Co-Parenting Agreements: Crafting the Right One for You

Updated February 3, 2020
Husband and Wife Fill Out Paperwork While Young Daughter Watches

If you and your (ex) partner want to raise your children collectively and cooperatively, co-parenting agreements can help improve your focus. Find out how to co-parent through planning an agreement together that may turn both of you into better parents.

Information About Parenting & Co-Parenting Agreements

In short, co-parenting means both parents work together in a cooperative manner to raise healthy, happy and well-balanced children. This type of parenting puts a large portion of the family focus directly on the children and requires certain skills. The introduction of an agreement between both parents ensures that everyone involved with raising the children adheres to similar values and works towards the same goals.

What Is a Co-Parenting Agreement?

A parenting plan, or co-parenting agreement is essentially a non-binding contract that outlines how shared children will be raised. The document outlines a variety of guidelines, rules, and schedules as they relate to shared children, and it is signed by both parents. Some states might require a co-parenting agreement for divorce proceedings, but this type of document is never legally binding unless it has been signed by a judge.

Printable Co-Parenting Agreement Template Example

A co-parenting agreement template can help you find a starting point for discussing your parenting plan. This free, editable co-parenting agreement PDF can be used as-is to help you figure out your plan or as an example of what the document you create could look like. It is not a legal document.

Co-Parenting Agreement Template

Who Needs a Parenting Agreement?

No matter the circumstances, all parents and children will benefit from well-crafted co-parenting agreements that enhance co-parenting communication. However, most parents who are still together and reside in the same home never think about implementing an agreement to care for their children. It may become more and more common to have cooperative agreements between parents in the future, even when the parents live together and have no special needs.

Some situations that commonly rely on co-parenting agreements include:

  • Divorced families
  • Parents who were never married and don't live together
  • Separated parents
  • Parents in crisis (emotional, mental, physical, etc.)
  • Teenage parents
  • Family advocates, counselors and social workers often recommend some form of cooperative parenting statement for intact families

Elements of Co-Parenting Agreements

An agreement between parents or custodians about how to raise their kids is a serious matter. For best results, all parties included in the contract (parents, god-parents, grandparents, etc.) must sit down together and work out the details in a cooperative manner. If you believe your children will benefit from such an agreement, check out what needs to be in a parenting plan and start creating your own.

Co-Parenting Agreements for Married and Co-Habitating Parents

It might seem silly for married people to draft a contract for cooperative parenting, but having a document like this can serve as a guideline for raising children and prevent misunderstandings down the road. When parents agree on key issues early on, children tend to grow up to be confident, emotionally secure and successful. This also applies to parents who live together as a couple, but were never married.

Points to consider when coming up with a document include:

  • Religion
  • Education
  • Extra-curricular activities
  • Bedtimes by age
  • Childcare
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Internet usage and TV/video game time
  • Dating rules
  • Parental roles and responsibilities
  • Discipline
  • Morals and family values
  • Long-term parental expectations
  • Spontaneous or emergency decision-making guidelines
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Co-Parenting Agreements for Divorced and Separated Parents

Having a written agreement is crucial to the nurturing of children after divorce. Since it's a time of massive upheaval, formulating a set of firm guidelines can keep your children grounded before, during and after the break-up, while also imbuing them with feelings of consistency and safe security. Although they may protest the idea itself, children respond favorably to most parenting contracts in the long term.

In addition to the items present in a married couple's agreement, points to consider include:

  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Residential scheduling
  • Visitation plans
  • Custody during holidays
  • Transportation
  • Financial responsibilities
  • Medical care
  • Emergency procedures
  • Education requirements
  • Grandparent visitation plans
  • Gift-giving guidelines
  • Child-related communication procedures
  • Last testament and will

Co-Parenting Agreements for Unmarried Parents Who Split Up

Although this case is special, unmarried parents who decide to split should also have a firm agreement about the children before doing so. In fact, it is important to draft such an agreement before children even enter the picture. If the break-up is especially bitter or suffused with anger, a previously established, legally binding agreement helps to lighten the already hefty load suddenly placed upon the shoulders of both parents. Having everything about the kids in writing means one less thing for you and your ex to battle over.

In general, co-parenting agreements between unmarried parents bear a strong resemblance to more traditional contracts, but you or your ex may want to include the following items or addendum:

  • Role and obligations: Establishing and including paternal and maternal information in the agreement ensures a parent's right to raise his/her children and secure financial support for the kids.
  • Children's legal last name
  • Legal or joint custody
  • Long-term legal procedures during emergencies

Follow Through With Co-Parenting Agreements

Even if you and your co-parent have documented a comprehensive, all-inclusive agreement, the document has no purpose if both parents do not make a concerted effort to follow it. Give your children and yourselves a leg-up in the world by adhering to all agreed-upon elements right from the start. If you need additional help in sorting through co-parenting issues that have come up in your family, consider finding a co-parenting program in your area.

Co-Parenting Agreements: Crafting the Right One for You