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Child custody and support

When a couple is divorcing, one of the biggest issues inevitably becomes the children born from the marriage. Parents can seek legal custody, physical custody, or both. Legal custody is the right of a parent to make decisions on behalf of the child, including medical care and education. If joint legal custody is awarded, both parents share an equal right in the legal decisions relating to the child or children. Physical custody is the right of one or both parents to have the child in their care. Sole custody can be awarded to one parent if the other has been deemed unfit to care for the child. In most cases, joint physical custody will be ordered.

Most of the time, it is left to the parents to create a schedule for when the child will be with each parent. If the custodial parent wishes to move, the noncustodial parent must be informed and approve. Parenting agreements can be very helpful in settling what happens to the child after the divorce is final. It provides parents with a written document concerning any issues that may arise in the child's life and how to deal with them in a manner that both parents find satisfactory. It also provides proof of agreement should one parent go against the parenting plan.

Child support exists to provide the child of a divorce a standard of living similar to the one they had while their parents were married. Parents are legally responsible for the financial support of their children, whether they are married or not. That means typically, the noncustodial parent pays the child support. The amount of money paid is based on the financial resources of each parent, how often the child sees the noncustodial parent, and expenses associated with medical care or day care.

Child support payments end when the child reaches 18, becomes legally emancipated from their parents, or enters active duty in the military. If the child enrolls in college, the support payments extend until the child turns 21, provided that they meet certain requirements. These requirements include full-time enrollment except for summer semester, proof of enrollment to noncustodial parent, sufficient grades, and proof of grades to noncustodial parent upon request. If any of these requirements are not met, child support payments will be terminated. If the financial situation of either parent changes significantly, there can be an order for child support modification.


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