A child custody agreement is a written document that is issued by the court or drafted by the parents of the child or children, by the court, or by an attorney after a divorce or separation.
It outlines a parenting plan, the responsibilities of each parent, primary physical custody of the child or children, and visitation rights by the non-custodial parent.
If the child custody agreement is written by the parents, perhaps after separation, the court will require to have an agreement ratified for it to be enforceable. These agreements are meant to be kept by both parties.
Since violations of the stated agreements could amount to serious legal consequences, there is a need for both parents to keep copies of the agreement.
Different jurisdictions have different terms, boilerplate child custody agreements are typically generic in nature and require heavy editing but do contain the following among other things:
- Primary physical custody of the child or children.
- Visitation rights for the non-custodial parent.
- Child support or parenting plan.
- Other visitation arrangements to non-parents.
Where to Get a Copy of The Child Custody Agreement
After the court proceedings and determination, a child custody agreement becomes legally binding to both parents.
The parents are obliged by the law to abide by the terms that have been stipulated by the agreement, failure to which may attract some legal consequences.
Keep in mind, when and if a dispute should arise, whether it be police involvement, a state agency, or tax issue these officials will need to see clear paperwork to better serve you and they must be court stamped and approved documents for them to comply.
Always have a copy handy to avoid problems. if you do not have a copy of the agreement, or lose it, here are some solutions to retrieve or replace it, some quicker than others.
Get It Physically from The Court
If you can visit the court, this would be the best way to obtain a stamped hard copy. There may be some fees and bureaucratic procedures that you may need to follow to get the copy, but this is definitely the most direct method to receive an authentic form.
The downside to this method, besides possible fees and spending your lunch hour at the courthouse is, you will have to go during normal government business hours, which can be very limiting. forget about weekends, nights, and of course holidays when the courts are not in session.
Also many States and County courts have a separate location for the records to be kept, sometimes miles away in a completely different building, typically called Clerk’s office or Clerk’s repositories.
Be sure to inquire the location of these records before leaving the courthouse if possible. otherwise an online search should be able to provide this info.
Check It Online
Some courts are so digitized that you can find the service without having to visit the court. This is a great resource that can come in very handy.
In some cases, you may be able to check your file and download it online. This will depend on whether your court supports online documentation or not. Also, keep in mind, if there is no official stamp from the court, some departments will not accept them as proof.
In other instances, you will only be able to see the court activity and a brief note of what transpired on a certain date, but have no ability to see the actual documents filed or download a copy.
I believe this is for a couple reasons. one… the court wants to collect fees for copies provided, and two… this assures you come in person and they can verify who is receiving these files that can sometimes contain very sensitive and private info, like social security numbers, childrens names, addresses, ages, and such.
One thing to note here is that if you are required to pay for the copies, the amount to pay may depend on the court’s terms of obtaining copies of the agreements.
Sometimes there is no charge for the parties or parents in the case, sometimes it depends on the number of pages, and the cost may vary state to state, but it is normally a very low fee per page.
Order by Mail
You can sometimes request copies to be delivered to you by mail. It is an option that is available in many courts.
You will need to provide the court with the case number of course, and then the Clerk’s office will get everything in order before being delivered to you.
With this process, you will receive official, court stamped forms delivered to you, however, it is definitely the slowest of any process outlined here. If time is of the essence, do not use this method, as it can take weeks to complete, if not longer, and there still may be fees involved.
Create It Yourself
When and if the parents can communicate constructively and/or negotiate peacefully on the terms of the child custody agreement, many times the court will accept an Agreed Order, signed by both parents.
This is very beneficial to both parties, in that it can save literally thousands of dollars better spent anywhere else, cuts the time for the proceedings dramatically, and the outcome will hopefully be satisfactory or, at least, equally unsatisfactory for both parents.
Once you have agreed on custody terms and put them in writing, you can keep the same copy after it has been reviewed and ratified by the court. This will help keep both parents accountable with the terms in the agreement and avoid violations enforceable by the court.
The Help of An Attorney
An attorney can also help you retrieve a copy of any paperwork you need, as they too, normally receive a copy for their file at every hearing. Not to mention, a lot of the time they are the one drafting this paperwork, as the Judge will rarely, if ever, pick up a pen themselves.
It is almost certain the Judge appoints one council or the other to write up the draft of the order that they will review and sign.
Do not be surprised to incur some additional costs for the service. Your attorney can do this at no charge, but I have yet to ever see this happen.
Again, this is, of course, a matter of convenience that normally comes with a charge for their time. Try to always, always keep all copies of any paper that comes your way during an active custody case.
Hire a Paralegal Expert
If you are not working with an attorney and want to get your copy of the child custody agreement faster, one alternative way is to hire a paralegal expert that works near your court.
It is one of the easiest ways if you don’t want to get bogged down in some bureaucracies and red tape run around before you get your copies.
The paralegal is an expert in navigating the court system and Clerk’s office and will typically work everything out for you to get the copies of the child custody agreement delivered to you.
Just like in the case of an attorney, you will obviously incur some service costs. But, the documents you receive, will be the real McCoy with court stamps and verification of authenticity.
Whatever route you choose, you will eventually have copies of your child custody agreements.
It really comes down to the level of convenience, the cost, and the time investment you are willing to make. The most important thing is to keep all these documents in a safe accessible location to avoid ever needing to retrieve a new copy.
It is nice to see that with new technologies, what used to be a real pain and a lost afternoon, is now sometimes just a click of a mouse or a simple phone call to achieve the same result.