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Let’s Call Custody Agreements Parenting Agreements

Leave it to the court to come up with a soul-less term to describe one of the most significant and emotional issues between parents and their children in divorce. defines “custody” as “the right of determining the residence, protection, care, and education of a minor child or children, especially in a divorce or separation.” Strictly speaking, as defined by the courts, this is true. But we don’t call parents custodians, so we shouldn’t call parenting agreements custody agreements.

The definition notes a number of rights that go along with custody. Having been through a divorce and having spent a lot of time dealing with custody issues and parenting in my own family, I can attest to the difficulties that can be encountered with a strict interpretation of the term. The purpose of a custody agreement is to lay out the terms under which parents will be parents, post-divorce. The focus should be on parenting, not just the right (or obligation) to provide residence, protection, care and education. Too often, a strict interpretation of the term results in a parent “parenting” their way, and not collaboratively.

The court has its hands full, and has difficulty dealing with real family issues. A great start towards improving the opportunities to create healthy parenting agreements is to call them what they are.

Paul T. Murray