Cases that go to family court are often the utmost important. Often, the well-being of a child is at stake, so a speedy, straightforward case is ideal. If you find yourself in family court, a good child custody and support lawyer can help make the process more painless. But how do you find a good one? A service like Lawyer.com or Rocket Lawyer will quickly connect you with a vetted legal professional to start preparing for your case today.
Child Custody and Support Cases
Nobody wants to watch a child they love suffer. Even so, life happens, and you can’t always protect them from everything, like the pain of a divorce or the neglect of a parent. Family court addresses these issues, often dealing with the matters of custody and child support. In these cases, the well-being of the child is always the focal point — every case is judged based on this standard.
In support and custody cases, courts will issue legal orders addressing parenting time, primary custody, division of finances and paternity. They may also consider child custody as part of an overall divorce settlement along with spousal support. And, courts see cases addressing grandparents’ rights as well.
One of the main issues in custody cases involving a separated or divorced couple is which parent a child will live and spend the majority of their time with. This can be a contentious issue between spouses and difficult for the child. For that reason, a clear parenting time arrangement is often set by the court.
This issue is often decided quickly after the matter is brought to court so as to disrupt the child’s life as little as possible. Judges may even issue temporary custody orders to preserve the well-being of a child.
As with all custody considerations, the court seeks to make decisions that serve the best interest of the child. If possible, both joint physical or legal custody will be assigned. With joint physical custody, the child spends time with each parent. Legal joint custody means each parent has equal say in a child’s upbringing.
Healthy contact with each parent lends to more emotional stability. And, research shows that children who get equal time with each parent receive more financial support.
But in some instances, like if 1 parent is unfit or the 2 parents live far from each other, primary or sole custody may be assigned. Here, a visitation schedule is assigned to the noncustodial parent. In extreme cases, there may be supervised visitation only or full termination of parental rights.
If the child lives almost exclusively with 1 parent having visitation with the other, that parent has primary custody. While courts strive to award joint custody whenever possible, it sometimes just isn’t. A child may have a much stronger bond with one of the parents, one may be unfit or a parent may live in a different state.
While custody cases are designed to be decided quickly, cases having an outcome of primary custody may take longer. If it's obvious to the judge that 1 parent must have primary custody, or if both parents and the children agree that this is best, it may not. But if a parent challenges the other for primary custody or there are other complications, the case may take a bit longer. A child custody lawyer working with Lawyer.com is ideal in these types of situations.
As the custodial parent, much of the weight of parenting falls to you. It is best to stay as organized as possible so all your energy isn’t spent trying to track and maintain all the details related to the custody order. You can use the free Child Visitation Letter document from Rocket Lawyer. This document is used to lay out a plan, notify the other parent of events pursuant to the custody order (if the children go out of town with a parent) or notify the other parent if they’re in breach of the contract.
If an unmarried couple has a baby, paternity must be legally established. This ensures that the child has the same legal rights to parental financial support as a child of a married couple.
The easiest way to do this is if the father acknowledges paternity by signing an Affidavit of Parentage. In other instances, a case will be opened to establish paternity. The court can order a genetic test to determine biological fatherhood.
The willing participation of the father makes the case go faster, but if there’s some difficulty, a lawyer will be beneficial. Once you file the paternity claim, the next obstacle is then locating the father and serving him with the court order. This can be an arduous process that may take a few months.
To get started, you’ll need to file an IV-D Child Support Services Application, a process Rocket Lawyer can assist you with. You can file this order directly with the court or through your state’s Office of Child Support through the Department of Health and Human Services. They’ll order a paternity establishment as part of child support proceedings.
Depending on the jurisdiction you reside in, you may have rights to visitation as a grandparent. Or, a grandparent can file for custody of their grandchildren if they believe neither parent is fit to raise them.
There is some type of statute in all 50 U.S. states affording grandparents or other caretakers (like foster or stepparents) the right to file for legal visitation rights. But these statutes vary by state, so use the free legal advice resources provided by Rocket Lawyer and Lawyer.com to familiarize yourself with your local laws.
These cases can be more complicated than your average case, given that at least one party isn’t the biological parent of the child. Still, the court will rule in favor of what’s best for the child. These cases are designed to be settled quickly, so a good lawyer can help you structure a solid argument for your rights even in a limited time frame.
If you’re a parent who has restricted visitation with a grandparent or caretaker because you believe it's in the best interest of the child, a lawyer is key. Troxel vs. Granville, a 2000 court case, ruled that a state’s visitation statutes may be overruled if the parent can prove that visitation with a caretaker is detrimental to the well-being of the child. However, this isn’t the legal gold standard, so expert guidance is necessary to navigate here.
Get Expert Legal Advice When It Matters the Most
Rocket Lawyer and Lawyer.com are both stellar services offering quick, easy access to vital legal aid. Whether you want to start educating yourself on the law or talk to a legal professional, Rocket Lawyer can help you. Or, set up a free consultation through Lawyer.com with an attorney specializing in custody and support cases today.
Having good counsel through an often emotional and painful family law case is crucial. Seeking out expert guidance as early as possible in your case can ease some of the stress and net you your desired outcome.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Does primary custody affect child support?
A: It depends on the situation. Even with joint custody, 1 parent typically has primary custody and takes on more of the day-to-day role of raising children, including its associated expenses. The other parent would likely pay support. But if 2 parents have joint physical and legal custody, neither may have to pay support. That being said, if 1 parent makes significantly more than the other, they may have to assume financial responsibility for the children or pay support to the other parent.
Q: How does child support work if parents live in different states?
A: If parents live in different states, one state will assume jurisdiction over the case and that court’s order will trump all else. Courts determine a child’s home state by where they currently live or have lived the most. If they can’t define it by these standards, they will look into which state the child has the most “significant connection.”
Once a court establishes a custody order, that custody order stands. A court in a different state cannot overrule it except in certain circumstances. Custody orders can be enforced by any jurisdiction, even if it's not where the order was issued.
Q: Can a noncustodial parent receive child support?
A: Generally, the noncustodial parent pays support because the custodial parent takes on more expenses. But, if the noncustodial parent makes significantly less than the other party, or can’t afford to take care of the children, they may receive support.