Even when divorcing parents agree to share custody of their kids, they may find that child care by a third party is necessary for the first time. Moms or dads who used to be stay-at-home parents often need to start working or they may have to move from part-time to full-time employment. This often necessitates putting children in a daycare or after-school care facility. It may involve hiring a babysitter.

Anticipate and Codify Your Post-Divorce Child Care Needs

Whether you already have a child care provider or not, it's essential to anticipate what kind of post-divorce child care needs you'll have and how much it will cost as you and your spouse work out custody details and a visitation plan. You'll also need to determine how the costs will be split between you. This can help prevent disputes later. If you've been separated for awhile, you may already have a child care plan that's working for you and your kids.

If one parent decides after the fact that he or she needs to arrange for child care or changes the agreed-upon child care arrangement, the other parent has the right to refuse to pay for it or discontinue the care. Either can mean a trip to court.

Child Care Providers Should Know Your Agreement

It's essential when making arrangements for child care that it's determined which parent(s) are allowed to pick the kids up. If you both have physical custody of the kids, either of you can, with some exceptions. For example, if only one of you also has legal custody regarding child care decisions, that person can decide whether the other spouse is allowed to pick up the kids as well and/or if other family members or friends may do so. Whatever the situation, you should provide copies of the relevant custody documents to the child care provider.

There are times, of course, where an unforeseen circumstance may arise that requires you to get a babysitter or arrange for overtime child care. Generally, the cost in those situations is borne by the parent with physical custody of the child at the time. That's something that should be spelled out in your agreements during the divorce as well.

The most important thing to remember, both when drafting these agreements and in your day-to-day dealings with your children and their care providers, is to keep your kids' best interests in mind and minimize their stress at drop-offs and pick-ups. If you and your co-parent are having disagreements about child care, settle them away from your kids. Your family law attorney can provide guidance and help you enforce the terms of your child care agreement.