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Can you informally modify your child custody agreement?

When you and your spouse first split, the idea of working together to customize your custody agreement and parenting plan seemed like an impossible goal.

With time, however, the animosity between you and your co-parent has faded. Now, your relationship is much more cooperative. In fact, now that your child’s needs are changing, you and your co-parent have quietly negotiated a few changes to the old rules.

Here’s why that’s not a good idea.

Your relationship with your ex-spouse can change again

You can’t imagine having the same hostile relationship as before with your co-parent. After all, you’ve both grown, have different goals in life and fewer interpersonal stressors.

That being said, when you married your ex, did you ever think the brutal divorce you eventually endured was even possible? Probably not — and that should be a warning to the future. Your genial, informal custody agreement may work for now, but there’s no guarantee that you won’t eventually encounter a situation where you and your co-parent simply cannot agree.

A parenting plan is an official court order — not an optional agreement

It isn’t unusual for co-parents to forget that their custody agreement and parenting plans are actually court orders — and judges expect court orders to be obeyed.

Should your relationship with your co-parent sour in the future, you could be blamed for the “unauthorized” changes to the custody plans — and that can lead to all sorts of unpleasant consequences, such as family counseling, parenting education programs and even cash bonds designed to enforce your compliance with the court’s order.

In short, don’t take chances where your children are involved. If you and your co-parent are willing to cooperate on a new custody agreement, that’s excellent. Just make sure you do it correctly — and that all the legal boxes are properly checked.