Custody Questions

If you and your co-parent are fighting over custody of your children in divorce, you’ve probably found the quickest way possible to spend money, inflict pain on each other, and lose control of your divorce. Before you square off and start tossing grenades at each other, maybe both of you could answer these questions separately, then sit down and discuss the answers together in mediation. Hey, it can’t hurt, and it just might help.

I encourage you to agree that everything you write down on this questionnaire is confidential. That means neither of you can disclose what’s on your sheet or your spouse’s sheet in court later.

This is for settlement discussion purposes only.

The questions are organized by the clusters of issues you and the other parent need to address if you’re going to take good care of your children. If there’s a question that doesn’t apply to your children, just mark it “N/A” (not applicable).

Residence

Do you believe that all the children should live in the same residence?

Yes _______.  No _______.

Why or why not?

Do you believe the children should live with you or with your co-parent?

With you ________. With the other parent ________.

Why?

If the children were to live with you, what efforts would you make to ensure that they spend time with and have a meaningful relationship with the other parent?

Please answer this question even if you have said the children should live with you. If the children were to live with the other parent, what efforts would you expect the other parent to make to ensure that they spend time with and have a meaningful relationship with you?

Assuming the children were to live with you, when should they spend time with the other parent? Weekends? Weeknights? Summer? Should you design a separate schedule for use when the two of you are separated by distance?

Assuming the children were to live with the other parent, when should they spend time with you? Weekends? Weeknights? Summer? Should you design a separate schedule for use when the two of you are separated by distance?

Should the children spend time on the telephone with the other parent other than during scheduled visitation? How often? For how long? Should there be a set time or just whenever? Should the residential parent agree not to interfere with or listen in on these calls? Who should pay for them?

If babysitting is needed, should the other parent be the first-choice babysitter? If so, how (and how far in advance) should you contact each other about this?

Do you intend to continue living in the same area until all the children are adults?

Yes _______.  No _______.

Why or why not?

If you moved away, where do you think you might move?

How closely should the two of you live to each other while the children are growing up?

What restrictions or agreements should the two of you make, if any, about what happens if one of you moves away from the area?

If you’re separated by distance, who should pay for the children to travel? Should there be an adjustment in child support?

What special arrangements, if any, need to be made on the following holidays? (If a holiday is unimportant, just leave it blank.)

Martin Luther King

Valentine’s Day

Washington’s Birthday

Spring Break

Easter

Mother’s Day

Memorial Day

Father’s Day

Independence Day

Labor Day

Rosh Hashanah

Yom Kippur

Halloween

Thanksgiving

Hanukkah

Christmas Eve

Christmas Day

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Day

Winter break

Child’s Birthday

Your birthday

Other relative’s birthday

Other

Other

Other

Should your children continue in the same school system they now attend?

Yes _______.  No _______.

Why or why not?

Should both of you have access to the following?

Grade reports? ________

Notice of all school events? ________

Notice of all extracurricular events? ________

Visits with teachers? _______

Ability to visit children in class? ________

Ability to eat lunch with children? ________

Should the two of you consult with each other about major educational decisions (for example, whether to change schools, or whether to take advanced level courses)? If you should, how should you resolve differences between the two of you?

If you should not consult with each other about major educational decisions, should the one of you who is not consulted receive any notice of such decisions?

What arrangements need to be made now about higher education? Should both parents contribute to the cost of college? If so, how should you share these costs?

What restrictions, if any, should be placed on your duty to contribute to college (e.g., public college only? grade point average?)

What advance savings arrangements, if any, should you agree to make to pay for college?

Athletics

Are there particular sports that are particularly important to one of more of your children? For each one, is either of you more oriented toward that sport than the other?

Are there particular sports in which one of your more children should not participate, or should not participate until a given age? If so, what are they, and why?

Spiritual Life

What sort of spiritual involvement should the children receive? What level of attendance in church or synagogue is important to you?

If the two parents disagree about spiritual matters, how should you resolve the disagreement?

Should the children attend the same church or synagogue regardless of which parent is with them during the weekend? If not, should there be any requirement or restriction about church or synagogue attendance? If so, are there any arrangements you need to make to avoid conflict?

Are there any church or synagogue activities the children should attend during the week?

Medical and Dental Care

What arrangements if any should be made for health insurance for the children? Which doctors or clinics should they use?

How should you pay for health expenses not covered by insurance, such as co-pays, deductibles, prescription drugs, eyeglasses and contacts, dental expenses, braces, psychological counseling, treatment for pre-existing conditions?

Should both of you have access to the following?

Access to medical reports? ________

Advance notice of medical exams? ________

Notification of emergency care? ________

Right to independent visits with doctors? ________

Financial

How should the two of you share the costs of supporting your child? Should you simply apply the child support guidelines in effect in your state? If so, what arrangements will the two of you make to compare information about your income and relevant expenses so both of you can recompute child support periodically?

If you should not simply apply the guidelines, what arrangements should you make about the costs of supporting your child?

Which of you should claim which children as a tax deduction?

What general savings (that is, in addition to or separate from college costs) should be set aside for your children? Who should contribute to them, and who should manage them?

Miscellaneous

Are there particular relatives or friends with whom it’s important for your children to spend time and maintain a relationship? With whom it’s important they not spend time or have a relationship?

Are there any stepchildren or stepparents with whom it’s important for your children to spend time and maintain a relationship? With whom it’s important they not spend time or have a relationship?

Understanding that all couples who have divorced experience conflict and difficulty communicating, are there particular issues between you and your spouse that need to be considered as you develop your parenting plan?

How would you prefer that the other parent contact you? In person? By telephone at home? By telephone at work? By mail? By e-mail? By fax? Through a third party?

What restrictions should both of you follow in communicating about the marriage or the other parent to the children? _______ Should you agree not to criticize each other? ______ Should you agree not to use the children to deliver messages or information to or from the other spouse? ______ Should you agree not to discuss divorce issues or money issues in front of the children? ______ What other understandings or arrangements should you have with each other?

What other issues or concerns should you and the other parent discuss and reach agreement on at this stage in your negotiations?

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