While encouraged by the family courts and state laws, a detailed co-parenting agreement is not designed by the courts. it is designed between the parents through an arbitrator if necessary. This essay looks first at a brief history of laws regarding child custody, and then presents four sample parenting agreements. Finally, the essay notes particulars with the language used by lawmakers and in parenting agreements, showing how gender-neutral language lends strength to the father’s position after divorce.
Co-parenting is far more than a legal concept. It is a new way to structure a family that could potentially be divided by divorce. Even though the parents are not husband and wife to each other, they remain parents of any children, and must be able to exercise their parenting without too much interference from the other parent, and with the support of the other parent. Children develop in healthy ways when they have consistent parenting, whether their parents are married or divorced. Maintaining consistency requires divorced mothers and fathers to develop new ways of interacting with each other that are just about the kids, not their own adult disagreements. This is the essence of co-parenting, and when mothers and fathers cannot agree during a divorce, a co-parenting agreement may need to be drawn up through an arbitrator that provides structure for the continued relationship.
Custody agreements that arise from divorces have many legal terms associated with them which often overlap: sole custody, joint custody, sole physical/joint legal, visitation, and many other variations of legal terms. None of these terms speaks to co-parenting. in fact, co-parenting is avoided by the courts because it requires a complex interaction between divorced parents which the court cannot be expected to regulate.