Tips, Tricks and Talking Points for Setting Up Joint Custody

Joint custody agreement

When it comes to custody situations, there are two main types of custody orders: sole custody and joint custody. Decades ago, sole custody was much more common than joint custody, with most children living with one parent and the other parent being awarded a standard schedule of one afternoon visit a week and every other weekend. However, in recent years, the courts have recognized how important it is for children to have ongoing, close relationships with both parents and have started to move toward more joint custody arrangements. In some states, such as Maine and North Dakota, joint custody is even considered the default standard, and sole custody is only awarded if there are exceptional circumstances that make joint custody not in the best interests of the children.

3 Reasons You May Want to Consider Joint Custody

Whether you are just considering filing for custody and wondering if you should consider a joint custody situation or are wanting to switch from sole custody to joint, there are many reasons why joint custody can be beneficial for both the parents and the children.

1. It Keeps Both Parents Involved

For those that are able to co-parent well, joint custody arrangements can be very helpful. It ensures that both parents can stay active in the children’s lives, which has been shown to be beneficial for the children especially. With a joint custody arrangement, it’s more likely that both parents will be seeing the child on a more frequent basis, and both parents will also have the opportunity to transport the child to extracurricular activities, host sleepovers and playdates and get to be involved in more of the day-to-day aspects of parenting.

2. It Lets You Share the Decision-Making Burden

Having joint legal custody also keeps both parents equally involved in the decision-making process for important issues such as medical care, education and religious upbringing. When all of the burden of making these types of decisions falls on one parent, such as when there is a sole legal custody arrangement, it can be stressful. Many parents find that having joint decision-making ability lets them work together to consider ideas, bounce different options off of each other and come to a decision that both are comfortable with.

3. It Can Give You a Built-In Support System

Joint custody schedules can also ease some of the burden of being a single parent. Being the only parent in the household means there is a lot of responsibility, with most single parents juggling working, taking care of the children and managing the household. If you have a joint custody schedule and a good co-parenting relationship, the other parent can step in and provide some relief if you get called in for an extra shift, need some time to deep clean without children underfoot or just need a night to relax after a stressful day.

Some joint custody schedules include a specific clause for this called the first right of refusal. This basically means that anytime one parent isn’t going to be with the children and would be having them stay with friends or family or hiring a babysitter, the other parent gets the first opportunity to take that time. Only if the other parent refuses, does the first parent then have someone else watch the kids.

Filing for Joint Custody

Filing for joint custody is something you can do yourself, or you can have a lawyer fill out the paperwork. Which way is best depends a great deal on your unique set of circumstances. For example, if you are doing an initial filing for joint custody and your divorce has been amicable and both you and the other parent are in agreement on the custody arrangement, filing with the courts yourself can save you money over getting an attorney.

However, in situations where you are asking for joint custody when a sole custody order is already in place or if the custody situation is already contentious, it may be best to have an attorney handle things so that you can be sure the paperwork is filled out appropriately and all of your specific needs have been addressed in the filing.

Exactly how to file for joint custody varies by state, and the process may also be different if you are trying to change an existing custody order instead of doing an original filing. Below, we’ve listed the general steps as well as special considerations to be aware of depending on your situation.

1. Find Out What Paperwork You Need

Every state has a specific form that must be filed for joint custody. If you already have a custody order in place, this may be called something like a Motion for Reallocation of Parenting Responsibilities. If it’s the first custody filing for the case, it may just be the Shared Parenting Agreement that you file along with your divorce paperwork. Make sure you have the correct paperwork for your situation.

2. Gather Your Documentation

If you are requesting a modification to an existing custody order, you will need to show the court cause as to why the change is needed. Keep in mind that courts always go by what they believe is in the best interests of the children, which means your documentation needs to reflect that. It can be difficult to change from sole custody to joint custody, as some states have laws that only allow for this change if certain circumstances, such as a job loss, addiction issue or abuse, are happening. A change in custody also often affects child support, so you may need to provide recent income documentation so the courts can decide if the child support order also needs to be adjusted.

3. File With the Courts

Once you have all of the correct paperwork and corresponding documentation, you’re ready to file. If you are filing yourself, you may have to pay a small filing fee when you file the papers with the clerk of courts. You may also need to pay for the other parent to be served the papers. If you are using an attorney, these fees are usually included in the retainer amount, and you will receive an itemized statement that shows what the cost was.

4. Attend the Hearing

While it may take a while to get it completed and ready to send in, filing the custody paperwork with the courts is really only the first step. Once the filing has been accepted, you will be given a hearing date. Both parents will need to attend the hearing, and the best-case scenario is that the final decision will be made that day and you will leave the courthouse with temporary paperwork that explains the updated custody arrangement while you wait for your official copy to arrive from the court.

However, custody decisions are notorious for being drawn out, especially in cases where the parents are not in agreement. If you want joint custody and the other parent doesn’t, your case may be sent on for further hearings where both sides will be able to present documentation and even have witnesses and experts provide testimony as to why the proposed joint custody arrangement is or isn’t in the best interests of the children. Even after the judge has made a decision, there is still the possibility of an appeal.

5. Keep Your Paperwork

Once the custody agreement has been finalized, make sure to keep your official copy from the courts where you can access it easily. You may need it as a reference for how to handle things like summer vacations, birthdays and other holidays as well as other special circumstances like the children participating in extracurricular activities on the other parent’s time.

Making Joint Custody Arrangements Work

When it comes to any situation that involves parents who are no longer in a relationship and their children, the focus is always on the best interests of the children. This is what the courts look at in making custody determinations, and it’s what both parties should keep in mind as they co-parent.

Frequent, open communication and a focus on the children is the best way to facilitate joint custody, and 2Houses can help. 2Houses makes it easy to keep dates and custody schedules straight with its joint calendar feature, and you can easily upload practice dates, birthday parties and parent-teacher conferences so both parents have access to the children’s schedules at all times. Keeping track of splitting payments for program fees, school supplies and medical care is easy with the financial tracker that shows who is responsible for which portion of what bill. And there’s a built-in messaging feature so you can keep all communication and information in one place and not have to worry about keeping records of texts or emails.

No matter what kind of custody schedule you end up with, keeping the lines of communication open and making the children the number one priority can help you better navigate co-parenting.

Couple Break up and Real Estate: What Does the Law Say?

Couple break up

Going through a breakup or divorce comes with a lot of stress emotionally, physically, and financially. It often leaves the couple with a lot of questions, especially if they lived together beforehand. One of the most pressing questions is: What happens to your real estate during a couple break up?

Whether you’re married or not, it’s important to know the standing of your real estate when going through a breakup. Here’s everything you need to know.

Who Gets the House When an Unmarried Couple Splits Up?

Many unmarried couples decide to buy property together.

When doing this, it’s likely the piece of property is jointly purchased. That means there are two names on the loan or mortgage, signifying that both parties hold ownership over the home. If this is the case, it’s likely there could be some arguments over who actually gets the property.

The first thing you have to consider is how you signed the loan. There are typically two ways you can do this.


Some couples will buy a home as tenants-in-common. This method gives each tenant a certain agreed-upon percentage of the home. For example, one half of the couple may own 40% of the home, whereas the other one owns 60%.

In this case, the home might go to the person who owns the majority of the property. The minority party will have to pay off their half of the loan. We’ll go into this more in a bit.

Joint Tenants

Property can also be purchased as joint tenants. This means the property is owned equally — 50/50 — between the two parties. This can make things a little bit messier when it comes to a couple break up.

How Do Unmarried Couples Split Property?

There’s no easy or straight-forward method of splitting real estate after a couple break up. Unless you turn to mediation, you’re going to have to decide who gets the home as a couple. Finances play a key role in determining this.

One party might decide to refinance the loan or mortgage in their name exclusively. In this case, the party taking the home has to have good credit. Doing this absolves the other party of the home entirely.

Another choice is to sell the home jointly to pay off the mortgage or loan. Of course, the home may be worth less than the loan, making this a bad move in some cases.

The riskiest move — especially for your credit score — is to let the bank repossess the property. This gets both parties off the hook, but again, it does major damage to each party’s credit. This should be avoided if possible.

Finally, one party can stay on the loan or mortgage, live in the home, and continue paying it off. They can take the other party’s loan, or have them continue to pay it (although this is unlikely). Either way, both parties will have to remain on the loan on paper, and some parties may not feel comfortable with this if they’re not living in the home.

So, there are a few options for unmarried couples with property, but none of them are easy. What’s more, they each require you as a couple to decide who gets to take on the property. If this can’t be decided, you’re going to have to get a mediator involved.

A mediator will help you decide how the property should be split based on your finances, standing, etc. This is often the best option for couples breaking up, especially if the break up isn’t amicable.

Who Gets the House When a Married Couple Splits Up?

If you’re going through a divorce, it can be even more difficult to determine who gets to keep the property.

The most straight-forward method is for the couple to decide who gets to keep what. If you can do this, you can avoid going to court over the property. However, this may not be viable, especially in a messy divorce.

In this case, the decision is made by the court according to the equitable distribution method. This is a method of splitting maritally owned property, from items to real estate, equally between the two parties. Most states follow this method, except:

  • California
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Arizona
  • Washington
  • Nevada
  • Wisconsin

When going through the equitable distribution method, you’ll both need to appear before the court. Each party will need to present a number of items to find who is most suitable to take on the home.

How Does the Court Decide Who Gets the Property?

The court will have to review a few factors when making its decision. These include:

  • The financial capability and condition of each party
  • How much each party paid toward owning the property
  • Each party’s individual property values (businesses, stocks, etc.)
  • The amount of money each party makes
  • How much money they’ll need in the future to maintain their lifestyle
  • Alimony and child support obligations
  • Who has custody over any kids you may have
  • The employability of each party
  • Prenuptial agreements
  • The general health and age of each party

The court will review all of the above to determine who is best fit to take on the home. They want to give the home to someone who can pay for it and maintain it. The court will want as much information as they can possibly get to help them make their decision.

Another important factor in who gets to take the home is the purchase date. If the home was bought by one party before marriage, there may only be one name on the mortgage. In this case, the home is considered separate property and goes to whoever originally purchased it.

Gifts are also considered the property of the gift recipient. If you were given the house as a gift, it may be yours to live in.

The court won’t always give the home to one party outright, though. Sometimes, they’ll find the home to be marital property, and award both spouses a share in it. What happens then?

What If the Judge Awards Both Parties the Home?

If the judge awards both spouses a share of the home, you have a few options to consider. Since you probably won’t be living together, you’re going to need to do something to pay off the home. These options are similar to what might happen when an unmarried couple splits up their home.

One party may buy out the other’s shares in the home, moving all ownership to them. This can be expensive, but it’s probably the most straightforward way to deal with the issue.

In some cases, the court will let one spouse live in the house for a set period of time even when it’s technically owned by both. The couple is given a date by which the house must be sold. By that date, the spouse living in the home must vacate and have the home sold.

The couple may be told to sell their home as fast as possible. Once the home is sold, the money made from the sale is distributed between each party. The court will decide how this is split up.

Finally, the court may offset the home’s value by giving the other partner more marital assets. For example, one party may be given the home, while the other is given a larger portion of other co-owned property. This may include anything from vehicles to furniture and more.

What About a Deferred Distribution?

With a deferred distribution, the judge sets a future date by which the home must be sold. The judge might do this if you have kids under 18, or if the housing market is in bad shape. The “sell-by” date may fall in line with when your kid(s) turn 18, or when the housing market picks up.

In this case, both parties will continue to pay taxes, mortgage payments, insurance, and maintenance fees on the home. They must keep the home in good shape until the sell-by date. One party is allowed to live there as determined by the court.

Dividing Property During a Couple Break Up Is Never Easy

No part of a divorce or couple break up is easy, especially splitting up real estate.

It’s important to stay strong through the process and remember that this is just temporary. There are plenty of ways to split up your real estate with civility and fairness, whether it’s through the court, a mediator, or through your own means.

Consider the factors above and know that the court will determine the fairest way to go forward. It may not feel like it all the time, but it’s important to remember that these decisions are hard for all parties involved, including the court. Be prepared, get your documents in order, and act with civility, and you’ll get through this in one piece.

If you have kids and have recently gone through a split up, see what 2Houses can do for you. It’s a system designed for easy communication between separated couples, including shared calendars, financial graphs, and a messaging system.

What Are the NC Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents?

NC custody law

One of the most challenging parts of a breakup or divorce remains settling on child custody. Unmarried couples save themselves much of the hassle associated with a divorce. Yet, they may still end up in family court if they can’t come to a custody agreement.

As it turns out, many of the legal difficulties experienced by unmarried couples prove similar to those of divorcing parents. What’s more, as circumstances change down the road, issues such as the introduction of new significant others into children’s lives can cause conflict. That’s why even amicably splitting couples should seek the help of a family attorney to craft a custody agreement. That way, they can create an arrangement that stipulates expectations and rights based on a thorough understanding of NC custody laws. 

Fortunately, NC child custody laws for unmarried parents are clear when it comes to child custody cases. Let’s take a closer look at the laws governing parental rights in NC. 

Mother’s Rights in NC

One of the fundamentally essential considerations in NC custody law? The relationship of the parent to the child involved. In other words, unmarried mothers and fathers have different rights under the law. 

While there are always exceptions to the rule, here’s how the law works. Under NC child custody law, an unmarried mother gets primary or natural right to custody following the birth of a child. This arrangement only applies when no father is named on the birth certificate or steps forward to make a custody claim.

In essence, the mother has the legal right to exercise control, care, and custody of the child. The mother’s claim and, therefore, rights remain more significant than those of the father or anyone else.

However, additional proceedings may result in alterations of these child custody rights in NC. During these proceedings, the biological father or another close family member must prove that the mother is unfit to raise her children. Or they must show she’s abandoned them.

Father’s Rights in NC

When it comes to father’s rights NC, they start with the name appearing on the birth certificate. Why? Because the parents are unmarried. 

In situations where a couple was married, however, the courts will assume that any children produced during the marriage are a result of the union. 

As a result, an unmarried father whose name doesn’t appear on the birth certificate has no grounds for custody. Especially if the mother is a good parent. For fathers who can establish a relationship, however, they may be able to secure custody or visitation through a court order.

Before all else, you must establish paternity. Once completed, the father can petition the court to have his name added to the child’s birth certificate. After that, the father will receive notifications of proceedings related to custody. 

Because of the placement of their name on the birth certificate, the father gets automatic recognition as the legal father. The father also receives an equal amount of standing in court as the mother. 

Of course, like the mother, the father’s rights to custody get determined by the family court judge’s decision about their parental suitability. 

Types of Custody

Three types of custody typically get awarded during NC child custody proceedings. These arrangements include:

  • Sole custody
  • Joint custody
  • Third-party custody

Let’s take a closer look at each type of custody, starting with sole custody.

Sole Custody

Sole custody can refer to either physical or legal custody. Sole legal custody grants one parent the responsibility and right to make decisions about a child’s health, education, and welfare. 

As for physical custody, it refers to the right of one parent to have a child reside with them. The custodial parent is tasked with all primary care of the minor. Usually the non-custodial parent provides child support. 

Joint Custody

Joint custody refers to the sharing of significant parental responsibilities between both parents. This arrangement may lead to a 50/50 custody agreement. Don’t assume that it will, though.

Joint custody does imply, however, shared responsibility when it comes to choices related to a child’s health, welfare, and education. 

Third-Party Custody

Third-party custody refers to situations where someone other than a parent seeks custody of a minor. This third-party individual generally would not have legal standing. However, NC may consider extended family relationships such as godparents, family, neighbors, and siblings. 

In determining whether or not a third-party placement makes the best sense for a child, the court will look at the length of time the party has known the child. They’ll also consider whether or not the parent consents to the third-party having custody.

When it comes to a third-party placement, the courts will also decide whether or not each parent has carried out their parental responsibilities. 

Extenuating Circumstances

Parents should recognize there’s a distinction between legal and physical custody. Co-parents may share legal custody without sharing physical custody. 

In other words, even though one co-parent may have primary physical custody (and the child residing with them), both parents will still be asked to make decisions regarding healthcare, education, etc. 

As a result, custody decisions may not be as cut and dry as you anticipate. That’s why it’s critical to seek legal representation so that you fully understand your rights.

Joint Custody and a Child’s Best Interests

Judges make joint custody rulings based on the best interests of a child. Certain extenuating circumstances may affect a custody outcome, however. These include:

  • Domestic violence
  • A special-needs child
  • Long distances between parents’ addresses
  • Other relevant and exceptional circumstances

Other factors that could change a joint custody ruling include:

  • How the parents have acted on the child’s best interests in the past
  • The moral conduct, standard, and actions of the parents
  • The quality of the relationship between a parent and child
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child more frequent contact with their co-parent

Suitable evidence presented to illustrate that joint custody is not in the best interest of the child could, ultimately, impact a final judgment. 

Types of Custody and Visitation

We can distill down child custody rulings into three broad categories. There are countless variations and configurations when put into practice, though. What’s more, it’s important to remember that courts generally grant both parents legal custody. 

As a result, legal custody is not an indication of which parent is most likely to get physical custody. Remember that it’s quite common for co-parents to share legal custody, even when the child resides primarily in one home. 

In such a case, the other parent usually gets regular visitation rights outlined on a court-approved annual calendar. This parent also has a say in important decisions impacting the child’s life. Such an arrangement is known as joint legal custody and sole physical custody. 

The bottom line with this type of custody arrangement? Both parents must work together to make decisions about their children’s upbringings.

This approach requires diplomacy and the establishment of a positive co-parenting relationship with healthy communication. That said, the court may designate one parent as the “tie-breaker” in cases where disputes are not otherwise quickly resolved. 

In some instances, courts may grant each parent decision-making rights when it comes to specific topics of scenarios. 

Joint Custody Pros and Cons

When it comes to joint physical custody, you’ll find both advantages and consequences to this situation. Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering your custody options.

The Pros of Joint Custody

By its very nature, joint physical custody requires co-parents to reach mutual decisions. They also must interact, even if only briefly, on a regular basis.

This arrangement may be the last thing you want to do at the end of a relationship. Nevertheless, you must consider your children’s best interests.

In most cases, children benefit from seeing their parents work together to compromise and come to decisions. Under ideal circumstances, they should witness interactions that are healthy where two mature adults handle their differences with grace.

Rest assured that this type of cooperation will get easier over time. As you and your former partner learn how to co-parent, you’ll reach a certain level of effectiveness with regard to:

  • Consequences
  • Rules
  • Bedtimes
  • Meals
  • Other child-rearing decisions

There will be challenges along the way. Keeping in mind that parenting is a dynamic process will help you through the difficulties. You should also go into the arrangement anticipating occasional ups and downs.

When it comes to major decisions such as medical care and education, however, you may find that your co-parent’s input is much appreciated. 

The Cons of Joint Custody

Of course, when it comes to major decisions, it can also prove difficult to come to a consensus. You may even find times where it’s impractical to reach out to the other parent before making a decision. For example, scheduling a follow-up appointment with a doctor.

In situations where one parent is extra aggressive, the other co-parent may feel as if their voice isn’t being heard. 

Forcing two individuals to collaborate, especially when they’ve broken up due to fundamental differences, can feel stressful. That’s why it’s crucial to maintain healthy co-parenting communication skills.

Otherwise, it can be all too easy for decision-making sessions to turn into contentious debates where verbal or even physical attacks may occur.

Healthy Co-Parenting Tips

What are some fantastic co-parenting skills that can make things go more smoothly? They include the following:

  • Setting clear boundaries
  • Creating and adhering to a predetermined schedule
  • Understanding and flexibility
  • Talking to each other ahead of time about schedule changes
  • Deferring to a co-parent for child care before calling the babysitter
  • Attending parenting-related events (e.g., school functions) without tension

Keeping these tips in mind will help you move forward in a positive way that’s better for everyone involved, especially your kids.

Setting Clear Boundaries

Starting with clear boundaries will help you and your co-parent manage expectations moving forward. This step will require the development of excellent communication skills, but the effort will prove well worth it. 

Creating and Adhering to a Predetermined Schedule

As for creating and adhering to a schedule, it doesn’t need to be complicated. It does, however, require clearance from each co-parent to avoid scheduling conflicts. Learn more about how to create a custody calendar

Understanding and Flexibility

Let’s face it. Life happens.

While it might feel tempting to hold your co-parent to rigid standards when it comes to unforeseen circumstances, don’t. Remaining understanding and flexible now sets a great model for your kids to see. 

What’s more, you never know when something unexpected might come up in your schedule. Wouldn’t you like to be shown the same basic courtesy down the line?

Address Potential Schedule Conflicts as Soon as They Arise

Of course, wherever possible, you should look ahead and address potential schedule conflicts with as much advanced warning as possible. That way, nobody’s left scrambling at the last minute. 

Give Your Co-Parent First Right fo Refusal

Do you need a babysitter for an upcoming event? It’s generally considered good co-parenting etiquette to give your child’s other parent the first right of refusal before calling a babysitter

Find out more about the dos and don’ts of excellent communication after a divorce or breakup. 

Saying “Bye-Bye” to Tension

How do you know that co-parenting has reached a level of maturity and success? By your ability to attend the same events without tension so thick that you can cut it. 

NC Custody Laws

Unmarried people don’t have to navigate the legal difficulties associated with divorce. When children are involved, however, sorting out their custody often leads to family court involvement.

In situations where no father’s name appears on the birth certificate, the mother will enjoy primary legal and physical custody. That means she is responsible for all decisions and actions necessary for a child’s welfare, control, and care. 

To have his name added to a birth certificate, a father must prove paternity and then petition the court. Once this relationship gets established on paper, both parents become joint custody holders. Depending on the situation, though, there may still be many things to iron out in court. 

Understanding NC custody laws represents a first step towards the best outcome for your child. Are you a separated parent looking for tips on how to communicate more effectively with a co-parent? Or, maybe you want to become better organized for the well-being of your children?

We’re here to help. Subscribe to our 2houses app to keep everything from custody to child support payments in one central location. 

Shared Custody Child Support: How Is Child Support Calculated for 50/50 Custody?

Shared custody

Research says that the difficulties of divorce are more easily managed when people show compassion and kindness to themselves.

One way to show yourself kindness is to inform and prepare yourself for some of the legal matters that arise during a divorce. If you have children, that means learning about custody and child support.

If you and your former spouse have decided to split custody of your children, then you need to know about shared custody child support. That means understanding how custody works, how child support is calculated, and who will be expected to make payments. 

Don’t make the common mistake of assuming you won’t receive child support or won’t have to pay it. Keep reading to learn more.

What Is Shared Custody?

Couples don’t enter into a marriage expecting it to end in divorce. And, although it’s been steadily declining since the 1980s, the divorce rate in the US still sits at 3.2 per 1,000 people.

Divorce is a complicated matter. It’s tough on the emotional states of both individuals involved. That’s even truer when there are children involved in the marriage.

When children are involved, matters are more complex. But there are laws to help you navigate these trying times. One of those laws has to do with custody.

Divorce courts try to create the best possible outcome for children and place their well-being in their top priority. Parents must decide on custody for any children under the age of 18.

There are two basic custody arrangements to choose from. These are sole physical custody and shared physical custody.

Sole custody is often misunderstood. The term makes it sounds like one parent takes care of the child or children while the other receives no time with them. But this is an incorrect assumption.

Instead, sole custody refers to a time arrangement where one parent spends the majority of time with the child/children. But the other parent still has visitation and parenting rights, although limited.

A shared custody arrangement is the more common arrangement these days. In a shared custody arrangement, parents share the responsibility of caring for children. Both parents have frequent contact with the children as they are moved between both homes.

When custody is being decided, the courts are most concerned with the best interests of the children. So while you may feel that sole custody is best, the court may decide otherwise. You should be prepared for the outcome of the court decision regardless of your own thoughts and feelings.

Legal Versus Physical Custody

There’s also a difference between legal and physical custody. This is important to know for the purposes of child support.

Legal custody is unrelated to child support. If you have legal custody over a child, it means that you’re the one making important decisions regarding raising the child. These decisions can include things like decisions about education, religion, and even healthcare.

Physical custody, on the other hand, is related to child support. This is because physical custody has to do with time spent with the child. This is where sole custody or joint custody comes into play: how the parents share time spent with the children has everything to do with how much child support is owed or paid.

What Is Child Support?

Child support is intended to ensure that a child or children enjoy the same quality of life before and after their parent’s divorce. It covers any and all expenses related to the raising of that child. Expenses include everything from clothing and food, to housing, health insurance, and education costs.

How much child support is paid by a parent is determined by the law and varies from state to state. While some states have specific guidelines to follow, the ultimate decision comes down to the judge in the divorce court.

In most states, child support is paid to the state. The state then gives that payment to the receiving parent.

This arrangement ensures that the state has a record of all the payments made or not made, making it easier for one parent to enforce payment in the case where payments are missed or never made.

Importantly, child support is the legal right of any child involved in a divorce. Parents cannot waive their obligation to take care of their children, regardless of the circumstances of the divorce. Children maintain this right until they’re legally considered an adult at the age of 18.

This is also the case where parents are unmarried. However, in child support cases with unmarried parents, it may be necessary to prove paternity before pursuing a case.

Shared Custody Child Support

In a typical sole physical custody arrangement, one parent pays child support to the other.

The parent who pays child support is referred to as the non-custodial payment. This is the parent who spends less time with the child. The custodial parent is the parent with sole custody, who spends the majority of the time caring for the child and therefore, takes on the primary financial responsibilities that come with raising a child.

Child support payments help the custodial parent pay for the day to day necessities like food, clothing, and shelter. But, as mentioned, they can also cover healthcare, education costs, and other large costs.

In a shared custody arrangement, it’s assumed that both parents share financial responsibility equally. Because the child spends almost equal time with both parents, each parent has to provide the necessities of life. This is why so many divorced parents believe that a shared custody arrangement doesn’t involve child support payments.

This is, however, not the case. In many cases, but not in all, shared custody still involves child support obligations.

You’re entitled to request child support if you feel it’s needed. In other cases, the court may order child support.

This might be the case in situations where there is a disparity in income. The courts recognize that it’s unfair to ask a parent who earns less than the other to share the burdens of financial responsibility equally. This could mean that, while in the care of the lesser-earning parent, the child isn’t enjoying the same quality of life they did prior to divorce – which is the entire intention behind custody and child support.

Factors for Calculating Child Support

While the laws will vary depending on what state you’re in, most cases of shared custody child support rest on two important factors. 

First, the court will consider financial resources. They’ll look at the finances of each parent, including the income they earn as well as any other asses. Second, the court will consider the amount of time that each parent spends with the child.

Let’s look at both of these factors in more detail.

Income Shares and Percentage of Income 

Most states use either an income shares model or a percentage of income model in determining child support obligations. Income Shares Model

In this model, the courts determine the cost of raising the child/children. They’ll calculate how much the parents would spend on the child/children if they were still together. These costs include everyday things like food, shelter, and clothing. 

But the courts also consider additional expenses. Additional expenses may include items like childcare, private education tuition costs, or extraordinary medical expenses.

Then, they divide that cost between both parents. They’ll factor in things like income as well as the custody arrangement.

When determining a parent’s income, the courts consider more than just income earned at a job. Of course, it includes wages, but it also includes any self-employed income, investment income, unemployment earnings, and even spousal support.  Percentage of Income

In this model, the courts use a percentage rate of a parent’s monthly earnings. Some states will have a flat rate that’s applied to all income levels, while others will vary the percentage rates according to how much income is made.

Parenting time

Income isn’t the only consideration when determining child support obligations. Another important factor in most states is parenting time.

To determine parenting time, many state courts look at the number of overnight stays the child has with each parent. Alternatively, some state courts may look at equivalent care.

Equivalent care excludes overnight stays from calculations. Instead, it refers to the time a child spends with one parent while still incurring expenses. If these times incur expenses equal to what the other parent pays during an overnight, it might be considered in child support figures.

All of these calculations can get rather complicated. Check the state rules where your divorce is being processed to help you determine what models are used there. Many court websites also have parenting time calculators to help you arrive at a relatively accurate figure.

Parent Income

Of course, the courts don’t expect that a parent who makes significantly less than the other should be equally responsible for child care financials. When there’s a difference in the income of both parents, the courts almost always take this into consideration for calculating child support. Again, this is in order to ensure that the child or children involved in the divorce enjoy the same standard of living as they would if their parents were still married.

It’s uncommon, but there are cases of shared custody arrangements where both parents share equal parenting time and have almost the same incomes.

In amicable divorces where parents can come to an agreement that no child support needs to be paid, then the courts might accept that agreement. But even if an agreement is made between the parents, the court can overturn that if it’s not seen to be in the best interest of the child or children.


Change happens. It’s always possible that one parents income changes over time. And if that change is a drop in income due to a demotion or losing a job, it might be possible to change the child support arrangement put in place when the divorce first occurred.

If such a change should occur, you should check whether you can petition the court for a modification. Courts may grant either temporary or permanent modification to the paying parent in these cases. Changes in custody arrangements may also warrant a change in child support payments.


In some but not all states, judges are allowed to deviate from standard rules regarding custody and child support. In some states, that means that the court can waive child support formulas in cases where shared custody has been arranged between the parents. 

However, that’s not guaranteed. The courts are always acting on behalf of the child’s best interests. If they determine that it’s in their best interest to have a child support arrangement, they have the right to enforce that.

Make Divorce Easier

Divorce can be difficult for everybody involved. Through it all, your primary concern should be the health and well-being of the children involved. In the eyes of the law, they’re the most important component of deciding custody and child support arrangements, and every decision made is made with their best interest in mind.

In the best-case scenarios, parents can maintain an amicable relationship throughout their divorce and while making custody arrangements. But even in situations where parents split time and financial responsibility for their children, shared custody child support arrangements have to be discussed. Doing so takes consideration of parenting time as well as the income and assets of both parents.

After these sorts of arrangements have been decided in court, the real work starts. But you don’t have to go it alone – let us help you make divorce easier. Get started with 2houses here.

The Importance of the Right of First Refusal Custody Orders

The right of first refusal

Did you know that in 51% of cases, both parents agreed that mom should be the custodial parent? However, where does that leave the other parent? The answer is the right of refusal. 

If you’re unsure what it means, don’t worry, with this guide you can find out! From learning its definition to its pros and cons, the right of first refusal custody can give you just what you want: more time with your child. Yes, that’s correct with the right of first refusal; you can spend an extended amount of time with your kid. 

Now, are you ready to learn how? Here’s an in-depth look at the right of first refusal: 

What Is the Right of First Refusal? 

The right of first refusal or first option for child care is a broad term to describe a child custody provision. It notes that if the custodial parent is unable to be with the child during their allotted time (whether due to school, work, or other engagements) that the other parent is given the option before any other child care options (like daycare, nannies, and babysitters).

The idea is to provide what’s best for the child’s development by placing them in the care of a parent. Since children need to spend as much time as possible with a parent, rather than with a child care provider, this provision is highly regarded. In fact, children who spend long hours with a child care provider are more likely to develop aggressive behavior and poor social skills. Thus, this provision lookouts for the child’s interests and how best to raise him or her.   

Also, it protects your rights as a parent to be with your child. Extended family and even stepparents do not have legal authority over your child, rather you do.

By having the right of the first refusal, you protect your rights to be with your child when the child is not in the custody of the other parent. That way, you can spend time with your child during the divorce process. 

Advantages and Disadvantages

Like anything in life, the right of first refusal has advantages and disadvantages that might not suit each individual couple. Make sure to keep these circumstances in mind when considering fighting for the right of first refusal. 


The right of first refusal can help parents manage custody. Since both parents have around equal time with their child. Neither will feel jealous or threaten by the other.  

Instead, it promotes a healthy co-parenting dynamic where parents can communicate with one another. Parents can discuss parent time exchanges and how best to raise their kid. Effective communication between parents is fundamental since it provides a stable environment for children. 

In fact, effective communication in the home will stay with kids throughout the rest of their lives. It will set an example of how to sharing feelings, thoughts, and expressions. It also teaches kids the meaning of a secure relationship.  

Since parents can enjoy one-on-one time with their kids, the right of refusal allows a unique relationship to be developed. In fact, it allows parents to bond and spend time with their children. A recent study found children are most affected by the quality of parenting time rather than the quantity. 

Therefore, a weekend is not just a weekend; instead, it’s an opportunity to get to know your growing child. You may want to set off on an afternoon adventure or use your imagination to become a superhero. You may even become the designated homeworker helper. Just make sure to be involved in their lives and actively participate in childlike games or activities.  

Thus, the right of refusal, when done properly, can help your child succeed in life. It can also help you develop a special relationship with your child as well as help improve communication with your ex. 


However, the right of first refusal is not for everyone. Since it relies on effective communication, parents who already struggle to communicate might find it challenging to request parenting time. 

How parents communicate requests, however, sometimes determines how successful they are. For example, if a parent simply sends a vague text message that might not be sufficient enough. A parent may want a short phone call where details of the exchange are discussed first. 

At the end of the day, communication is essential in these situations. Parents need to understand what they want, what they need, and ultimately, what is best for their child. 

For the right of first refusal to work properly, parents must trust one another. They should both also understand what’s expected of them in terms of communication and in parenting exchanges.

For instance, is your child allowed to stay up past ten, eat ice cream for breakfast, or not do chores? These are the types of questions that should be discussed with your ex. 

If you two cannot agree, the right of first refusal will only disrupt your child’s life more. In fact, it will make your child’s life confusing and chaotic as both you will have a different set of rules he or she has to obey.  

Who Is It Good For? 

Whether the right for refusal works for you depends on many components. However, here are a few situations where the first right of refusal is generally successful:  

If you and your ex communicate well together, then it’s a good sign that the right of refusal will work. The right of refusal requires regular communication, and parents must do so civilly. 

Of course, communication is a learned skill. However, parents must try not to argue too much. If parents argue on a regular basis, then it can spread tension throughout the household. Your child may get confused or even upset by your fighting. Thus, parents who can communicate their feelings in a calm and understanding manner will have a greater chance of success. 

If you and your ex work well with each other, then it’s likely the right of refusal will be a good option for both of you. Being able to work with flexibility, cooperation, and understanding allows for good co-parenting techniques. 

It also shows your child good teamwork skills and proper communication methods. Parents who practice these skills will notice an increase in self-confidence and self-esteem. 

Thus, it’s likely your child will mirror your feelings and have an increase in self-esteem too. Parents may need help establishing guidelines at first, although parents who work well together will benefit from the right for refusal.  

If either your ex or yourself have difficult schedules, the right to refusal can help with that. Whether it’s due to work, school, or other engagements, if you’re unavailable during your allotted time, that’s where your ex can step in. 

By having someone there to support your child, you don’t have to worry about him or her being looked after by strangers. Instead, your child can be in the safe hands of family. 

Who Is It Not Good For?   

Sometimes a right of refusal would make a situation worse rather than better. Here are a few common situations:

If, for example, there’s been a history of domestic violence between you and your ex, you might want to think twice before agreeing to the right of refusal. Whether there’s been restraining order placed or not, it’s likely not a good idea. 

You see, it could cause more harm to you and your child since you would have to regularly interact and communicate with your ex to discuss the needs of your child. It’s better if you come up with another custody arrangement that better suits your needs. 

If your ex has limited time due to supervised visitation, it would not be advised to seek the right of first refusal. It’s in the child’s best interest to stay full time with a parent that has a stable job and can provide a stable home life for the child.  

If you and your ex live far away from each other, the right of refusal cannot work practically. While it can be accommodated, in theory, however in practice, it won’t work out. It’s best to work out custody arrangements in another way. 

How to Fight for the Right of First Refusal

In some situations, not all parents will agree on the right of first refusal instead; sometimes parents will want to fight for it. This can happen if the custodial parent does not trust that the non-custodial parent can look after the child during their parenting time. 

Factors may be based on an unsafe neighborhood, past criminal history, or struggles with mental health or addiction. However, without an agreement from both parents, a right of first refusal cannot be implemented.   

A right of first refusal can be included after custody is determined. Although it would require modification through the court system. In order for a right of refusal to be applied, the non-custodial parent must prove why having the right of first refusal is beneficial.  

There are numerous ways; one could prove such an argument. For example, you can provide convincing testimony, documents, text messages, or have a witness testify on your behalf.  

You may win your case, if the court finds that the custodial parent is making arrangements only for themselves, but doesn’t grant you, the non-custodial parent, time aside from the allotted time provided by the custody calendar

Not only are the custodial parent hurting you their ex and co-parent, but your children as well. Your children need time with both parents, and since they’re losing out on that quality time, they might have decreased self-confidence. 

Also, the tension that spurs from not seeing your child might foster within the family dynamics and spread unnecessary stress. It’s best to talk a lawyer and fight for the right of refusal as needed. That way, you’ll know if it’s best to communicate your needs through the court system or if maybe you should wait it out and see if your ex responds favorably to your requests.  

How to Avoid Conflict During the Right to Refusal  

While the right of refusal does encourage children to spend more time with both parents, although conflict can make it difficult for parents to plan parent time exchanges. It’s best to keep each other informed about any uncertain plans that may require adjustments to be made. That way, no arguments break out, or tensions are flared. Rather everyone’s on the same page about the family schedule, including children. 

Children should be kept in the loop and told as much information about who is spending time with who. That way, children are less confused as to why they are spending this weekend with mommy vs. this weekend with daddy.  

Are You Ready to Fight for the Right of First Refusal Custody?  

The right of first refusal custody protects your rights to be with your child as a parent. That way, you can spend quality one-on-one time getting to know your child and watching him or her grow up. 

Just remember the right to the first refusal is centered around effective communication. Thus, if you and your ex struggle to communicate, the right of refusal might not be the correct custody strategy for you. Although if you two work well as a team, you’ll have a greater chance of success. 

Everything You Need To Know About Family Law

Family Law

For most people, the first thing that comes to mind whenever they come across the phrase “family law” is divorce. Divorce, while a huge part of family law, is just one area of the said legal field.

Family law encompasses a wide range of matters covering anything and everything that pertains to family matters and domestic relations.

Along with divorce, child support, property division, and child custody are the most common areas of family law. Here’s an overview of what each area involves.


Divorce is a legal decree that dissolves a marriage. Once a divorce becomes final, both parties will no longer be legally bound to each other. They can move on with their lives, free to remarry or forge a domestic partnership with another person.

Both parties can go for a “no-fault” divorce or a “fault-based” one.

Under no-fault divorce statutes, a spouse can file for divorce without holding the other spouse responsible for the marriage’s end. Loss of affection, irreconcilable differences, and irremediable breakdown are among the grounds for a no-fault divorce.

Fault-based divorce, meanwhile, can be obtained based on grounds that include domestic violence, adultery, drug and alcohol abuse, and abandonment.

Spouses file a fault-based divorce for a number of reasons. Some use a fault-based divorce to get the required waiting period for finalizing the divorce waived. Others do it to sway the court when it decides on subsequent child custody, child support, and alimony cases.

Child Custody

Divorce proceedings, as well as paternity and legitimation cases, typically tackle child custody matters.

When resolving child custody cases, courts in most jurisdictions rule based on the best interests of the child. The factors that determine what’s best for the child may vary from state to state, or from judge to judge. Generally, those factors include, but are not limited to:

The relationship of the child with both parents, siblings, and others who may have a significant effect on the child

The child’s preferences, as well as that of the parents

The overall physical and mental health of the child, parents, and other parties involved

Considering how stressful a child custody case can get, it is often better for all parties to resolve custody issues out-of-court. Such a settlement is possible if both parents come to an agreement that is in the best interest of the child.

Child Support

Divorce, paternity, and legitimation cases often give rise to child support issues. Child support revolves around the policy that both parents have an obligation to support their children.

In most cases, the mother is the custodial parent, while the non-custodial father is the one who pays child support. It’s not unheard of, however, for the roles to be reversed.

The guidelines that govern how much child support the non-custodial parent must pay may vary from state to state. Generally, the parent paying child support must continue to do so until:

The child is no longer a minor, except in cases when the child has special needs

Termination of parental rights through adoption or other legal processes

The child is emancipated or declared an adult by the court after becoming self-supporting

The child goes on active military service

Property division

Each party to a divorce owns 50% of community property, referring to all real and personal property acquired during the marriage. The law dictates that everything classified as community property must be divided equally between the two parties following their divorce.

Property division always begins by identifying all of the property that either party currently owns. To accomplish this, each person must disclose all property acquired before and during the marriage. Property owned before the marriage will be considered as separate property, and will not be subject to property division.

Family law matters can get very complex. Only a qualified and experienced family law attorney can guide you through its intricacies. So don’t hesitate to hire one should you find yourself dealing with divorce and legal matters that come with it.


Unpaid Child Support: What You Can Do

2houses : web & mobile app for divorce with kids - unpaid child support

There are some coparenting situations where child support is a non-issue. If the parents have a true 50/50 custody time split and make roughly the same income, the courts may decide that there’s no need for a child support order. Similarily, some people choose to forego financial support as part of their divorce agreement. However, if you do count on child support as part of your monthly income, not receiving payments can create a real financial hardship.

Unless there’s a specific short-term issue that’s keeping your ex from making payments, you’ll likely need to get the professionals involve in collecting back support. Here’s what you need to know.

Get an Official Child Support Order

While this may seem obvious, it’s not unusual for coparents to have an informal child support arrangement. This is most common in situations where the divorce is in process, the parents were never married, or the divorce/dissolution was very amicable. While this situation works for some, it’s always best to have an official court order to fall back on, and if you’re dealing with unpaid child support, it’s a must before you can take any action for back payments.

Ensure the Child Support Order Is Accurate and Up to Date

Child support is handled on a state by state basis, and each state has its own guidelines for what factors go into the calculations and how child support is determined. In most cases, it will be dependent on the income (and possibly earning potential) or both parents and any other outstanding factors. These could be child care costs or something like above-average medical expenses for a child with a chronic condition. However, these factors may change as the child gets older or the parents get new jobs. If you or your coparent has experienced a significant change in financial circumstances, it’s important to have your child support order updated before seeking back payments — especially if the unpaid child support is due to a financial hardship.

Contact Your Local Child Support Enforcement Agency

The Child Support Enforcement Agency is responsible for ensuring that child support orders are executed. It should be your first contact if you stop receiving your payments. The case worker can let you know how long you have to go without a payment before enforcement action is taken (this is usually 1-3 months) and what the next steps are. Keep in mind, however, that the case worker will likely not be able to tell you why you’re not receiving payments or give you any personal information about your ex’s job or financial situation.

Keep Up Open and Positive Communication

It’s frustrating when you’re counting on money, and it doesn’t come in. But it’s important to keep the child support and the visitation and custody matters separate. If your ex stops paying support, that doesn’t mean you can withhold visitation or try other punitive measures to get them to pay. And really, this can just backfire even more and turn what was a peaceful coparenting arrangement into a war zone. Using the expense tracking and messaging tools on 2houses gives you an easy way to keep communication factual, professional and focused on the children.

Whether your ex just missed their first payment or you’re owed thousands in unpaid child support, it’s important to continue to abide by the current court order and go through the proper legal channels to seek back payments.


Mutual Consent Divorce for an Unfazed Break-up

mutual consent divorce

It is never easy to bring a relationship to an end. In particular, if you share children with your spouse, you want to make it as easy as possible on them and on you. You have the option of filing for no-fault divorce or, in some states, Mutual Consent Divorce. In layperson’s terms, mutual consent divorce just means you’ve decided as a couple to end the marriage and you want to do so with the minimum of conflict.

Agreeing to End the Marriage

In states such as Pennsylvania, it’s possible for one spouse to file for divorce and the other spouse to agree with the filing. This is called a mutual consent no-fault divorce. Most states have the option for a “no fault,” divorce, where you can file based on “irreconcilable differences” and do not have to state that your spouse has done something specifically wrong. With a no-fault divorce, however, your spouse can generally still contest the filing.

Benefits of Mutual Consent Divorce

If you and your spouse can agree to end the marriage mutually, you benefit from looking at your finances and shared child care responsibilities with a clear head. Many states have resources that can help you and your spouse understand the details of asset division and developing a parenting plan for your children going forward.
Fundamentally, what you gain through a mutual consent divorce is the ability to maintain a civil relationship with your child’s other parent, who will remain a part of your child’s life and may share custody.

Co-Parenting into the Future

If you avoid a messy divorce and stay on good terms with your former spouse, co-parenting is much easier. You are able to support your children in their relationships with their other parent while keeping your own emotions in check. Tools like the shared calendar function on 2houses can help make your long-term parenting plans more efficient and facilitate open communication between families.

Especially if you have young children, your time as an active co-parent may span several years. Starting off on a positive note can help make those years as easy as possible on you and on your children.

Where to Go for Help

Mutual consent divorce may help co-parents keep the peace, but it’s not right for everyone. If you are thinking about ending your marriage and want to know about your options, speak with a divorce attorney in your area. During this emotionally difficult time, you may have more options than you think.

Christmas Custody Schedules in Divorce

christmas custody schedules for divorced parents - 2houses

How do divorcing parents handle the issue of Christmas and other holiday periods in custody disputes?  What kind of schedules do North Carolina Divorce Courts order in Child Custody Cases?  In a perfect world, every child would have the benefit of waking up to two loving parents every Christmas morning.  The sad reality is that many parents do not stay together and in those cases it is crucial to establish holiday custody schedules that allow the children to experience the joy of the holidays with each parent.  As a Raleigh Divorce Lawyerfor over fourteen years, I have seen all kinds of holiday custody schedules and before you decide what kind of schedule works for you, there are several factors you should consider.

Two Ways to View Holidays.  For school aged children, there are two ways to view holiday custody schedules.  The first is to attempt to divide the actual holiday period or day.  For example, Christmas is typically recognized as Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and sometimes the day after Christmas.  The second way to view holiday schedules is to divide the entire period the children are out of school.  Most North Carolina school systems release for Christmas several days before the actual holiday and resume after New Years Day.  The same principal is true of Thanksgiving, Easter, and some other holidays.  If you address the holiday only, you are dividing only a day or two, while addressing the holiday as a break from school and dividing that time period you will be dividing more time.  Either method is acceptable if it works for the children and the parents.

Flawed Parents, Lacking Parenting Skills, Share “Parallel Custody”

custody of the children - 2houses

When parents fight for custody of children, both parents attempt to highlight their own parenting skills and to diminish the other’s abilities.  The cases are difficult and gut wrenching because often there are two loving, caring and fit parents, who only want the best for their children.

What happens, when after trial, the court finds that both parents are so flawed and lacking in parenting skills that neither should have sole custody of the child?

In M.R v. A.D., a Manhattan judge, after splitting physical custody of a child, opined that “neither of these parents has the skills or qualities to be [the child’s] sole custodian.   Instead, the court identified each parent’s parenting strengths to define particular “spheres in which each party with be the final decision maker.”    

The mother, characterized as warm and loving, but chaotic, unpredictable and unable to establish firm or consistent boundaries was granted decision making over summer camp, extracurricular activities, and religion. The father, described as gruff, not particularly warm or affectionate, but capable of setting firm standards for the child’s behavior, was granted decision-making over issues relating to the child’s education and health.

In reaching this Solomon-like decision, the court recognized that because of the acrimony between the parties, joint custody was not an option; the parties could not communicate effectively with each other to make joint decisions.  After assessing the parties’ individual parenting strengths and weaknesses, the court fashioned a custodial arrangement that allows each parent to make decisions on different aspects of the child’s life.

The decision, which gives each parent parallel custody, is a novel method of resolving a custody dispute.   Rather than “winner-take-all,” this win-win approach assures each parent’s continued involvement in the child’s life, with decisions being made by the parent best suited for doing so.

by  Daniel Clement