We offer comprehensive support on child support determinations and enforcement.
Q: If we have joint legal custody, do we have to agree on every decision?
A: No. With joint legal custody both parents have the right to make decisions and either parent can make a decision alone. But to avoid having problems and ending up back in court, both parents should communicate with each other and cooperate in making decisions together.
Q: If we have joint physical custody, do our children have to spend exactly half the time with each of the parents?
A: No. If there is joint physical custody, usually the children spend a little more time with 1 parent than the other because it is too hard to split the time exactly in half. When 1 parent has the child more than half of the time, then that parent is sometimes called the "primary custodial parent."
Q: I do not want my child to change houses every day. But I want to see my child as much as possible. What is the best schedule?
A: We do not know how long young children can go without seeing either parent, how many transitions children can handle, or how long children should stay in each household. We do know that children can get attached to caregivers when they have good relationships that are consistent over time.
In many instances, it may make sense for infants and toddlers to be able to see each parent regularly, especially if a child is safe with either parent. Younger children's concept of time is different from that of older children, and they often need more consistency. It is generally a good idea to have a regular schedule and stick to it. Most children benefit from having a routine they can count on.
When you make a schedule, think about the quality of the relationships. Not just the relationship between the children and each parent, but also between the parents and between the children and any other caregivers.
Q: What if the child is not feeling well when it is time to change homes?
A: It is hard when a child is not feeling well. If it is time for the child to go from 1 home to another, should the change be put off? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to this question. Clearly, the age of the child and the seriousness of the illness need to be taken into account. Also, the distance between the 2 homes will be a major factor in decision making. Some parents use the standard that if the child is well enough to go to school, he or she is well enough to move from 1 home to another. However, deciding whether the child should go to school or not is often difficult, so that standard is not too helpful.
Here are some considerations:
Both parents have not just the right, but an obligation to care for a child while the child is ill. It is unreasonable to expect the primary custodial parent to take over all care of a sick child, just as it is unreasonable to deny parenting time due to minor illnesses. The child's feelings count. It is typical for a sick child to be cranky and unhappy; moving him or her to the other home may only intensify these feelings. On the other hand, children are prone to "cabin fever" just like adults. A change of environment may very well make a child feel better and help take his or her mind off their illness. When parents share care of an ill child, clear communication is crucial. If the child is on any kind of medication, knowing when the child took his or her last dose or when the next dose should be given is important information that parents should convey when exchanging the child. Both parents may want to keep a simple log of what medication the child is taking and what the medication schedule is.
If parenting time is missed due to sickness, the noncustodial parent probably may want to make the time up. Reasonable "illness contingencies" may be written into every parenting plan to provide guidance for these situations. When adding these contingencies to your parenting plan, you need to take into account that each parent's situation (travel, work schedules, etc.) is different.
Q: Is child support related to custody and visitation?
A: A child support order is separate from a child custody and visitation order. So you cannot refuse to let the other parent see the children just because he or she is not paying the child support he or she owes. And you cannot refuse to pay child support just because the other parent is not letting you see your children.
But child support and custody are related because the amount of time each parent spends with the children will affect the amount of child support. Click for more information about child support.
The field of child support and custody is complicated. Call or email
today to speak to an attorney who can carefully review and discuss your case.