Custody and child support

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Manage custody and child support FAQs

Deciding custody and child support is often handled by the courts. Agreeable parents can more often obtain flexible custody and visitation plans whereas parents who disagree may have to comply with the court's decisions.

What are the types of child custody?

There are a few types of legal child custody situations. While you and the other parent may be creative with your visiting and care arrangements, legally there are only a few custody definitions.

Legal custody: Ability to make choices for the child

Joint: Both parents share custody and the ability to make life decisions

Sole: One parent has custody and makes all life decisions for child(ren)

Physical custody: Where the child lives most of the time

Joint: Shared parenting with dual residences

Sole: Child lives with one parent

Bird's Nest Custody: Children live in one home, parents take turns in the home

Child Visitation refers to how a parent who doesn't have physical custody can interact with the children. Unsupervised visitation means they can see the child often without supervision. Supervised visitation requires the other parent or an agreed-upon third party present during visits. Virtual visitations are visits by video or telephone.

How do you change child custody?

Custody changes or modifications are simple if both parents are in agreement. If parents are not in agreement, such as one parent thinks the other is unfit, it is much more challenging. For the most part, most states want both parents to help raise the children, even if things don't go quite right. In most cases, supervised visitation would be enforced before a court-ordered custody modification.

However, modification to custody agreements may be considered by the courts in a few situations, such as:

  • Domestic violence or child abuse
  • Parent relocates necessitating the need to modify the original agreement
  • A parent routinely doesn't follow the visitation schedule
  • A custodial parent dies
  • Custodial parent's living situation is unsafe and/or unsanitary
  • The child is failing in school

Courts are not usually quick to change custody and will consider the best interest of the child before parental interests. You may need to hire a lawyer or seek social services for support.

How is child support determined? Can child support be changed?

The courts will determine the child support to be paid in most cases. State laws vary as well. While state laws vary, most courts will take into consideration the same things. If you are looking to estimate how much you need to budget for child support, you can find child support calculators online.

Factors that influence child support amount:

  • Needs of the child including special needs, health insurance, education, child care
  • Income of both parents (some states use gross income, others net)
  • Parent's ability to earn
  • Whether parents are paying child support for other children
  • Custody and visitation expenses

Can I change the child support amount?

It is possible to change the child support due; however, it must be approved by the courts to be enforceable. You'll need to show a change of circumstances to justify the change in support.

Reasons the court may modify your child support amount

  • Major illness or disability of parent or child
  • Significant, long-term change in income (more or less)
  • Cost of living increase
  • Change in needs of the child (education or health)