Contrary to the perception that half of all marriages in the US end up in divorce, this is not true in New York. According to a 2018 report, divorce is at an all-time low in New York –lower than the divorce rates in the 1990s. 

At 2.7 per 1000 residents in 2017 compared to 3.2 per 1000 residents in 1990, this goes against the popular consensus that people aren’t staying together. So, while there’s some victory in marriages working, and people deciding to stick it through, those who are getting a divorce are having to deal with parenting agreements and will need a family lawyer.

What is a Parenting Agreement?

Parenting agreements are the plans agreed upon by both parties in a divorce regarding their child’s well-being. These agreements include everything from child custody and support to visitation rights. 

In New York, this is very important because it’s not a 50/50 custody state. So, one cannot presume that the courts will automatically grant both parents equal custody rights. 

The parents have to draw up an agreement that will help make this a reality. Of course, drawing up these parenting agreements is no small feat considering that there’ll always be serious conflicts and parents disagreeing about key issues. 

This is why oral agreements don’t work. You need to draw up physical documents that contain written down agreements. And once they go to court, and are approved, these become legally binding.

What Should be Included in a Parenting Agreement?

It’s often easy to overlook some crucial things while drawing up a parental plan. It’s imperative that you address every important item in the agreement. 

This way, you both remove the element of assumption –which can be a major source of conflict post-divorce- and sort out everything from the beginning. 

Your parenting agreements, therefore, should include the following:

  • Physical child custody
  • Regular child visitation schedules
  • Holiday custody schedule 
  • Special occasion visitation schedule
  • Key decisions to be made in consultation with the other party
  • Person(s) responsible for education, medical, legal, and childcare needs
  • Person(s) responsible for medical decisions
  • Person(s) responsible for college savings and funds
  • Child’s relationship with extended family
  • Decisions about a substantial alteration of a child’s appearance e.g. new haircut
  • Avoiding scheduling activities during a parent’s visitation or custody period
  • Agreement by both parents to never speak ill of each other to the children
  • Key expenses requiring itemization –applies to big-ticket purchases and items

Your parenting agreements should demonstrate that your child’s well-being was at the center of your plan. We’ve seen far too many parents leave out some of these in their parenting agreements, to the detriment of the child and their own well-being. 

Make sure to address all of these points and you’ll both end up being great co-parents to your children. This will be the focus of the courts when it approves or disproves the agreement.

Why are Parenting Agreements Important?

Even after a divorce, there’s the likelihood for ex-spouses to still harbor feelings of anger, resentment and hurt. 

As a result, it’s not unusual for these parents to transfer these emotions to their children, or do everything to hurt the other spouse through the kids. 

Women might develop something called the “malicious mother syndrome”, while others might try to prevent the other spouse from spending quality time with the children. 

These parental agreements serve as court-ordered ground rules to ensure that everyone behaves in a manner that ultimately benefits their children. More importantly, it gets emotions out of the way. 

For instance, with a parental agreement in place, an ex-partner cannot stop their child from visiting the other party just because the other party has a significant other. 

Can Parenting Agreements Be Modified?

In New York, a parent can file for a modification of parental agreements, visitation rights, child custody and more. The courts understand that schedules change, life happens, people get new jobs that might make them less available or they develop health issues.

To do this though, you’ll need to petition the courts with a modification of order request. Before you do this though, make sure that you are able to establish that there was a “substantial change of circumstances”. 

This is usually the only grounds in which the courts will listen to your plea and/or approve your request.  

What Happens if One Parent Violates a Court-Ordered Parenting Agreement?

The courts take parenting agreements very seriously. So, if one parent violates the agreement, that parent can be accused of being in contempt of the court. 

If this happens frequently enough, it could jeopardize your custody and visitation rights. Also, the courts might be forced to exact extra measures to ensure that there are no repeat incidents in the future. 

Some consequences of violating a court-ordered parenting agreement include:

  • Stripping parents of visitation of custodial rights –happens only in extreme cases
  • Attending court-ordered parenting class
  • Attending future check-in hearings
  • The courts might change the custodial and visitation rights to favor the other parent
  • Jail time

Please note that most of these penalties will only be awarded if the violations are severe in nature. The courts will not consider a modification of parental agreements if a parent forgets to visit a few times because of an incredibly busy schedule. 

Do you Need Help With Drawing up, Contesting or Modifying Parenting Agreements?

If yes, then you need to engage the services of an experienced parental agreements lawyer in New York. Kimberly Pelesz New York Law is a competent and highly qualified law firm that specializes in family law and criminal defense. 

Kimberly herself has many years of experience handling such matters, and can easily provide you with the legal advice and representation that will ensure the parenting agreement favors you.

And if you have to go to court, we’ll fight for you and make sure you get the best possible outcomes from the case.  

Call Kimberly Pelesz today on (914) 402-4541 for a free case evaluation. 

Check out one of our most recent blogs: WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE STOPPED BY POLICE IN NEW YORK

By: Kimberly Pelesz

Family law and criminal defense attorney Kimberly A. Pelesz received a B.S. degree magna cum laude and an M.P.A. degree summa cum laude from Binghamton University. She earned her J.D. from Pace University School of Law in White Plains, where she was selected for Phi Alpha Delta. Her charitable activities include work with My Sisters’ Place in White Plains and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Humane Education Taskforce.