Child Custody and Child Support

Types of Child Custody

There are several types of child custody; which one is rewarded depends on the outcome of your divorce. Review the types and their conditions below.

Physical Custody

This type of child custody grants a parent the right to have the child live with him or her. The law varies from state to state, but two parents may be rewarded physical custody if the child spends a pretty equal amount of time with both. A court will take distance between the two homes into consideration so that the child can maintain as normal of a life as possible. However, this is a slightly rarer version of child custody as a parent will often have sole physical custody while the other maintains visitation rights.

Legal Custody

In this, a parent has the right to make decisions about his or her child’s life such as schooling, medical care and religion. In other words, this child custody allows a parent to shape the child’s upbringing. Most states often reward legal custody to both parents, who then must manage to work together harmoniously for the sake of their child’s future.

If you and your ex are both rewarded legal custody and he or she decides to cut you out of the process, you have the right to bring her or him back to court. While your ex will probably avoid fines or jail time, he or she will probably undergo humiliation as you restore the right to your legal custody. More importantly, the friction caused between you and your ex may harm your child. It’s important to hold it together for your child when facing child custody.

Sole Custody

Sole custody can take the form of sole legal custody or sole physical custody, and one or both are often rewarded to a parent when the other is deemed unfit to raise the child. Reasons that might perpetuate sole custody include the other parent succumbing to alcoholism, drug dependency, charges of child abuse or neglect, or being with a new partner who is any of these things.

In most states these days, a rather modern approach is to restrict a sole custody ruling to allow an increased role of the divorced father in his child’s life. If sole physical custody is given to a parent, often legal custody is shared amongst the two parents and the noncustodial parent is granted visitation rights instead.

It is important to understand the line between your ex-marital issues and the wellbeing of your child. Seeking sole custody is a heavy step that should only be taken if the other parent is unfit. Working out a civil dynamic between you and your ex can enhance your child’s future in a much healthier way.

Joint Custody

When two parents both share the responsibilities of making decisions, physical control and custody of a child, but they do not live together, they have joint custody. This type of child custody is rewarded to parents who are divorced, separated, no longer living together, and even parents who never lived together in the first place.

Two parents can have joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both. While it is common for two parents who have joint physical custody to also have joint legal custody, the reverse situation is less common.

Child Support Basics

There are a few qualifications for payments to be considered child support. For instance, a payment under an agreement that lumps together “alimony” and “family support” while failing to designate a specific portion to child support will not be considered actual child support for tax purposes. Because family support and alimony are taxable to the recipient, the spouse will receive the payments which are taxable to the payee. Understand the caveats to these payments before anything else, or there might be adverse financial consequences.

Something to keep in mind in light of a divorce is that only one parent can claim a single child as a dependent. The parent rewarded the exemption must provide at least 50% of the child support during the active tax year, and the parent must be considered the main custodial entity by the IRS. However, there are exceptions to the rule:

  • Depending on the separation agreement or divorce decree, the custodial parent may sign a provision stating that he or she has waived rights to the dependent exemption.
  • The custodial parent may sign a declaration (IRS Form 8332) that waives the right to the dependent exemption, and the noncustodial parent can attach the declaration to his or her current year’s tax return. With this, the right can be waived for a year, a longer amount of time, or forever, depending on the consensus of all consenting parties.

If you owe child support, you are required to pay it. If not, there are many negative repercussions; depending on the state, you may have permissible licenses revoked (driving, pilot, hunters, medical, etc.), have your wages forcefully garnished, or even go to jail. All the other parent really has to do is ask for a hearing before a judge and request that you be held in contempt of court. If you fail to attend an official court hearing, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest. In fact, even if you do show up to the hearing, the court has the right to put you in jail for violating the child support order. If you’re in a tricky situation involving back child support, contacting a divorce lawyer is often the best recourse.