Children deserve all the best from both parents. That is why child custody, child support, and/or child visitation is critical. These matters are also highly contentious. Having our law firm by your side can help direct misguided energy to work towards an amicable end that works for both parties and benefits the child. Contact us at 205-225-9225 or online to schedule a consultation.
When two parents are no longer together, one of the most important matters to be decided is who will have custody of their child. In most states, there are two different types of custody that the court must consider: legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody is not related to whom the child lives with. Instead, the parent with legal custody has the legal right to make important life decisions for the child. For example, a parent with legal custody will decide where the child attends school and the type of healthcare they will receive. It is possible in some states for the parents to share legal custody.
Physical custody concerns where the child resides. It may be awarded solely to one parent, or it may be shared jointly between parents. Parents with joint custody will have a plan set in place that determines who has the child when.
When determining who to award child custody to, a court will consider what is in the best interest of the child. Some of the factors the court will look at are:
Who can provide a safe environment for the child
Any evidence of abuse
The child's relationship with each parent
If a matter affects the child, the court will likely consider it when awarding custody.
Child support is a way to ensure that both parents, although no longer in a relationship with one another, are financially responsible for their children while taking into consideration their ability to provide support. In most states and in most cases, child support lasts until children turn 18 years of age. There are exceptions made in cases where the child is still attending high school or is considered to be disabled.
Factors Considered when Determining Child Support
While each jurisdiction varies, there are certain factors most courts take into consideration when determining whether or not child support should be ordered, and if so, in what amount.
Some of the most common include:
The gross income earned by each parent
The number of children each parent is responsible for supporting
How much time the children under the order spend with each parent
Child care expenses
The cost of health insurance for the child
Whether or not the child suffers from any sort of disability that requires extra expenses
Whether or not either parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed
The court will also consider any factors that it considers relevant and impact the parties' ability to pay child support. When child support is established, a payment schedule is also established. When the parent ordered to pay support fails to do so, there are options available to the parent (or custodian) receiving the support. They are able to file a motion in the court to have the support order enforced.
In most jurisdictions, the parent under the order to pay will be able to explain to the court why they have not made their payments. The court will consider the matter and enter an order, which may include jail time for failure to pay.
Parental visitation refers to the legal right of a non-custodial parent to spend time with their child or children after a divorce, separation, or break-up. In the United States, visitation is typically part of a custody agreement or court order, which outlines the specific details of when and how often the non-custodial parent can spend time with their child.
Visitation rights can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case, including the age of the child, the relationship between the parents, and any special needs or considerations. In some cases, visitation may be limited or supervised, particularly if there are concerns about the safety or well-being of the child.
It is important to note that visitation rights are separate from the legal right to make decisions about the child's upbringing, known as legal custody. In some cases, a non-custodial parent may have visitation rights but not legal custody, meaning that they are not able to make decisions about the child's education, health care, or other important matters.
Visitation schedules can also be flexible, and can be adjusted as needed to accommodate changes in the parents' schedules or the child's needs. For example, a visitation schedule may include alternating weekends with the non-custodial parent, as well as holidays and school breaks.
Parents are encouraged to work together to develop a visitation schedule that is in the best interests of the child, as this can help minimize conflict and provide a stable and supportive environment for the child. However, if the parents are unable to reach an agreement, the court may step in to make a determination about visitation based on the child's best interests.
Enforcement and Consequences of Non-compliance
If a parent fails to comply with a visitation agreement or court order, they may be subject to legal penalties, including fines or even jail time. However, it is important to note that visitation is not contingent on payment of child support, and a custodial parent cannot deny visitation rights to a non-custodial parent because of unpaid child support.
Contact Our Child Custody Lawyers
Custody, support, and visitation are important aspects of post-divorce or post-breakup parenting, as it allows both parents to maintain a relationship with their child and remain involved in their upbringing. By working together and following the terms of an agreement or court order, parents can provide a stable and supportive environment for their child and help minimize the negative effects of divorce or separation. Contact us at 205-225-9225 to schedule a consultation.