Including Unique Provisions in Parenting Agreements
The beauty of a parenting agreement is that the parents can fashion the agreement to fit the specific needs of their family and individual circumstances. As long as the family court finds the provisions are in the best interest of the children then it should be approved. There are many different issues and areas of importance that are unique to each family (and parent). From discipline style and religious upbringing to participation in high-risk activities and diet choices, parents have a wide range of concerns when it comes to raising children. This is where unique parenting agreement provisions can set forth the required needs and make everyone feel comfortable and provide guidance about a topic.
Examples of Unique Provisions in Parenting Agreements
Here are some examples of creative solutions to creating unique provisions in parenting agreements that work for families:
Parents may have different discipline styles, or they could have had a family dynamic where one parent was the disciplinarian and the other did not participate much in the discipline area. This was found while they were together but when the parents are no longer together and need to create a parenting plan, they may want to talk about how discipline will work in a way that will provide consistency and comfort to the children to know that their parents remain a united front when it comes to what is best for them.
As an example of parents who want to remain a strong unified team as far as discipline goes with their children, I have seen the following provision used:
Each parent shall be responsible for discipline during their parenting time, however, if any significant discipline problem arises that requires further or ongoing attention, the parent who was first made aware of the problem shall contact the other parent and discuss the matter in order to agree on the necessary course of action.
There are times when the parents agree to put into a parenting agreement that neither party will use corporal punishment or physical discipline of any kind on the child or for those parents who do believe in spanking or other types of physical discipline they may agree that neither party will permit any third party to use corporal punishment or physical discipline on the child.
High-Risk Activities and Safety Provisions
In situations where one parent participates in higher risks hobbies or sporting activities, we have had to come up with some creative solutions when the other parent is fearful of their children participating in such things. I have often seen the provision that a child must reach a certain age before operating an all-terrain vehicle and in the agreement provide detail the specific safety gear required.
The parents agree that the minor child shall not ride on nor operate an all-terrain vehicle until they reach the age of 13; Upon reaching the age of 13 and riding on or operating an all-terrain vehicle the child shall be closely supervised by the parent and wear a fully certified, properly fitting undamaged helmet, safety goggles as well as gloves and shall not under any circumstances operate such all-terrain vehicle on a public roadway.
Watercraft is another area where parents want to work out a solution where they are both comfortable regarding safety gear, supervision, operation, etc. It is best if one parent knows that the other parent will be taking the children out on a boat during their parenting time then it is best to talk about how this will work before the parenting agreement is entered so that everyone is clear about what is expected.
The parents agree that any time the child is aboard a non-motorized or motorized watercraft it shall be under the supervision of the parent and both parent and child will have a life vest on.
I have seen situations, where the child requires a special diet due to allergies or illness or the child, has a weight problem and one of the parents is concerned that the other parent will not be mindful of these health issues. It is important to understand that you cannot micromanage the other parents at their home during their time and under the Illinois law each parent is charged with doing what is in the best interests of their child and absent proof otherwise the court’s will presume each parent will act accordingly. However, if you feel strongly about addressing an area of concern such as specific foods a child should or should not eat or other dietary concerns the best time to do it is when you are working out a parenting plan so that it can be enforced by a court if the agreement is not followed such as
The parents agree that they will provide a healthy balanced diet, including appropriate meals and snacks, during the time the child is in his or her care.
The parents agree that they will each carry an epi-pen with them at all times with complete understanding of when to use the devise and how it works.
The parents agree that they will always place the child in the appropriate car seat/seatbelt in any automobile the child is riding in.
Drugs and Alcohol Use Provisions
When it comes to issues surrounding drugs and alcohol use, here are some unique provisions that could be incorporated into a parenting agreement:
The parties agree that under no circumstances will the child be in an enclosed location or automobile while someone is smoking tobacco.
The parents agree that they will not consume alcoholic beverages, narcotics, or restricted dangerous drugs (except by prescription) within 12 hours prior to or during periods of time with the child.
The parents agree that they will not permit any third party to consume alcoholic beverages, narcotics, or restricted dangerous drugs (except by prescription) in the presence of the child.
Provisions Addressing Extracurricular Activities
If there is a concern that a parent will fill the child’s schedule with too many or inappropriate extracurricular activities, you can address that in the parent agreement and address the way the activities are selected as well as limit one parent selecting activities that fall on the other parents’ parenting time:
Each parent shall have the right to schedule individual lessons and extracurricular activities and events for the children which occur exclusively during his or her own parenting time.
Neither parent will make plans or schedule activities which fall on the other parent’s time without first consulting with the other parent and coming to an agreement regarding the activity
The parents agree that the child should not participate in more than three separate activities during any given school year.
Provisions Regarding Other Relationships
If you believe there could potentially be an issue with a significant other, you can address that concern in a parenting agreement with provisions as follows:
Both parents agree that they will not live with a romantic significant other prior to marriage nor to allow a romantic interest to spend the night out of wedlock at the parent’s residence while the child is present.
Neither parent is allowed to tell the children to call another person “mom” or “dad”
The parties agree that prior to introducing a significant other to the child they must first introduce the significant other to the other parent
If there is a specific person you do not want around your child then that those concerns can be addressed with provisions like:
The child will have no contact with (specify name)
The child must not be left alone in the presence of (specify name)
Religious Education Provisions
Many parents can agree about the role of religion and religious upbringing for their children which would be based on the way they had been raising their children in the home while they were together. However, there are times when the parents are practicing two separate religions in the household or the divorce process goes on for a long period of time during which period one parent has chosen to take up a different religion. It is in those types of cases where it is important to create a specific solution to fit the needs of the entire family. The solution may be that the parents select one of the religions to raise the children or they agree that the children will be exposed to both.
Each parent may take the minor child to a church or place of worship of his or her choice during the time that the minor child is in his or her care.
Both parents agree that the minor child may be instructed in the following faith:
Neither parent may allow the child to partake in religious activities or institutions without prior written approval from the other parent.
DISPUTES INVOLVING RELIGIOUS PRACTICES
If the court has to decide a dispute that comes up about the children and their religious practices, the court will always look at the written agreement in place that details how you have agreed to handle the children’s religious upbringing. If there are specific things in your religion that are particularly important then you should detail them in your parenting agreement:
List the specific religious training, how often the child will attend services, will there be other classes, Sunday school, bible studies, or other church-affiliated programs such as camps; when will these events occur and will they require vacation time; in addition will the children be free to attend the other parent’s place of worship for services or special events.
Need Expert Advice on Parenting Agreements? Call Anderson & Boback
When crafting a parenting agreement be sure to incorporate unique provisions that reflect the specific needs or your family by working with an experienced family law attorney. For more than 20 years, Anderson & Boback family law attorneys have been helping Chicago clients with a wide range of family law and child custody issues, including crafting unique provisions in parenting agreements tailored to the special needs of parents and children. Contact us today for a confidential consultation.
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