The way you structure your child custody agreement is essential to the future happiness of your child and yourself. If you don't pin things down clearly enough -- and leave enough wiggle room for the natural changes of life -- your ability to work and get along with the other parent of your child could be strained in the years ahead.
Fortunately, a well-planned parenting and child custody agreement will include the right kind of language -- i.e., small clauses known as parenting provisions, which are needed to ensure that you and your ex are on the same page. Here are some excellent areas to cover with regard to your parenting provisions:
Child-parent relationships: These parenting provisions can be used to prevent the parents from talking poorly about the other parent and his or her family. They can also be used to codify how children will be introduced to new love interests of the other parent.
Educational and extracurricular activities: The parenting provisions that fall under this category might dictate where the children shall go to school and what sorts of extracurricular activities the children will partake in. For example, some parents might want to establish a "no football" rule, or, conversely, a provision that allows the child to play football.
Parenting time and exchanges: These provisions can set guidelines to go in effect when the parents make exchanges, if one parent is late or a no-show, and other scenarios.
Medical and health care: These parenting provisions will indicate how the parents will make decisions about health care and how they will share expenses.
Parent communication: These provisions can clarify how the parents will communicate. Perhaps it will be via text message, email, phone calls or via a notebook passed off to the other parent during child exchanges.
Parenting guidelines: These parenting provisions will pin down the parents' responsibilities for disciplining the children, and how the parents will come to decisions and get on the same page when it comes to important disciplinary concerns. They can also require that the parents are always present with the children during their time caring for their kids -- unless they have made arrangements for the children's care and the other parent approves.
Travel and moving: These provisions set guidelines for the sharing of information, and putting the other parent on notice prior to travel. You can pin down how much notice you should receive before the other parent takes a trip and establish guidelines for in-state, out-of-state and out-of-country travel.
Of course, many parents will not have parenting provisions for all of the categories above, and they may have some provisions that are miscellaneous and don't belong to a specific category. The above list is simply a "tickler" to get parents thinking about the kinds of issues they may want to clarify in a well-drafted parenting agreement of their own.