When it comes to child custody and visitation, there are two primary legal documents that parents may use: a parenting agreement or a court order. While both serve the same purpose, there are some key differences to be aware of before deciding which one to pursue.
A parenting agreement is a document that parents create together, outlining their agreed-upon custody and visitation arrangements. This may involve a schedule of when the child will be with each parent, as well as any specific guidelines or expectations for parenting time. The agreement may also cover topics like decision-making authority (who has the final say on major issues like schooling or medical treatment), communication between parents, and how to handle changes to the agreement if they arise in the future.
One of the main advantages of a parenting agreement is that it allows parents to have more control over the process. Rather than leaving custody decisions in the hands of a judge, parents can work together to create a plan that best meets the needs of their child. This can reduce conflict and create a more positive co-parenting relationship, which in turn can benefit the child.
However, it`s important to note that a parenting agreement is not legally binding in the same way that a court order is. If one parent violates the agreement, there may be limited legal recourse available to the other parent. Additionally, if the parents are unable to come to an agreement on their own, they may need to turn to the courts for assistance.
A court order, on the other hand, is a legal document that is issued by a judge. It outlines the custody and visitation arrangements for the child, and both parents are legally bound to follow its terms. This can provide a greater sense of security and stability, particularly if there is a history of conflict or if one parent is seen as unreliable.
However, going to court can also be a more adversarial process, with each parent making their case to the judge and potentially having to prove why they are the better custodial option. This can be emotionally draining for both parents and the child, and may also be more expensive in terms of legal fees.
Ultimately, whether you pursue a parenting agreement or a court order depends on your individual situation. If you and your co-parent are able to communicate effectively and agree on custody and visitation arrangements, a parenting agreement may be the way to go. However, if there is a history of conflict or you feel that legal enforcement is necessary, a court order may be the better option. It`s important to consult with a family law attorney to determine the best course of action for you and your family.