If you have children, before you can finalize a divorce you must address parenting plans and child support. You can work with your spouse to come to an agreement, which the court ultimately must to approve. If you are unable to come to the agreement, a judge will make those decisions for you.
If you have children, you should have a parenting plan. The parenting plan will address when the child resides at each home. You can certainly come up with a creative plan that works for your family, however the plan must be in the best interest of your child. The best interest of the child includes a schedule that is easy to follow, that is the least disruptive to the child and allows the child meaningful time with both parents.
Ideally a parenting plan allows the child to spend time with their parents so that they can maintain and strengthen their bond. Some plans are equal and the parents exchange the child on a week by week basis. Some plans call for more exchanges i.e. one parent have the child ever Monday and Tuesday, the other parent has the child every Wednesday and Thursday and they alternate Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The bottom line is the plan must be a schedule that the child is comfortable with. If a schedule is too cumbersome the child will become frustrated and will not want to comply with the schedule. Remember, you must love your child more than you dislike the other parent.
If you are successful in working out a parenting plan and it must be changed due to a parent’s work schedule, the child’s extracurricular activities or relocation to another city, you should make any changes to the schedule in writing. This is called a Stipulation. If you agree, then you should write it down, and have a judge sign it and make it a court order. If you cannot make a new agreement, then you should file a motion at the earliest possible time so that a judge can modify your parenting plan.
Once a divorce/separation is initiated, a parent can file for temporary child support but does not have to do so. You can agree on child support, or ask the court to determine it. The court will use a computer program to input income, timeshare and many other factors and the program will tell the judge what the child support should be. There is little, very little discretion by the court when determining what factors to use when calculating child support. You should be honest about your income and once a support amount is determined it is important to make your payments timely. If you fail to make timely payments you may be charged interest on the unpaid balance. Further if the County is collecting support for the custodial parent they may intercept your tax refund or levy your bank accounts on the unpaid arrears balance.
It is important to know that even if you have an equal time share with the other parent i.e. 50-50 time share, that does not mean that no child support is owed. Child support may still be owed to the other parent.
Child support will typically continue until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school. In instances where the child is under a disability, child support may continue past the age of 18 until the child is no longer under a disability.
We would be happy to discuss your circumstances and help you work through a parenting plan that fits your family.
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