Custody and Child Support

Custody and child support are probably the two most important factors in most divorces. Even if there is no property division, each spouse is responsible for his or her share of the payment for the upbringing of the child or children of the marriage. Just who gets to keep that child or those children is equally important in divorce.

When a couple is granted a divorce, the court will proceed to order a support decree against one or both of the parents. Paternity rights must be established. This is especially necessary when the parents are not legally married. Custody will be given to one or both parents. Time must be allocated for the periods that the child or children spend with each parent. Once this is decided, the court will decide on the amount of child support. This can be a very complex matter.

Child support usually includes: money for the basic care, the education of the child in question, and health care expenses.

This monthly amount is determined by calculating the combined income of both parents, and then is distributed in accordance with each parent’s proportional share of that income. Both parties must provide proof of income. That income includes wages, unemployment benefits, pensions, disability benefits, self employment income, workers’ compensation benefits, income from stocks, bonds, oil and gas revenue, etc.

If joint custody is awarded to both parents, their incomes are approximately the same, and the allotted time the child or children spends with each parent is the same, then there is a possibility that there is no child support demanded of each parent.

There are court deviations from all of this which may occur. The child’s or children’s pre-existing living conditions can come into play. The parents’ debt, tax exemptions, the child’s or children’s mental or physical conditions, private schools, or special education may also be considerations of the court. The court must specify its reasons for these decisions, and explain exactly why they are in the best interest of the child or children in the divorce settlement.

Custody can be a very sticky matter. The court has to decide which of the parents are fit for it. In an “Absolute Divorce,” usually custody goes to one parent, and visitation rights or lack of has to be determined. Most of the time, only in the most amiable “No Fault” divorces is joint custody usually awarded.

Certainly if one parent is guilty of drug addiction, alcoholism, felonies, sexual deviation or some other heinous crimes, there will be either no visitation rights given to this person, or the visitations will have to be chaperoned. Child Protective Services will most likely be called in to protect the child or children.

There may be cost of living adjustments as time goes on. The parents may request a review of their status if there is a job loss or a considerable change in income of either of the parties.

Child support payments must be carefully monitored by the state. One way of doing this is by withholding income. The court may order this if the individual in question has a regular job. There are other ways that the support payments may be made. They are: through an escrow account, a transfer account, direct payments, and or direct deposits.

If the individual paying the child support defaults the state can place a judgment or a property lien on him or her, or he or she may lose his or her driver’s license through suspension, or be liable to be arrested. These punishments may vary from state to state.

Child support mandates last until a child reaches adulthood, in most states, the age of eighteen. If the child becomes incapacitated, it may go on indefinitely.

Take every precaution when you are entering this arena. Your decisions will affect you and your children for at least the next eighteen years, and perhaps more.

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