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.

Modifications

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.

Exceptions

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. 

Pros 

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. 

Cons

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. 

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.

 

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