Many people are vaguely aware of the concepts of child support and child custody. However, very few know the details of these arrangements and the ways in which they go together. Support and custody are inextricably linked, as they are two ways in which parents contribute to their children’s upbringing.
If you are navigating child support or child custody, either as the result of a divorce or in an unrelated scenario, it is imperative that you understand how the two affect one another.
What Is Child Custody?
Child custody is the time and effort that a parent spends raising a child. The law splits child custody into two main categories: physical and legal.
Physical custody is the type of custody that most people understand. This is the time spent as the guardian of the child. A parent with physical custody is responsible for:
- Providing food and shelter
- Ensuring that the child is well rested and practices hygiene
- Offering emotional support
Legal custody involves a parent’s ability to make major decisions for the child. These mainly involve health and medical care.
It is possible for a parent to have legal custody without having physical custody. Others may have physical custody without having legal custody. Many parents have both.
Child Custody Arrangements
The schedule that you and your family develop is up to your needs and discretion. However, the court will assign a general arrangement that outlines how much time the child is to spend with each parent. Potential arrangements include:
- Shared Custody: This is an arrangement in which the child spends equal or nearly equal amounts of time with each parent.
- Partial Custody: This is a situation where one parent has most of the custody, but the other parent has a minor share of custody on a regular basis.
- Visitation: One parent has nearly all of the custody rights over the child. However, the other parent has the right to spend time with the child for a certain number of hours per month.
- Sole Custody: In this arrangement, only one parent has custody, and the other parent does not have any parental rights over their child.
The court will assign one of the above for co-parents to follow. Within these restrictions, parents can decide which days or weeks work for them.
The law requires that both of a child’s parents be equally involved in the child’s upbringing. Of course, this does not always mean physical involvement. In some cases, a parent is unfit or unable to spend physical time raising or caring for the child. In other cases, a parent has only a minority share of custody.
To make these situations more equitable, the court may require a parent to pay child support. This is often done to make up for their minor portion of custody. It is also intended to make their contribution more even with the child’s other parent’s contribution.
In some situations, a parent may be asked to pay child support even if they have equal custody. This is appropriate when one parent makes a larger income than the other, as the state requires the proportion of each individual’s income to be approximately equal.
For example, if one parent makes $40,000 per year and the other makes $200,000 per year, a $10,000 annual contribution to their child’s upbringing would be 25% of the former parent’s income and only 5% of the latter’s. Even if both parents have equal custody, the higher-earning parent may be required to pay child support. This would make each parent’s proportion of support more equitable.
Attorney Advice for Child Custody and Support
If you are navigating child custody or child support negotiations, it is important that you seek legal counsel. Although the court aims for equality in these situations, it is still possible for inequality to occur if you do not have a way to advocate for yourself. An attorney makes sure that the court hears your perspective and considers your needs as part of the custody and support agreements.
Q: Do I Have to Pay Child Support If I Have Equal Custody?
A: If you have a vastly higher income than your child’s other parent, you may be asked to pay child support in addition to your custody agreement. Although this may seem unfair at first glance, the state requires your contributions to be proportional to your incomes. Therefore, those who earn significantly more than their child’s other parent can be expected to contribute more. Having an attorney can help ensure that any final agreement is fair and equitable.
Q: Can I Update My Child Custody or Child Support Agreement?
A: Yes. The law allows you to make family law modifications if your circumstances change. These modifications ensure that your agreements reflect your current situation as accurately as possible. However, a court will only approve a modification if your circumstances are different than they were when the decision was made. If they are not, an appeal may be more appropriate. Talk to a qualified family lawyer to be sure of your next steps.
Q: Can Fathers Receive Child Support?
A: Yes. Gender is not a factor when determining child custody or child support. If a mother has a minority share of custody, or makes far more than a child’s father, she may be asked to pay child support or share child custody. If you are a father and believe that you may be eligible for child support payments, you should speak with an attorney at Stange Law Firm right away.
Q: How Do I Pay Child Support?
A: If the court has required you to pay child support, you usually do this through the state. This allows the state to track payments and ensure that you are paying on time. It also ensures that your child’s other parent cannot accuse you of not paying or demand that you pay more when you do not have to. Going through the state system helps to keep everyone safe.
Contact Stange Law Firm in Oklahoma City
For many years, our team at Stange Law Firm has been supporting families as they navigate child custody and child support negotiations. To schedule a consultation, contact us today.