Understanding Child Custody Laws Following a Divorce

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Divorce is a difficult time for everyone involved. It can often be a time of bitterness, hurt, and disappointment. If you have children, it can feel like an extra layer on top of all that. The last thing you want to have to deal with is complicated bureaucracy relating to the custody of your children.

There are services in place that help to mediate some of the potentially complicated sides of divorce custody. One such example is child support enforcement. However, making use of these services relies on your understanding of them. 

In this post we’ll walk you through some of the terms you’re going to need to learn when navigating child custody laws. It’s approximated that over 23 million American children live in single-parent homes. You aren’t alone in your situation, and there is an abundance of professional help available. 

The Two Kinds of Custody

Unlike what most television shows will tell you, custody isn’t a black and white circumstance of ‘who gets the kids’. A lot of thought and due process goes into the drawing up of custody rights. Though there are many iterations of what custody can look like, there are two main archetypes that stand out: joint and sole. 

Joint Custody

As its name may suggest, joint custody is when the court awards custody to both parents. This is generally the preferred route most courts want to take. It’s important, in most instances, that children maintain a relationship with both parents following a divorce. Joint custody allows for this. 

What you may not know about joint custody is that it is not always a fifty-fifty split. How much time each parent is allocated with their children is reliant on a number of factors individual to each case. Following the evaluation of these factors, the court will usually draw up a specific schedule. These can include alternating weeks or months and may include specific information on holiday periods. 

Sole Custody

With sole custody agreements, the child(ren) remain permanently with the designated custodial parent. The parent that isn’t granted custody is often granted visitation rights on a specific schedule, provided that they aren’t considered a threat to the child’s wellbeing. 

To some, this may seem like the worst-case scenario, however there are distinct benefits to sole custody. Logistically speaking, it places the children in a stable position as it means they have a permanent residence. In most instances they can still see both parents, they just won’t live with one of them. 

Having said that, the agreement is less equal by definition than joint custody. Visitation can also sometimes feel more like playtime than an opportunity to form or maintain meaningful bonds. This, of course, all varies depending on individual circumstance. Your legal team can assist you with understanding which custody would be most appropriate for your situation. 

Understanding Child Support

In the event of sole custody being granted, the non-custodial parent is often required to pay child support. The amount required will depend on varying factors, such as:

  • Childcare expenses, such as health insurance, day-care, and education fees
  • The standard of living the child(ren) were accustomed to prior to divorce
  • The amount of money the non-custodial parent earns annually

The amount of child support to be paid is usually agreed upon as a percentage of the non-custodial parents’ income, as opposed to a set amount. The rules and guidelines surrounding child support varies between states, with some adhering to a stricter regime while others demonstrate leniency. 

Support is Available

Divorce is a challenging time in anyone’s life, especially when children are involved. Both legal and emotional support is available should you seek it. 

The best preparation you can make is to stay informed and remember that you haven’t failed in any way by getting a divorce. Millions of families have experienced this process and even flourished afterwards. There’s nothing to say you won’t experience the same. 



About Michelle Joe: Michelle Joe is a blogger by choice. She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences, and express herself through her blogs. You can find her on twitter: @michellejoe524

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