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Dispute story highlights need for written child custody plans

There is a reason why custody agreements are -- or, at least should be -- put in place as part of any divorce process where children are involved. Without one, there is nothing in writing on who will have what custody responsibility for the children after the split. Some parents figure that they can trust each other and figure out a suitable arrangement as they go along, but that backfires all too often.

One family law attorney recently blogged about just such a situation in which a couple divorced and did not address the child custody arrangement for their 4-year-old son. The husband eventually remarried and moved to the other side of the country from his ex-wife. The two discussed their options and decided that it would be best for their son to live with the mother.

While this was the informal agreement coming out of a no-fault divorce process, the boy's mother sent him to spend six weeks with his father so that the two could maintain a relationship. Instead of allowing his son to return home after the allotted time, the father declared he wanted custody of the boy. His new wife apparently had convinced him to take the action to stop paying child support.

The ex-wife was forced to go through numerous legal proceedings in her husband's new home state in efforts to regain custody of her son. She had to foot the bills, which racked up to more than $20,000 over time. And in the end, the court sided with the father.

The ex-wife was now the one paying child support. She also ended up limited to just three weeks of visitation with her son per summer, and every other Christmas by order of the court in her ex-husband's new home state.

The observation made by the attorney in this instance was that two mistakes were made. First, the couple relied on a cheap, no-fault divorce that apparently didn't include attorney review or child custody arrangements in writing. Second, the mother could have, and should have, obtained a child custody order from her state. Had both elements been in place, it would have likely helped prevent the kind of costly legal battle that resulted.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Two Big Child Custody Mistakes To Avoid," Bob Jeffries, Dec. 26, 2012

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