Parenting Agreements - How to Craft a Parenting Agreement that Works

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Parenting Agreement ...

Whether you are separated, divorced, have never been married or are in a situation where there are more than one set of parents raising a child, a parent agreement can help. This parenting plan defines the rules for a child's upbringing, including values, priorities and day-to-day responsibilities.

Of course, the bigger purpose of parenting agreements is to ensure that a child's physical, emotional and intellectual needs are met. When everyone's responsibilities are clearly defined and core parenting values are agreed upon, life is more stable for the child. In your agreement, you will detail important specifics that include everything from health care to rules about the importance of visiting extended family. Although you may believe that you agree on important issues with your ex, it is essential to get this agreement on paper, so there are no nasty surprises.

When you start drafting your parenting agreement, you will find that there are a number of templates to follow on the web. While it pays to do your research and find out what other parents feel is important, think hard about what you want to specify in your contract.

Some common areas to address are when the non-custodial parent can pick up the child and see them, food that the child is allowed to eat, medical care, emergency contacts, grandparent rights, child development issues (if your child has a developmental disorder) and visits during the holidays. These can be highly charged areas to consider and it is best to get them down in black and white.

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No matter what has happened between you and your ex, the safety and well-being of your child is paramount, so you may also want to write down issues that will help you present a united front to your child, even though you are no longer together. For example, agreeing on discipline is important because it is easier for a child to know what is expected when the rules in both households are the same. Of course, in situations where domestic abuse has been a factor, a parenting agreement is not going to help. You can only make agreements with people who are rational, consistent and humane.

Take the time to carefully craft your parenting agreement. Think deeply about what is best for your child, so you will know when you have reached an agreement that covers as many bases as possible and unites you and your ex in the common goal of raising a healthy, happy child.

Ms. Ramirez is the author of the parenting book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting which won a Nautilus award for "books that promote conscious living and social change."

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