Complications with Joint Custody and Child Support

Every state handles joint custody and child support differently. Some states set child support without consideration of custody, but consider parenting time when setting child support. In these states, a parent who has a child less often may pay more child support. There are states which consider custody designations in setting child support.

Many states consider joint custody as an equal division of responsibility for the children which can impact how child support is established. Equal responsibility may mean that when child support is set, the total of income of both parents is divided and child support is set to equalize the income available to each parent for financially supporting the children. When a child is with a parent, it can be assumed that the parent must pay to feed, clothe and entertain the child.  Parents with joint physical custody each have expenses directly related to caring for the child.  If a parent is ordered to pay child support, the amount of time the child spends with the parent should be taken into consideration.

Equal Time does not Mean Equal Financial Responsibility

Joint physical custody is intended to give parents an equal division of physical responsibility.  The equal division of financial responsibility can be a problem in reality though.  There are costs inherent to raising children such as food, clothes, school supplies, birthday parties (for friends) and activity fees that come up while the child is in the care of each parent. A child should never feel that he cannot get something he needs because he is with one parent rather than another. Whether a child support order actually considers all those costs depends on what costs where known at the time of the divorce as well as what costs may be covered under the state law.  It is common though for one parent to make more payments on behalf of a child than another parent.

Parents Don’t Always Follow the Court Order

Sometimes a parent does not follow the court order in regard to parenting time or custody responsibilities. Parents might even agree to make changes to parenting time, but may not take the time to change the original court order. Laws typically consider only the time and custody designations ordered by the court and cannot consider the actual time a parent spends with a child.  If a parent is not following the court order with regard to parenting time, then a parent should ask that the court modify the court order to reflect the reality of parenting time in order to get a realistic child support order.

Getting Legal Help

Child support varies greatly from family to family, even in the same state, because every family’s circumstances are different in regard to custody, parenting time, income, and division of financial responsibility. It is difficult to modify child support after it is set, so establishing a proper and fair amount of child support is important.  An experienced family attorney can help a parent understand all the ramifications of custody and parenting time designations on the establishment of child support for a family’s specific circumstances.

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