If you are in the middle of a divorce, be very careful. Your emotions may be preventing you from acting rationally in this situation. This is so, regardless of whether you were the one asking for the divorce, you agreed to it or you are crying your eyes out because it is happening. If you are getting a divorce and no kids are involved, there shouldn’t be too much discussion, unless one of you is very wealthy or very poor. If one of you is very wealthy and you do not have a prenuptial agreement, you may now be fighting about money. If one of you make a lot less than the other, you may now be fighting about alimony. These can be bad situations to be in but, I am guessing, not as bad as if kids are involved. This is the situation I am going to address in this post.
When you are getting a divorce, you may not be thinking clearly. There may be a lot of hostility between you and your ex. You may have fallen in love with a new man or woman and be eager to get the divorce to go through. If you have kids with your ex, however, you should be very careful about every single clause in the divorce papers. Here are a few things to consider.
1. If you and your ex have agreed to joint legal and physical custody, there is still another issue to settle: Who is to be the residential parent, the one with the residential address? Only one of you can be residential parent. In principle, it shouldn’t matter too much who is the residential parent, as the residential address just is a mailing address. But watch out. Various legal instances, including the police, lawyers and judges, may treat the parent who has residential address differently. They may treat the residential parent is the parent with whom the child lives. Even if you have joint legal and physical custody, the parent whose residential address is put down in the divorce papers sometimes has an advantage in custody cases in the future. Sometimes they even get to decide where the kids go to school. So don’t just give it away. If you must, insist that the divorce decree contains a clause that states what exactly “residential address” means. The person with residential address does not automatically have the power to decide school or summers or anything else for the children.
2. Make a day-for-day parenting plan that takes effect if you and your ex cannot agree. Even if you and your ex are great friends, making a parenting plan that states exactly when each parent has the child is mandatory. Don’t forget to specify how the summers are going to be split. You don’t want to continue the regular parenting plan over the summer, as that normally would prevent you from going on any kind of vacation. When you create the parenting plan, do not let a single day be unaccounted for.
3. Some parenting plans require that the parents agree to it, say, every 6 months. Watch out for that kind of language in the divorce papers. If you and your ex no longer were to agree on the parenting plan, then no plan would be in effect, which could lead to huge problems later, especially if one parent decides to take advantage of this.
4. Be careful when you specify who gets to write off the child on his or her tax return. Many people going through a divorce choose to alternate years. But if this is all that is stated in the divorce papers, then you may risk that the other parent is writing off the child a few years later when he or she has split town and doesn’t even see the child. If you think it’s fair to alternate years for tax purposes, perhaps because you plan on having the kids 50 percent of the time each, add a clause that states that if a parent no longer has the child or children 50 percent of the time, then the parent who has the child most of the time gets the write-off.
5. If you and your ex make about the same per month and you plan to have the children 50 percent of the time each, you may not think too much about specifying child support in your divorce papers. But regardless of how good friends you are with your ex at the time of the divorce, you need to prepare for the worst. What will happen if you ex suddenly decides to take off to another location? You now have the children full time and you are paying for everything yourself, because the divorce decree doesn’t require your ex to pay any child support. What you will need is a clause that specifies how much child support you each will have to pay if you no longer take the children 50 percent of the time.
6. State specifically who is responsible for paying the medical and dental insurance for the child. The other parent should pay half of the costs of the insurance. You should also have a clause that states how expenses not covered by the insurance are going to be shared.