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Child custody agreements are increasingly elaborate

Traditional child custody agreements not only here in New York, but elsewhere throughout the country, have generally used boiler plate language memorializing alternate weekends and rotating holiday schedules for custodial and non-custodial parents' visitation schedules. Now, in recent years, the newest co-parenting agreements map out more than just days and dates of visitation. Parenting plans now often address long-term plans for education and religious practices.

A child's religious upbringing can be a sore point, especially between divorcing parents of separate faiths. A divorced couple with divergent faiths may set down a pattern of acceptable and unacceptable religious practices for kids. The agreement may include or exclude holiday celebrations like Christmas or Hanukkah. A custody agreement can even lay out if and how a child will celebrate a confirmation or bar mitzvah, even down to the finer details of which parent is responsible for the cost of such an event.

Attorneys say elaborate custody agreements regarding religion are not exclusive to interfaith divorces. Even parents who share similar religious beliefs but practice them differently have been known to define children's religious pathways legally.

For instance, a custodial parent may desire that a child who attends religious services or faith-based school at home continue the practice when visiting a non-custodial parent. A non-custodial parent, who may not regularly participate in religious services, may be required to adopt the practice during visitations.

Parenting plans can also include how children are to be disciplined and what education they will receive. An agreement can even touch on the children's exposure to dating practices of single parents.

Many divorce lawyers say the more specific child custody agreements are, the less likely they will be contested. Other observers say highly-detailed contracts may not leave enough room for future changes of heart. The provisions of a co-parenting plan may be so strict that any deviance from the contract may require parents to renegotiate.

Source: The Washington Post, "Divorce's details: Custody agreements are getting more complex," Michelle Boorstein, Dec. 27, 2011

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