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FAQ

Can I date during the proceeding?
There is no legal prohibition against dating while a family law matter is pending. However, from a practical point of view, brining in a new relationship can create anger and resentment with your spouse making negotiations and settlement much more difficult. In addition, exposing children to new relationships too quickly can confuse and upset them. For these reasons, we that if a client decides to date they do so discreetly and in no way expose the children to the relationship.

Does it matter who files first?
It does not typically matter who files (or who is the Petitioner) in a family law matter. There is not a significant advantage. If a case goes to trial the Petitioner gets to present their evidence first.

What is joint custody?
Many people are under the misconception that joint custody means that you will each have the children half of the time. However, the term “custody” is used to determine how decisions impacting children will be made. Those parents who share joint custody share decision making and must confer and make joint decisions regarding major decisions for their children. Major decisions generally include those surrounding religious, educational and health care issues. The legal terms used to address how much time each parent has with the children is referred to as “time share” and even parents who reside out of state and only see their children occasionally can share joint custody.

When is support alimony or spousal support appropriate?
Support alimony is difficult to determine until specific information is known about each client. Legally, support alimony is awarded for long term marriages and is based on the recipients need and the payor’s ability to pay.

How is child support calculated?
Child Support is a formula set by statute and the key is to determine the appropriate figures to plug into the formula. The figures to determine are: 1) the gross monthly income for each parent; 2) the cost of the health insurance premium for the children; 3) the cost of work related day care; and 4) the number of overnights each parent has the children. Once these numbers are determined, they are plugged into the formula and the child support is computed.

What is the Process for Establishing Paternity?
Paternity is a legal definition which is used to determine who a child’s father is when the mother and father are not married. Establishing paternity is important for unmarried couples in the event that their relationship does not continue and a parent seeks custody or child support and for inheritance purposes. Paternity can be established voluntarily when the parents are certain of the father’s identity. In such cases, the mother and father may sign a legal form called a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity and file the form with the court or appropriate state agency. Executing this voluntary acknowledgment may be done in the hospital following the child’s birth or any time thereafter. The father’s name is then included on the child’s birth certificate. Even if a voluntary acknowledgment is not completed, soon after the child’s birth, the parties may later enter into an agreement with the assistance of their attorneys that establishes the father’s identity and resolves custody and support issues. If neither of these voluntary procedures is an option, legal action may be necessary. A mother or father may file a paternity action to establish who the father is through a court action. If paternity is established in this manner, the court will enter an order regarding the father’s paternity and child support, custody and time share for each parent will be ordered. Once paternity has been established, the child obtains many legal rights beyond child support. For example, the child can inherit from his or her father, is eligible for health insurance coverage under the father’s group policy, is entitled to social security benefits if the father dies or becomes disabled, may be entitled to wrongful death benefits if the father dies as a result of someone else’s negligence and can obtain medical history information as a result of establishing paternity.

Who is Required to Pay Child Support?
Each parent has a duty to support his or her child. It does not matter if the parents are separated, divorced or were never married. A parent’s duty to his or her child is not dependent on his or her relationship to the other parent. Child support is for the sole benefit of the child, not the parent the child lives with. Each jurisdiction has guidelines for the amount of child support that must be paid. Generally, the guidelines are based on the incomes of both parents. A judge determines the amount of child support that should be paid by each parent for each child and may deviate from the guidelines. The court weighs factors such as the needs of the child and the statutory guidelines when making the child support determination.

In the case of unmarried parents, the father must honor his child support obligations once paternity has been established. Child support payments may also be retroactive. If a father is not aware of the child for a period of time, he may be required to pay back support to the time of the child’s birth.

Adoptive parents have the same duties as biological parents in regards to child support obligations. Additionally, incarcerated parents continue to have child support obligations as well. However, incarcerated parents may have a valid claim for modification of child support payments due to their circumstances. Incarceration may also be a basis for the termination of parental rights, in some situations. Likewise, the legal obligation to pay child support is terminated if a parent gives up his or her parental rights. This may be done voluntarily, by court order or due to adoption by another individual (creating a new parental relationship).

Do I have to pay child support if my ex keeps me away from my kids?
A parent must continue to fulfill his or her legal duty to support his or her child even if the other parent has violated the visitation order. The duty to pay child support is separate from other parental duties or duties to the other parent, such as alimony or palimony. If one parent interferes with visitation, some courts may modify child support obligations until visitation is reinstated. However, this depends on the jurisdiction and the court. Legally, a court does not have to modify child support payments due to one parent’s interference with the other’s visitation rights. Visitation is for the benefit of the child, not to punish a parent for violating a court order and his or her parental responsibilities.

How long must parents support their children?
Generally, child support payments end when the child reaches the age of majority (usually age eighteen or nineteen), dies, gets married or becomes emancipated. However, there are some circumstances where the court may order post minority child support payments. One circumstance may be if the child has a mental or physical disability and is not able to support himself or herself. Another reason may be for educational purposes, such as higher education. Additionally, parents may agree, without a court order, to provide child support after their child reaches the age of majority.