Don’t Worry About Your What Your Parenting Agreement is Called

Time and time again, I am faced with the mother in distress because she has found out that the father of her child seeks Joint Custody. Or if I represent the father, then he is convinced that unless he gets Joint Custody, somehow he has lost his parental rights. I know when they passed the statute in this area of our division, they intended to include dads (primarily), but I feel as if it has done more harm than good.
First, stop worrying about what something is called. Giving you a title to something doesn’t ensure that you are being given anything, or that anything is being taken away. For instance, would you rather have a Sole Custody Judgment in which you are with your child three nights a week, along with your every other weekend, or would you rather have a Joint Custody Judgment which allows you parenting time every other weekend? Don’t look at what it is called, but instead concentrate on what you are getting.
Make a list. How much time do you want to spend with your child? That is what is important. Make sure that the list of items important to you are in the agreement. Do you get to go speak to your child’s teachers and attend teacher parent conferences? Do you get to speak to your child’s coaches, attend practices and appear at the games? These are the types of things that are important.
Most of the time, the decision for a school is either public or private. If you live in the suburbs, there is not much of a choice regarding school if you are electing for public schools. The child will go to the school closest to the home. So Joint Custody is not going to be a factor in this instance.
What about religion? Whether it’s a Sole Custody or Joint Custody arrangement, you will be able to take your child to the church of your choice during your time. Again, the fight for the Joint Custody does not have as much meaning as you think it does.
What about medical decisions? Is your child healthy? If so, there is not going to be a lot of decisions to make then.
Concentrate on the meat of what is in the agreement. Think about what you want and negotiate for that. If you both can agree to Joint Custody, then fine, but most of the time, you can negotiate for what is important to you, and forget about what it is called.

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