Many people are currently raising their children in a joint custody agreement, meaning they share custody responsibilities with the other parent whom they are not in a spousal relationship with. Joint custody is one of the most used legal avenues for ensuring both proper care for the child and adequate time spent with both parents. In joint custody, both parents share all responsibilities and time regarding parenting. Although this solution to custody battles seems simple and straightforward, it can be complicated by financial responsibilities to your child legally enforced by the court.
Types of Joint Custody
There are different variants of joint custody arrangements that can be considered depending on a family’s specific situation and needs. Joint custody is not always as simple as passing a child back and forth between parents on a predetermined schedule. Here are some of the ways joint custody arrangements are settled:
- Joint physical and legal custody: This is the most common form of joint custody in which both parents share decision making responsibilities regarding the child’s welfare, and the child spends predetermined portions of time physically living with each parent.
- Joint legal custody: In this situation, both parents share in the responsibility of making decisions about their child’s life (medical decisions, schooling, etc.), but the child lives exclusively with one parent. The other parent will usually receive visitation rights, but the child will not have a residence with them.
- Joint physical custody: This is one of the less common versions of joint custody in which one parent is granted all rights to decisions regarding the child’s wellbeing, but both parents share time with the child and maintain a residence for the child.
Is Child Support Still Mandated in a Joint Custody Agreement?
Child support payments are still frequently mandated in joint custody agreements, and joint custody being granted does not abrogate your child support obligations as determined by a court of law. However, the amount of child support mandated by the court varies depending on the specific custody arrangement in question.
For example, if the custody arrangement determines that one parent has sole physical custody of the child or children in question, then it is typical for the other parent to be responsible for paying child support. The money is intended to help the parent that has physical custody provide necessities such as food and shelter for the child, since the parent that does not retain physical custody would not be obligated to provide financially for these things otherwise.
Shared physical custody muddies the waters of formal financial responsibility because both parents are providing necessities for the child. The purpose of child support is to ensure that the same standard of living as having both parents in one household is met for the child. There are two different methods used to determine child support payments in joint custody cases:
- The Income Shares Model: This takes the combined monthly income of both parents and how many children they have to determine how much child support is necessary. Once a conclusion is reached regarding how much support is necessary for the child, the court divides the amount between the parents based on how much they contribute to the net monthly income. The parent who contributes more will pay more in child support, and vice versa.
- The Percentage of Income Model: This method of determining child support payments uses a percentage of each parent’s monthly income, which can be dependent on how many children they have. Some states use a flat rate across all income levels, and other states vary depending on income.
Factors That Impact Child Support Arrangements
Raising a child is not something that happens in a predictable fashion. As your child or children age, what worked for them or what was implemented with their best interests in mind may no longer apply. In these cases, custody orders may need to be revised to better suit the most pertinent needs of the child in question. For example, moving to a new school district, a change in the child’s physical or mental health, violation of an existing custody order, the preference of the child, or a change in a parent’s work requirements may necessitate a modification of the existing custody order.
In these situations, the existing child support order usually needs to be amended as well. If the new custody order increases the amount of time the child spends with one parent, the other parent may be required to assist more through child support payments. Child support payments may also need to be amended if a parent loses their job or gets a job with a higher salary. If the child become involved in expensive extracurriculars or begins attending a private school, this may also impact the existing child support arrangement.
Can I Lose Custody for Failure to Pay Child Support?
While child custody agreements are legally binding, they are not set in stone as people’s lives change frequently. Your ability to meet the financial requirements laid out in your custody agreement may change, and if you fail to pay rather than seek modifications to the agreement, you may face penalties.
If you can pay your child support but willfully and intentionally avoid doing so, you could be facing a criminal contempt case, which includes incarceration of up to 180 days if you’re convicted. The parent meant to receive the support can also pursue a civil case against you, and they must only prove that there is an existing child support order that is not being paid. The government can garnish your wages and seize your tax returns to meet your child support requirements. In the state of Florida, failure to pay child support can even result in suspension of your driver’s license.
Despite these strict rules, you cannot technically lose custody of your child solely because you fail to pay your child support payments. Custody is based on what relationship with the parent is in the best interests of the child and the child’s wellbeing. However, failure to pay child support may be used against you in later custody cases when the court analyzes your ability to act in the best interest of your child.
Contact an Attorney Today
It is an emotional and complicated process to navigate custody cases, but talented and expert legal aid can help make it easier. At the Law Office of Russel S. Hershkowitz, LLC, we pride ourselves on providing empathetic and direct legal representation for those who need it. With more than 25 years in the business, Attorney Hershkowitz will explain the details of your case in a way that makes sense to you and ensure that your needs are being met. Contact us today at (407) 753-4111 or via our contact page.