How does child support work with joint custody?

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“Child support payments can become difficult for divorced parents with shared custody. Before parents can secure a fair (and logical) custody agreement, they must navigate a complex world of legal jargon and negotiations. The world of custody, shared custody and child support is confusing. To cut through the static, we spoke to a variety of experts – lawyers, child support professionals, and more – who told us what fathers in particular need to know. Molly Olson, co-founder of Women leaders for shared parenting and founder of the Center for Parental Responsibility, in particular, laid the groundwork for how shared custody child support works – and how you can make sure that after a divorce, your child receives everything. what he needs to be successful and healthy.

What is child support?

First, a few basics. Child support is the term for payments that a divorced non-custodial parent is required to make to support his or her child or children. For a more precise definition, here is how the lawyer and author of the new 20 great tips for a successful divorce Tanya Helfand defines child support. Child support, she says, is “usually a monetary payment from one parent to the child’s primary custodian, usually the other parent, to meet the financial needs of the child, including, but not limited to. ‘limit, housing, food, clothing, transportation, entertainment and health care.

The parent called upon to pay this support is legally known as the “debtor”, while the guardian who receives this payment is considered to be the “debtor”. It should also be noted that while the amount owed and the terms of child support are governed by state law and vary accordingly, the court order will generally not result in physical custody of the debtor.

How is child support determined?

While one can certainly “file” child support, in the traditional sense, it is usually an organic process and necessary for divorce proceedings. Child support is ordered by a court, the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) or deliberators. “During a divorce proceeding,” says Luke Haller of Danielson Law Firm, “Child support is usually set by the court at that time and included in the divorce decree.”

It also varies by state. For example, in Arkansas, where the law firm Danielson is based, the state requires parents to “legally establish paternity of the child” before proceeding with the process of establishing child support. The theory being that a father should not pay child support for a child who has not been legally determined to be his, ”says Haller. Usually, Haller adds, a paternity action will order child support to be paid to the custodial parent, much like a divorce judgment.

However, a couple’s financial information – whether divorced or just separated – can be submitted to the court to formally request a child support calculation.

How is child support calculated?

The process for calculating child support also varies from state to state, but it’s usually based on a few common factors. “In family law cases, you can get the impression that the game is against fathers,” says Galit Moskowitz of the Moskowitz legal group. “The amount of child support is determined by the number of children for whom a person is responsible, the needs of the child, the net income of the non-custodial parent, the cost of living for the custodial parent and the level life that the child would have had if the parents had not divorced.

These agreed calculations have their limitations, however. “There is a calculation program available to lawyers and the court to calculate child support according to the guidelines,” Helfand explains. For example, the guidelines peak in New Jersey at a combined net income of $ 187,200. “When parents have gone beyond guidelines,” she says, “we look at the child’s specific needs and budget. “

Okay, how do you gain joint custody?

Parents want to focus on the three big negotiating points: legal custody, physical custody and parenting time. These three elements should be considered separately when entering into custody arrangements after divorce. Why is it so important to focus on how and when you have rights over your child? Because currently there is only one state (Kentucky) in the country that has laws supporting a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting as a basic starting point for custody.

All the others? Well, you have to negotiate for that 50 percent. Most states have a presumption of joint legal custody, but some do not. “Every father would want and should obtain joint legal custody as this guarantees the fundamental right to be involved in health care and religious decisions with your child,” says Molly Olson, co-founder of Women leaders for shared parenting and founder of the Center for Parental Responsibility. “If you don’t get joint legal custody and you’re at the park and your child falls off the swing and breaks their arm, you won’t be able to get them to the emergency room. You will not be able to obtain a report card and you will not be able to attend a parent-teacher conference.

After securing legal custody agreements, turn your attention to physical custody. Different states have different terms for this parental right: it is called “placement” in Wisconsin and “order of possession” in Texas. Because a non-custodian is considered a non-parent under the law, and non-parents lose their right to negotiate child support and visitation. “Position yourself in the best possible way to protect your time with your children and their future,” says Olson.

What dads need to know about shared custody child support

  • Focus on (at least) 50-50 guard
    “The tradition of the past 40 years that mothers have children 26 days a month and fathers see their children every other weekend is a completely outdated model that is not supported by research,” said Olson. “It was implemented in the 1960s on the premise that women did not work outside the home and were full-time housewives. But women work as much as men, and research clearly shows that equal shared parenting is best for children.
    His bottom line: Dads need to know they’re needed at least 50 percent of the time.
    Besides being best for kids, it’s also more beneficial for moms (so they don’t have an excessive burden on them), and it’s more beneficial for moms. dads (because the more time you spend with your child, the less you pay).
  • Be skeptical of the state’s child support guidelines
    “Each state has its own way of calculating child support,” says Olson. “The Department of Social Services is creating guidelines based on percentage of income – not covering monthly costs for children – and the rates the state says should be paid or paid by fathers are well in excess of the amount required for cover the USDA’s expected cost to lift a child. “
    Because let’s be honest, every family’s spending and income needs are different – so a number slapped at you by the state probably won’t be the best choice. This is why many divorced families turn to a “children’s checkbook”. A children’s checkbook allows you and your co-parent to agree on the child’s budget. Then each parent puts money in the checkbook every month, so when there is a cost related to the child in any way, the money is simply taken from the checkbook.
    It’s important – and healthiest – to work to keep lawyers, keep the state out, and meet your child’s needs in a unique way, ”said Olson.
  • Negotiate a joint custody agreement, don’t dispute a contract
    Speaking of keeping the lawyers out of this… “Parents can negotiate among themselves the best way to pay together for the child’s needs without adhering to the state’s suggested child support calculations and without spending $ 30,000. $ or more in divorce lawyers regarding child support agreements, ”says Olson. She recommends bringing in a non-lawyer mediator and drafting a pro-se motion to file a joint agreement that will act as a binding agreement while you are raising your child, as you still need the law to protect you. and your children, financial distress in case circumstances change after reaching an amicable agreement
    “A pro-se motion can be filed as a joint agreement and signed by a judge to make it binding without involving any lawyer,” Olson said. “I suggest you work with a mediator and remember that a better solution for the children is also a better solution for you.
  • Find a fair price for child support in shared custody
    According to Olson, child support “was introduced by the federal government in the 1960s because there was an explosion of single mothers going to state-supervised federal programs for welfare because that there was no father present, ”she explains. “But the federal government realized it could afford so much public aid to support all these single mothers, so it was up to the fathers to pay off the welfare debts.”
    For example, the federal government issued an IV-D program title in the Social Security Act, requiring single fathers to repay government assistance for single mothers to the government. “Since then the child support system has gotten out of hand and it’s now about hidden child support and lifestyle support,” Olson said. “It was supposed to be based on the cost of raising a child – what the USDA says the current cost of raising a child is $ 233,000 for 18 years old. That’s about $ 12,900 per year. , which works out to $ 1,000 per month, divided by two parents, or $ 500 per month.

According to Olson, child support should never exceed $ 500 per month per parent. And even further, “if there is equal parenting time, then there should be no child support at all. Child support is not meant to equalize income or lifestyle – it is meant to ensure that the child or children have transportation, health care, education, child care, food, water, shelter and clothing. In other words, no parent should benefit from divorce.


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