Custody

Settlement Agreement Clauses Relating to Children

 

Words of Caution and Disclaimer

Here are some examples of language used in Settlement Agreements describing parental decision making. They are illustrations only. We hope they trigger some thoughts you might wish to address in your own situation. However, and this is critical, they are not intended to be legal advice in your particular situation.

 

Sole Custody. 
Wife Husband shall have custody of the minor child(ren)  of the parties.
Joint Legal Custody.  
Husband and Wife shall have joint legal custody of the minor children.

Parenting Decisions.  

The parties shall have joint legal custody and joint decision-making power with each other regarding the emotional, moral, educational, physical and general welfare of the child.  It is the intention of the parties that each of them shall participate as much as possible in making all decisions with respect to education, medical treatment, illness, operations (except in emergencies), health, welfare and other matters of similar importance affecting the child.  Decisions with respect to the aforesaid matters shall not be made by either party in such manner as to exclude the other from participation therein, and each party shall notify the other and invite the other to participate in any meeting or conferences with third parties which might affect such decisions, except in the event of an emergency.  Each party shall, upon request, provide the other with all medical, educational, and other records, notices or information which relate to any aspect of the child’s welfare and execute any authorizations so that all information concerning the child shall be equally available to both parties.

 

Other Language Related To Decision Making.    

Each party recognizes that the other party is a loving, and competent parent and that the child 's best interests will be enhanced if both parties play ongoing roles in the child 's upbring­ing. It is the intention of the parties that each of them shall participate as much as possible in making all decisions with respect to education, medical treatment, illness, operations (except in emergencies), health, welfare and other matters of similar importance affecting the child. Decisions with respect to these matters shall not be made by either party in such manner as to exclude the other from participation, and each party shall notify the other and invite the other to participate in any meeting or conferences with third parties which might affect such decisions, except in the event of an emergency. Each party shall, upon request, provide the other with all medical, educational, and other records, notices or information which relate to any aspect of the welfare of the child and execute any authorizations so that all information concerning the child shall be equally available to both   parties. The parties shall mutually agree upon and select a family counselor or mental health therapist (Le., social worker, psy­chologist, or psychiatrist) to assist them in the resolution of any difficulties which might arise in connection with their attempts to jointly decide major issues affecting each child.

 

Decision Making - Primary Responsibility.  

 Both parties recognize that it will be necessary for there to be routine communications between them so that major decisions regarding the children can be made in accordance with the best interests of the children. Wife shall consult with Husband regarding the emotional, moral, educational, physical and gen­eral welfare of the children. Although Wife shall have the primary responsibility for making major decisions regarding the children, she shall keep Husband informed of and involved in the process of making major decisions regarding the children. Except in the event of emergency, the parties will make genuine, sincere, and bona fide efforts to ensure that major decisions regarding the children are not made by Wife without an opportunity for input from and participation by Husband. Each party shall be entitled to all medical, educational, and other records, notices or information which relate to the wel­fare of the children and each party shall be entitled to tele­phone access with each child 's medical providers, school officials, tutors, etc. Each party shall execute any authoriza­tions required to permit information concerning the children to be available to both parties. Where appropriate, either party shall consult with a family counselor, educator or mental health therapist (i.e., social worker, psychologist, or psychia­trist) in order to ensure that decisions regarding major issues are made in accordance with the best interests of the children. 

 

Parenting Decisions. 

The parties shall share decision making authority with respect to medical, emotional, moral, educational, religious, and other matters of major significance relating to the parenting of the children (excluding day to day decisions, which must be made by the parent with whom the children are then residing. To that end,  the parties agree as follows:

          1.   They shall consult with one another regarding those matters which are the subject of shared decision making so as to assure that each is fully informed and involved in the decision making process.

          2.   The prevailing concern in the decisions to be made shall be the best interests of the children.

          3.   The parties shall make every effort to encourage the respect of the children for each parent.

          4.   The decision making process should involve the children only if the parties have previously consulted with one another and have agreed that the children’s participation is in his her their best interests.

          5.   When the parties disagree, their disagreement shall be expressed directly to one another, outside of the presence of the children and they will not indirectly involve the children in such disagreements.

          6.   The parties shall consult on all matters relating to the children‘s health care prior to the making decisions.  If a child requires emergency health care, the parent then caring for the child shall decide on emergency treatment and shall promptly inform the other of such treatment.  If a child is ill or seriously injured, the party then caring for the child shall promptly so notify the other party. Both parties shall have the right to visit at reasonable times and to have a physician examine such child.

          7.   Each party shall keep the other informed regarding the children’s extracurricular activities. The parties shall jointly request that schools, summer camps and the organizers of other activities in which the children participate[s] provide copies of all reports, schedules, notices or other information to both parents.  If any fail to provide duplicate information, the parent receiving such information shall promptly provide copies the other parent.

          8.   Each party shall respect the child’s regularly scheduled school, summer camp, social and extra-curricular activities; provided, however, that neither party shall schedule any activity for the child which is to occur during the period when the child is scheduled to be with the other party.  By means of example, but not limitation, neither party shall schedule “play dates” for the child which are to occur when the child is with the other party.

          9.   The parties recognize that the living arrangements for the children are likely to require adjustments from time to time.  Each shall make such adjustments as are appropriate to carry out the spirit and intent of this shared parenting arrangement. The parties acknowledge that the living arrangements agreed upon will become the basis for their respective schedules and plans. Absent unforeseen circumstances, the parties shall comply with the times and dates set forth above.  Neither party will enter the residence of the other without prior consent.  The parties will substitute overnight visitation if business or work schedule conflicts prevent strict compliance with the schedule, and each will make reasonable changes in the schedule to enable the children to be with the appropriate parent for special family events.

          10.   When a child is with a parent, that parent shall be responsible for providing meals, and for transporting, or arranging transportation, to and from school, or to other bona fide activities outside of the home of either party.  

  

Cooperation Of Parties  

The parties acknowledge that the well-being of their child is their paramount consideration, and that this requires that both parents participate in the child’s life.  Husband and Wife shall cooperate with each other in order to foster a feeling of affection between the child and each parent. Both Husband and Wife shall have full and liberal rights to be with the child so that each has the opportunity to develop a close relationship with the child.  Each party shall have free and liberal access and telephone communi­cation with the child between the hours of 8:00 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. when the child is with the other party.

 

Resolving Future Disagreements About Children.

Decision Making - Consult Third Party.  

If the parties are unable to agree regarding any of the major decisions affecting the children, they shall consult a mutually agreeable mental health professional ( or me­diator; arbitrator) unless the parties submit the issue  to a court of competent jurisdiction. In no event shall the mental health professional ( or me­diator; arbitrator) have authority to substantially alter any financial obli­gation in effect between the parties. Except in the case of relocation, if either party desires that a significant change be made in the living arrangements for a child, or if the parties are unable to resolve other significant differences relating to a child’s well-being, the parties shall submit such dispute to a mutually agreeable mental health professional to act as a mediator to assist them in resolving the dispute. The mediator’s participation shall commence promptly after either party notifies the other of their desire to engage the mediator’s services.  Each shall cooperate in the scheduling of meetings or with any other reasonable requests made by the mediator. The mediator shall not resolve any financial matters.  The mediator’s recommendations shall not be final or binding.  However, because the mediator is authorized and directed  to make recommendations  consistent with the children’s best interests, the parties shall abide by those recommendations unless and until (a) they otherwise agree or (b) a Court otherwise orders.  The cost of the mediator's professional services shall be divided between the parties as follows:  Each party shall pay the cost of their own sessions. The cost of all joint sessions shall be allocated equally between them; costs charged by the mediator for time with the child the child’s time shall be paid equally by the parties.  If the mediator is unable to unwilling to accept or continue this assignment, the parties shall select a mutually agreeable substitute.  If the parties are unable to do so, the selection shall be made by the then presiding Judge of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.

 

Family Counseling.  

The parties shall participate in family counseling with a mutually agreed upon mental health professional who shall assist them regarding issues concerning the child, the parties’ communication skills with each other, and the implementation of the access schedule set forth above.  In addition, the parties shall enroll the Child in an appropriate program sponsored by the National Resiliency Center so that the child has outside support with the implementation of the access schedule.

 

Dispute Resolution.  

For at least twelve (12) months from the date of this Agreement, the parties shall meet no less than one time per month with Dr. Solve  to discuss any problems or conflicts arising out of the decision-making and living arrangements set out in this Agreement.  If any disputes arise, or if either party believes it to be in the best interests of all or any of the children to change these decision-making and/or living arrangements, the dispute or change shall be discussed by the parties with Dr. Solve before either party institutes legal proceedings. Dr. Solve shall make recommendations to the parties regarding the healthy development of the children, the children's relationships to each parent and the children's relationship to one another, as are consistent with the children's best interests. Absent an agreement to be bound by the recommendation of Dr. Solve each party reserves the right to submit any such dispute to a Court of competent jurisdiction for resolution. Each party shall pay the cost of their own participation in this process. The costs incurred for the participation of the children shall be paid equally by the parties.

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