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HOW IS CHILD SUPPORT DETERMINED?
Most states have child support guidelines that establish the ordinary
support required to raise and care for children. Generally, the income
of both parents is used to determine the percentage of each parent's
child support obligation. Other factors may be taken into consideration
such as which parent is best able to provide medical insurance for the
children and also which parent is allowed to claim the children as
dependents on his or her income tax returns. Although the non-custodial
parent is typically the parent contributing child support payments to
the other parent, there are some exceptions to this. An attorney
experienced in domestic law should be able to help address your
PHYSICAL AND LEGAL CUSTODY
Legal custody of a minor child generally means the right and
responsibility to decide major issues of health, education, and welfare
affecting the child. In contrast, physical custody means the right and
responsibility to make day to day decisions relating to the child. A
parent granted one form of custody, may not necessarily be granted the
other. For instance, a judge can order one parent to have sole physical
custody, yet order the legal custody to be joint between both parents.
In cases of joint legal custody, both parents share the right and
responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education, and
welfare of the child. That means that the parents have a duty to
discuss such major issues with each other and make joint decisions
affecting their child. Consultation with an attorney familiar with
domestic law may help in answering your questions regarding custody.
WHAT IS JOINT CUSTODY?
Many state's laws on child custody provide that joint custody is in the
best interest of a minor child. Joint custody generally means that the
right and responsibility to decide major issues of health, education,
and welfare affecting a child are shared by the parents. Under joint
custody, children may spend half their time with the mother and half
with the father, although this is not always the case. Usually children
will live with one parent most of the time and regularly visit the
other. It is also possible in some states for one parent to have
physical custody of a child but share in the joint decision making.
ENFORCING PAYMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT
Even if you have obtained a valid court order for payment of child
support, the payor may not voluntarily comply with the order. In such
instances, there are different ways of enforcing the order. The first
is to file a petition for contempt with the court that issued the child
support order. The court will set a hearing date for the noncompliant
party to come in and explain why he or she has failed to pay the child
support as stated in the court order. The judge may then issue another
order that requires the payor to comply with the original order, plus
pay court costs and the other side's attorney fees in most cases.
If the payor still fails to comply, or if you were not able to have him
or her served with an order to appear for the contempt hearing, you may
have his or her wages withheld. Different state's laws vary, but most
will provide specific procedures for the garnishment or withholding of
wages for nonpayment of child support. There is generally a limit on
the percentage of a person's wages that can be withheld.
When child support payments are behind by one thousand dollars or more,
child support enforcement agencies are required by federal law to report
this information to credit bureaus.
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