A custody agreement is a complex, very detailed legal document that outlines both parents’ obligations and rights concerning their children after a divorce. There are different types of custody, and countless possible formats a custody arrangement might take. Some parents may wonder if they must still pay child support in a joint physical custody arrangement in which the parents split their time with the children 50/50.
Logic would dictate that if the parents spend equal time with their children, then neither parent should have to pay child support since they share equal responsibility. Child support generally exists so that a higher-earning parent who divorces a lower-earning parent will still contribute toward the children’s living expenses. While a 50/50 custody agreement may seem like it would preclude child support, this is rarely the case. The most important factors in any child support agreement are the time each parent spends with their children and each parent’s individual income. For more detailed about this, contact an experienced child support attorney in Fort Collins, CO.
Income Models for Child Support Determinations
Each state has unique laws concerning child support, and this includes the income models used to inform custody arrangements. In an income shares model, the court would determine the percentages of each parent’s income toward the total family income. If the family’s annual income is $200,000 and one spouse earns $125,000 per year while the other spouse only earns $75,000 per year, the lower-earning spouse would be responsible for a smaller share of the children’s living expenses.
Ten states and Washington, D.C. use a percentage of income models to determine support payments. In these cases, the court only considers the amount of income the noncustodial parent earns and requires him or her to pay a flat percentage in support to the custodial parent.
Time Spent vs. Support Payments
Courts also take the amount of time the children spend with each parent into account when determining child support payment amounts. The court will usually consider the number of overnights a child has with each parent to determine the level of custody each parent has in the agreement. Rather than requiring a perfectly even split of 182 overnights per year with each parent, courts generally consider “significant” amounts of overnight time as any custody arrangement beyond every other weekend with one parent. For example, a state may uphold that 123 overnights per year are enough to qualify as joint physical custody.
The amount of support a parent pays generally reflects the time he or she spends with his or her children. For example, a parent who only has about 100 overnight visits per year with his children may need to pay 20% of his income in support while a parent who has 180 overnights may only need to pay 10%. Some custody agreements may include payment schedules that fluctuate over the course of a typical year. For example, if one parent only sees the children on weekends during the school year but has them during the weekdays in the summer, that parent may pay more in child support over the school year and less during the time he or she has the children.
Adjusting Your Child Support Agreement
It’s important for co-parents to stay in touch regarding issues with their children as well as important life events that may impact a custody agreement. For example, one parent may receive an offer for an out-of-state job that would require him or her to move. Another example could be a noncustodial parent losing his or her job and being unable to pay required child support payments.
There are many resources available to divorced parents in these situations, and it’s important to speak honestly about these issues with your ex-spouse. If you are concerned about your obligations under your custody agreement or believe your agreement requires an adjustment, speak with a Fort Collins divorce attorney about your concerns.