What should I ask for in a child custody agreement?

A child custody agreement usually comes into play when parents split up, whether they’re married or not.

It’s also applicable if a parent has to relocate or if there are concerns for the safety and welfare of the child.

Married partners may seek legal advice or use a divorce settlement agreement template to specify the terms of their separation.

The custody agreement is usually added to the divorce settlement and becomes legally binding.

The child custody agreement focuses on the child’s needs and how both co-parents will raise them.

Use our lists below to determine what you should ask for in a child custody agreement.

What is a custody agreement?

A custody agreement is a legally binding document stating terms for the custody and care of children whose parents are splitting up.

The agreement states who gets legal and physical custody and how much time each parent gets with the child.

It explains how major decisions about the child’s upbringing will be made.

Visitation rights, medical coverage, and education are some of the many topics that could be included in a custody agreement.

Others include child support and whether grandparents or other close relatives can take custody of the child.

The goal of the custody agreement is to protect the children’s best interests while allowing both parents to contribute to significant decisions.

It’s legally binding and can be enforced in court if either parent breaks its terms.

What to include in a child custody agreement

Each state has different laws concerning child custody and custody agreements.

Therefore, when deciding the most important things to include in a child custody agreement, you should research the relevant laws in your area or use a custody agreement template.

This is imperative because court approval is required to make the agreement legally binding.

Ultimately, the child custody agreement should comply with applicable laws and suit the needs of the child and family involved. You should consider the child’s age, developmental stage, and any special requirements.

While every family’s circumstances are unique, most custody agreements cover the following topics:

Legal custody

This highlights which parent gets legal custody of the child or children.

It gives a parent the power to make decisions about their child’s medical care, education, and other vital parts of their upbringing.

Physical custody

This covers scheduling the time the child spends with each parent.

It explains how you plan to share physical custody during holidays and other special occasions, like birthdays.


This includes phone conversations, emails, texts, and physical visits between parents and their children.

It also contains expectations for how the children should interact with both sets of relatives.

Financial support

This states who will pay for child support, health insurance, and any other costs directly related to the child’s upkeep.


This deals with the steps that need to be taken if either parent needs to relocate.

Important points include notice requirements and how the move may affect visitation and custody.

Dispute resolution

This sets up a system (for example, arbitration or mediation) for settling disagreements between the parents if and when they arise. It also includes steps explaining how the parents might change the custody arrangement if needed.

Parental behavior

This includes provisions demanding that both parents prioritize the child’s needs and avoid negative behaviors that could affect them.

The court uses the “best interests of the child” standard when evaluating custody agreements.

As a result, it will not approve any agreement that doesn’t adequately consider the child’s needs.

It’s advisable to seek legal advice or use family law templates to ensure you follow best practices.

What should I specifically ask for in a child custody agreement?

Legal custody

Seek joint legal custody of your child with your co-parent.

This gives both of you equal power to make important decisions about the child’s religion, medical care, and education.

Physical custody

You should consider which type of physical custody arrangement best suits your child’s needs.

This could mean opting for joint physical custody, where children split their time equally with each parent.

Work out the specifics using a joint custody agreement template to simplify the process and better understand how it works.

Miscellaneous expenses

Although alimony and child support payments are typically included in divorce decrees, the custody agreement should also address who is responsible for paying for other incidental costs.

Among these are fees associated with extracurricular activities, equipment, classes, and even auto insurance. You should also decide who can add the child as a tax dependent.

Parenting time

Be specific about scheduling time with the child for you and your co-parent, whether for the holidays, weekends, weekdays, or summer vacations.


Ensure your child can easily communicate with you and your co-parent and arrange regular phone, email, or text contact.


Decide who will pick up and drop off the child during visitations and what happens if a parent is running late.

Education and religion

The agreement should detail the child’s planned school, the religion under which they will be raised, and the parents’ respective responsibilities in this area.

Medical care

Choose a primary healthcare provider and spell out who will be responsible for paying medical bills and making healthcare decisions.

If the child has a persistent medical issue, you should include emergency and regular medical treatment instructions.

Enforce your parental rights with a child custody agreement

Using a child custody agreement, you can exercise your parental rights and ensure your child’s needs are met.

Both parents are legally responsible for upholding its terms and conditions.

By cooperating and considering your child’s best interests, you can avoid lengthy and expensive custody battles in court.