One of the most divisive and emotional issues in a divorce is how to handle the children. Caring for children and ensuring they feel loved and safe during this potentially traumatic ordeal is the primary goal of the court. Therefore, understanding the three common elements that comprise a child custody agreement may help you and your spouse decide how to proceed. If you can reach a compromise on these issues, the process may go smoother for you and your children.
- Child Support
Dividing financial assets and debts after years of marriage can prove difficult, as can calculating child support. The court wants to see that the children are cared for in the usual and customary manner they have thus far. This means that the parties must do what they can to provide the same type of lifestyle across both households. This may mean that the parent who earns more money pays a higher share of it to the parent who has the majority of time with the children. Even if the parties divide physical custody evenly if one parent is a high-income earner and the other is not, there still may be child support required. Understanding how the state decides the amount of support may help you prepare for it.
- Legal Custody
You may believe custody is a one-size-fits-all type of thing, inclusive of who has the children. However, this is not the case. Physical custody deals with parenting time and visitation. Legal custody is who is legally responsible for the children. In most cases, judges like to grant joint legal custody to the parents. Doing this gives the parents an equal right to a child’s medical and school records. The parents must also give notice and permission if they are taking the children out of state or otherwise designated boundary established in the custody agreement. If one parent has a majority of the time with the children and wants to relocate outside of the stated limit, they must get written permission from the other to allow the move. However, if the parent wishing to move has full legal custody, they do not need permission to leave.
Spending time with each parent is in the children’s best interest. Child visitation, most commonly called parenting time in most states, is the master schedule for which parent has the children on any given day. It sets out a school schedule, holiday deviations and summertime plan. It may also address the place where custody will switch between the parents.
The court will decide these issues if the parents cannot reach a compromise. A divorce lawyer, like a family law attorney in Lake Forest, IL, can help you navigate the process effectively.
Thank you to Hurst, Robin & Kay, LLC. for their insight into family law and divorce.