How to create sustainable agreements
Good collaborations are often based on stable agreements. It is important to know what will happen, who will do what and when. But what should be agreed upon? What are the advantages and disadvantages of different types of agreements? Below you will find out more about what is good to know to create good agreements around the child.
Why is it important to have an agreement around the child?
Sustainable agreements are important because it creates peace and quiet for children and parents when everyone knows what applies. After some time with a new agreement, things usually fall into place. You might make minor adjustments to make everyone feel comfortable. It provides predictability and both children and parents can focus on other things like, extracurricular activities, friends and other fun stuff.
Important topics to agree on
In general, it is good to agree on the following:
Should custody of the child be joint or sole custody? In Sweden joint custody is most common, both parents are guardians and make decisions about the child together. That includes deciding on the child’s name, population registration, non-routine medical care, passport and what school the child will attend. Both parents have the right to receive information about the child from school and medical care, for example. Read more about custody here.
The child’s living arrangements or visitation
How will the child live and with whom? It can be alternate living if the parents live close by, have a stable cooperation and it works for the child to live in two homes. It can also be a matter of visitation if the homes are far apart or there are other reasons for the child to live with one parent and meet their other parents shorter. For example, over weekends and holidays. It is also good to agree on when, where and how changes should take place between the parents. Who takes vab (care of sick child) and so on.
The child’s right to vacation and holiday time with each parent
Many children spend every other holiday with each parent. For some children the parents have decide on a fixed schedule for the holidays: winter holidays with parent 1 and Easter holidays with parent 2. Summer holidays are divided correspondingly alternately.
- How parents should communicate: call each other or notify via the Varannan Vecka-chat or other digital platforms?
- What things the child needs to bring with them between the parents?
- Common routines with both parents: bedtimes, screen time and more?
- The child’s holidays: birthdays, school graduations, theater shows, games, Lucia processions and more. Should both parents be there or does one go to the Lucia celebration and the other to the Lucia fika afterwards?
Different types of agreements
There are almost as many ways to get along as there are children and parents. What works for some, doesn’t work for others. There are no formal requirements for what agreements should look like or what they should contain. However, certain requirements exist for agreements to be made legally binding, see below.
Common with a mix of oral and written agreements
Many parents who have a stable coparenting team have a mix of oral and written agreements. For many, custody is already joint when separating and the focus therefore becomes more on living arrangements and practical circumstances. Some parents write down what has been agreed for the sake of it. Others have temporary agreements for a few months at a time.
The advantages of having a written agreement is that you can then make minor exceptions and tings are still clear for everybody. For instance, the child may need to be more with a parent for a while, which can be solved smoothly if you can agree verbally and meet the child’s needs.
The disadvantage may be that it can be difficult to remember what has been agreed if there are a lot of changes. It can become unclear and messy. Misunderstandings can also arise because parents perceive events in different ways or have different needs themselves.
Legally binding agreements
If the parental relationship is conflicted after the separation it may be important to have a written agreement that is made legally binding. For some, it calms the situation to strictly adhere to a clear legal agreement.
Parents who have an agreement and want to make it legally binding can turn to the social welfare board in the municipality where the child is registered. If the parents agree, there is a presumption that the agreement is in accordance with the best interests of the child. However, the social welfare board must carry out an objective investigation of whether the content of the agreement is compatible with the child’s best interests.
There are no formal requirements for how the agreement should be written. However, the content of the agreement must be clearly formulated so that it is enforceable in court if either parent were to turn there. If the agreement involves several children in a group of siblings, separate agreements should be drawn up for each child.
The needs behind an agreement can change over time
If you know that there has been a lot of conflict around the child, it can be good to have a written, preferably legally binding, agreement to stick to. If things calm down and the cooperation improves it is possible to try and be more flexible with agreements further on.
Ultimately, it is the parents/parent (guardians/guardian) themselves who decide what is in the child’s best interest based on the circumstances. A benchmark can be to choose the option you think creates the most calm and predictability for the child and yourselves as parents.