PAYING FOR CHILDREN'S EXPENSES AFTER DIVORCE
Both parents have a duty to support their children. On divorce, that duty ordinarily is enforced through an award of child support from one parent to the other. To calculate child support, the court will usually follow a process in the child support guidelines statute. That process requires the court to consider the gross earnings of each party, subject to certain specified deductions, and to apply those earnings to a chart. Child care expenses and child health insurance premiums ordinarily are added to that charted figure. Alimony paid is considered income to the receiving spouse and is a deduction from the income of the person who pays. Each parent's percentage of support is then calculated and a support figure is generated. The judge is then permitted to vary the support amount based upon a series of factors directed to circumstances existing within that particular family. Where it is reasonably available, payment of health insurance premiums will be required and the cost of uncovered medical, dental and prescription needs will be allocated.
Except in special circumstances, an Income Deduction Order will be entered that will require the employer of the parent paying child support to deduct the support from the paying parent's paycheck and send it directly to a central depositor, which will keep track of the payments and forward the funds to the receiving parent. Failure to pay child support when it has been ordered is enforceable by contempt, and willful failure to pay may result in a person being jailed. A party may be ordered to maintain life insurance or provide other security to ensure the continued payment of child support.
It is not acceptable or appropriate to fail to permit a parent to spend time with children because that parent has not paid child support. It is equally unacceptable to fail to pay child support because the other parent has not made the children available. Two wrongs don't make a right. Under either set of circumstances, the statutes provide methods for enforcement of court orders.
Assistance in obtaining a child support order may be available. The precise location of that assistance varies from county to county. For information related to the agency assisting in support enforcement and establishment in your county, contact your local Department of Revenue, Child Support Enforcement Program.
MAKING DECISIONS FOR THE CHILDREN AFTER DIVORCE
In most circumstances, a judge will order "shared parental responsibility" for minor children when the parents separate or divorce. This means that both parents have a right to have full information about the children and to share in making major decisions for the children. Just because a child lives primarily with one parent does not give that parent greater say in the child's upbringing.
A judge may determine that one parent or the other should have the ultimate responsibility to make decisions in a particular area of the child's life, if the judge finds that it would be in the best interest of the child to do so.
If the parents, after good faith efforts, are unable to agree about a major decision affecting the child, (e.g., the parents cannot agree which private school the children should attend) the court, upon motion, may decide the issue, or designate the parent who will make that decision.
Sole parental responsibility may be awarded to one parent when shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child. Evidence of child or spousal abuse is a consideration and, depending upon the degree of abuse, may be a presumptive factor in determining whether shared or sole parental responsibility will be awarded.
WHERE THE CHILDREN WILL LIVE AFTER DIVORCE
When parents separate or divorce it is important that both parents maintain contact with the children. Ordinarily, one parent will be designated the "primary residential parent" and the other parent will be designated the "secondary residential parent." Alternate arrangements, including situations where one parent has sole custody or where neither parent is designated a primary residential parent (rotating custody), can be agreed to or ordered in specific circumstances.
Both parents are entitled to equal consideration as primary residential parents, notwithstanding the age or sex of the children.
After divorce, if a primary residential parent wants to move and the move would materially interfere with the other parent's contact with and access to the children, there are a series of statutory factors that a court will be required to consider before issuing an order that permits a parent to move with the children. It is possible that a parent will be denied permission to move with the children. This may occur if the other parent has been an involved parent, the move is not in the best interest of the children, and a substituted schedule of contact with the children may not be sufficient to maintain the secondary residential parent's relationship with the children.