When it comes to divorce or separation, there is no issue that has more impact on the child's life than that involving child custody.
Finalizing custody arrangements does not have to be a traumatic experience for your child. By following these guidelines, and with the help of an experienced family law practitioner, you should be able to settle your custody and visitation rights in an efficient and peaceful manner.
Separation and divorce can be an extremely stressful time in an individual's life. This is especially true when the dissolving of a relationship involves determining the best interest and future well-being of the child. This determination includes establishing the financial needs of the child, how these needs will be met, and the financial obligations of the parents to meet those needs.
Procedures to determine, enforce, and modify child support payments become less intimidating, less complex, and less costly when individuals have a greater understanding of the process and what they can expect.
CHILD SUPPORT IS FOR THE CHILD
The dissolving of a relationship should have no impact on the economic welfare of the child. Regardless of whether the family income is high or low, whether the individual incomes of the spouses are similar or vary greatly, the child's lifestyle should not be unduly affected.
Determining Payment Amounts
Under the current Child Support Guidelines, the amount of financial support that you receive or will be expected to pay is based on several factors.
Financial Requirement of the Child Support Guidelines:
The Courts tend to follow pre-established guidelines for those situations in which the parents' combined net income is up to $187,500. It is important to understand that the Court is not necessarily limited to these figures.
Where the family income exceeds $187,500, the Court determines the financial support required to maintain the child's lifestyle. The decision is based upon several criteria, including the age of the child, special health, educational and emotional needs and the lifestyle the child has historically enjoyed.
Child support is considered to cover food, clothing and shelter. Other costs, such as college expenses, health insurance and day care all need to be considered separately.
Relative Net Incomes of the Parents
The amount of each parent’s responsibility toward the pre-determined figure is based on his or her relative contribution to the combined net income. This is the basic Child Support Award. For example, if it is determined that the traditional non-custodial parent earns 60% of the combined net income, he or she will be expected to pay 60% of the child's expenses.
Shared Parenting and Visitation Adjustments
The Child Support Guidelines also adjusts child support awards to reflect the child related cost for parents who share custody of their children. In other words, child support can be adjusted downward in favor of the non-custodial parent if that parent maintains an alternative residence for the child and has custody of the child for at least two or more overnights per week.
The payment of child support is a serious issue. Where a payor fails to pay his or her fair share, it may be required that payments be made through a county probation department. ln addition, wages can be attached. Chronic nonpayment can even result in incarceration.
Making the Process Easier:
The Child Support Guidelines consider issues of health insurance, various types of shared expenses, definitions of "regular and shared parenting arrangements" and must be addressed carefully. However, they become less cumbersome if one understands the process and follows a few simple steps:
- Pick an attorney carefully. Your lawyer should:
- Organize and complete all relevant financial documents
- Carefully analyze guidelines for your particular case
- Try to negotiate an agreement before applying to court
- Be fully familiar with the Child Support Guidelines and how they apply
Help control the cost of the process. Come prepared. Meet with your attorney armed with information including your prior years tax return, W2 statement, current pay stubs, estimate of personal and family expenses, and where possible, the other parent's income information. If you are seeking a modification, also besure to bring any prior court orders. Understand that child support is often based on specific Supreme Court guidelines and criteria. Above all else, ultimately child support is about the welfare of the child. When this is recognized by both parties, all relevant issues can be resolved with far less emotional and financial trauma.