The Joint Parenting Agreement

A Joint Parenting Agreement is a common legal document in divorce or child custody cases in Illinois and Iowa.  It contains the terms under which the parents of a child or children will interact as to each other and the children.

Important aspects of the parenting arrangement, to include custody, visitation, holiday schedules, education matters, religious matters, communication between the parents about child-related matters, and many other issues that will be of great importance until the child is an adult, are part of the joint parenting agreement.  A joint parenting agreement can be of use in any case where both parents have any involvement with the child, which is to say just about every case involving a child.

Divorce or custody cases that are resolved by agreement (uncontested) often involve a joint parenting agreement being prepared by the attorneys and signed by the parents, which is then submitted to the Circuit Court (in Illinois) or the District Court (in Iowa) for approval.  Contested custody or divorce cases that were resolved through a trial may involve the judge determining the basic content of the joint parenting agreement, and then directing the parties and their attorneys to hash out the fine details (and report back to the court if there is a dispute as to those terms).  The Joint Parenting Agreement is then approved by the court in the Divorce Decree.

The actions that a parent takes (or doesn’t take), are often the basis for a contempt action.  The contents of a joint parenting agreement are often alleged to be violated by one parent or another.  Whether or not there is a violation that can be proven can be an issue of great importance for the child and the parents, for years to come after the joint parenting agreement is entered with the court.  As such, the content of the the joint parenting agreement is one of the most important things in a divorce case.  The manner in which that content is expressed is also critical, as a poorly-worded agreement can sometimes allow a party to violate the spirit of the agreement without violating the word of the agreement, thereby escaping from any liability for doing so.

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Those who have a pending divorce or custody case should work with their attorney to ensure that the joint parenting agreement (and other such documents) are properly drafted to reflect the parenting situation, as failing to do so can cause lasting difficulties.