Being a single parent is hard, but it’s made infinitely harder when you don’t have an amicable relationship with your ex. I’ve seen friends in and out of court trying to settle disputes that start as petty squabbles and turn into raging debates. It’s bad for the kids, bad for both sides and bad for your bank account!

A while back I stumbled upon something that I thought was bizarre at the time, but now makes so much sense after seeing these types of situations. It’s called a parenting agreement, and it’s a legally binding document. It’s a great way to keep separated parents on the same page by setting expectations and defining roles. It makes perfect sense for people who can’t ever seem to agree on things or who are always at each other’s throats—angry associates and fiery foes.

What is a parenting agreement?

A parenting agreement is a written agreement between separated parents (usually divorcees) that outlines key aspects of parenting. Basically, it sets down the rules for how to care for the kids and who’s responsible for what.

Parenting agreements can be as simple or complex as they need to be, but usually focus on defining the grayer areas of parenting or areas where disagreement is common. Some of the most common items covered in a parenting agreement include:

  • Child support
  • Educational expenses
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Holiday custody schedule
  • Medical expenses
  • Physical changes (haircuts, ear piercing)
  • Transportation
  • Vacations and traveling (out of state or country)
  • Visitation schedule

One look at that list and it’s easy to see how angry associates and fiery foes can benefit from a parenting agreement! If there’s ever a question about whether a parent is allowed to take the kids out of state on vacation or who covers the bill when little Timmy needs braces, it’s outlined in the agreement.

Settling on the rules

There’s one big obstacle when it comes to parenting agreements, and that’s getting confrontational former-couples to sit down and actually work out compromises! It’s a lot like arbitration or mediation (from what I’ve been told) and it might spark more than a few fights as a lawyer helps you hammer out the details. The good news is, once a parenting agreement is in-place, it’s as good as law for both parents.

If you’re headed to the table to try and work out a parenting agreement, keep the kids in mind. Too many clashing couples try to get a “win” or are petty with their demands just to spite their former spouse or companion. Don’t approach it this way. Instead, think of what’s best for the kids. Some things might not seem fair to you, but they might make sense for the kids—and likewise, for the other parent.

A parenting agreement is a great way to keep angry associates and fiery foes on the same page, held to the same standard. If you and your ex are constantly butting heads or disagreeing on fundamental aspects of parenting, it might be time to get it all down on paper, so you’re both on the same page.