Parenting Agreements: Why Newly Single Moms and Dads Should Have One

By Allison O'Connor

Man and woman looking over contract or paperworkShortly after I discovered I was pregnant with my daughter, my relationship with her father ended. Coming to terms with being a single mom was the easy part, but dealing with potential custody issues frightened me. I mean, our child wasn’t even born yet and already I was having separation anxiety at the thought of shared custody.

But the reality is, when you become a single mom, whether it is through divorce or in my case, having a child out of marriage, you need to put your emotions aside and think about what is best for your children moving forward.  Establishing ground rules for co-parenting is a critical step toward building a solid foundation for your children.

At the urging of a family therapist and mediator, my ex and I consulted with a family lawyer to discuss a formal parenting agreement or parenting plan. Our romantic relationships was over, but a lifelong relationship as parents was just about to begin. Setting the ground rules for co-parenting early on saved us both a lot of anxiety, lawyer’s fees and potential court time. In fact, we bypassed family court altogether because we worked together as a team putting our child’s needs first.

So as you embark on a new phase of your life; single motherhood, think about whether or not a parenting agreement makes sense for you and your family. I hope this will help you decide.

What is a parenting agreement or parenting plan?

A parenting agreement is a formal document that outlines an agreed upon plan in which you and your ex will co-parent every aspect of your child’s life.

Who needs a parenting agreement?

Parents that are recently separated and heading toward divorce or single moms by choice (if your child’s father is or intends to be involved in their life).

What does a parenting agreement cover?

  • Parenting agreements establish ground rules for every aspect of parenting:
  • Parental responsibilities
  • Financial responsibilities
  • Shared custody and visitation
  • Vacations and holidays
  • Out of state travel
  • Education and religion
  • Residence and relocation issues
  • Tax Deductions
  • Medical issue
  • Dealing with conflict and rules for resolution
  • Transportation
  • Safety issue
  • Agreed upon date when agreement will be updated.

As always, it’s best to consult with a lawyer specializing in family law in your state of residence to make sure you are both within your legal rights. However, check the web too. You will find sample parenting agreements for just about every state.

Other Sources:

NOLO: Family Law

Building a Parenting Agreement that Works by Mimi Lyster

Other Articles for Single Moms

Going it Alone with Children: A Divorce Warrior’s Way

How to Co-Parent with An Ex Your Not on Speaking Terms With

Focus on Single Foster Care Parenting