated or divorced.

Especially if this is your first divorce involving children, you may not know where to start. The best answer is to consult with a qualified West Virginia family lawyer who has significant experience drafting and negotiating child custody agreements. In the meantime, however, here is a list of common components of child custody agreements to consider:

Legal Custody.

A child custody agreement will designate who has legal custody of a child, as a family lawyer in West Virginia can explain. Having legal custody of your child means that you are able to make legal decisions for your child, the most common of which include decisions about schooling and medical care. Legal custody can be joint, meaning both parents have legal custody, or sole, in which case only one parent has the capacity to make legal decisions for the child. Legal custody does not necessarily dictate who has physical custody of a child.

Physical Custody.

A child custody agreement will also designate who has physical custody of a child. Having physical custody of your child means that he or she lives with you at least part of the time. Physical custody may be shared between two parents, or may be held by only one parent. Even if one parent has sole physical custody of a child, the other parent still may have visitation rights built into a child custody agreement or court order.

Custody Agreement – Decision Making Provisions

A child custody agreement may given guidelines for how major decisions should be made for the child. For example, a child custody agreement may require that parents with joint legal custody discuss all major decisions such as where a child will attend school, and refrain from making such decisions unilaterally. A child custody agreement can be very specific and detailed in this regard and may be affected by the age of your child. For example, a child custody agreement may discuss  how decisions should be made regarding a teenager’s curfew or ability to obtain a driver’s license.

Visitation Schedule | Parenting Time

This is the “detail” part of the child custody agreement. This is where you have to decide on a regular weekly schedule, a holiday schedule, a schedule for children when they are in school and out. The details also include regular pickup and drop-off times and locations and special arrangements for the parenting time. The details can frankly be a bit overwhelming, particularly if you have no familiarity with all of the “what ifs” that go into creating a workable parenting plan.  Things to consider include:

  • What will the regular schedule be – week on/week off, 2-2-3, 2-5-5-2, every other weekend, or something else?
  • Who will pickup and drop off the child – will weekdays be treated differently than weekends?
  • When will pickup and drop offs be – before/after school, at the school, off the bus, on a weekend?
  • How will holidays work – who get the kids this Christmas? What about next? Christmas Eve? New Years? Easter? . . . . and on and on? 
  • Should you account for every stinkin’ holiday or just the ones that coincide with school breaks?
  • What about birthdays – the children’s? yours?
  • Can you have right of first refusal to watch kids if the co-parent is unavailable? Under what circumstances? Is this wise or problem laden?

Custody Change Provisions

A child custody agreement should contain provisions outlined by a family lawyer in West Virginia for how and when the agreement may be modified. For example, a child custody agreement may specify that it should be revisited every few years, or when a child turns 12, or maybe at the discretion of either party. Note, however, it is inefficient and stressful for parents to bring a child custody agreement back to court frequently, so it is important that both parents are comfortable with the general provisions before the child custody agreement is finalized.

Do You Need A Lawyer For Your Custody Agreement?

You can customize a child custody agreement to meet your needs and the needs of your child, within the parameters of state law, and the practices of your local court and judge. A qualified and competent family lawyer in West Virginia can help you draft a child custody agreement within these parameters that will meet your family’s needs. Consider reaching out to a respected WV child-custody lawyer today from Adams Legal Group, PLLC to learn more about what they can do for you – Call Us At (304) 381-2166.