Child Custody, Support, and Visitation
If you are considering divorce or dissolution of marriage and have children with your spouse, there are issues of child custody, child support, and visitation that must be addressed. At Semita Legalis, we understand that working through these issues can be difficult. That is why we partner with our clients, working hard to get it right, to the best of our ability.
Lead attorney David Breon has a particular expertise dealing with these sometimes-difficult matters, having worked for a legal aid program that provided legal services to victims of domestic abuse and practiced in a multistate law firm that focused exclusively on family law and domestic relations matters.
Child custody refers to the physical and legal custody each parent has with respect to their children. Physical custody refers to a parent’s right to have the child live with him or her, and can be granted to one parent or shared between both parents. Legal custody addresses the authority each parent has regarding major decisions such as where the children will attend school, choice of religion, medical decisions, and extracurricular activities.
If you and your spouse are seeking a divorce and you have children together, you will file a shared parenting plan. When making decisions about child custody, the court will make decisions in the “best interest of the child.” To determine the “best interests of the child” the court will consider the following factors:
- The wishes of the children’s parents;
- The children’s need for a frequent, continuing, and meaningful relationship with both parents, and the ability of both parents to perform their functions as the parents of the children;
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and others;
- Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with the other parent;
- The child’s adjustment to the home, school, and community;
- The mental and physical health of all involved, including whether there is a pattern of domestic violence;
- The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child; and
- The wishes of the child;
The court’s preference is to award joint custody, also known as “shared parenting.” When a couple is seeking a divorce, the court will assign each parent a parenting schedule and visitation rights. The court will also issue orders regarding child support.
Calculating Child Support
Child support orders determine a parent’s financial obligations to the children. Generally, the custodial parent (the parent who cares for the children most of the time) will receive payments from the non-custodial parent. In most cases, a parent will pay child support until the child turns 18 (21 if the child is still in school).
When calculating child support, courts will consider factors such as the number of children, the income of both parents, and the number of periods of overnight visitation or custody per year awarded to and exercised by the parent obligated to pay support. Missouri, Kansas, and Illinois each offer a child support calculator that can be used to determine suggested child support payment amounts. The child support guidelines are a fee schedule, and parents can agree to pay more than the suggested amount. The court will presume that the child support amount calculated under the guidelines is correct, unless there are circumstances that would result in a situation that is unjust. In those cases, the court can adjust child support payments.
Even if a parent is granted sole custody of the children, the other parent has the right to regular visitation. A common visitation arrangement is a visitation schedule that allows the non-custodial parent one night of visitation during the week, and visits every other weekend. A parent is entitled to visitation rights, unless visitation would put the safety or well-being of the children at risk.
Modifying Child Support, Custody, or Visitation Orders
Once a divorce or legal separation has been finalized, one or both parents may wish to make changes to child support, visitation, or custody orders. If you have an amicable relationship with your co-parent, these changes can often be made without court intervention; however, it is wise to document any changes to the child custody, visitation, or support plans and submit them to the court.
If parents are unable to agree on changes to child custody, visitation, or support orders, either parent can file a motion with the court to propose changes to the orders.
Semita Legalis: Professional Guidance for Your Legal Journey
If you are considering a divorce or legal separation and have children with your spouse, child custody, child support, and child visitation will be addressed as part of the court’s order. If there is a substantial and continuing change in circumstances after a custody, support, or visitation order has been made, then you will be seeking a modification. In either case, it is wise to work with a family law attorney who has experience in matters involving child custody, child support, and child visitation.
Semita Legalis guides our clients to a brighter future by providing clear, helpful legal counsel, committed advocacy, and fair rates.