In this two-part series, we explore the biggest concerns facing divorcing couples. In part one, we covered finances and property. In this piece, we explore issues regarding the children.
We will broadly explain how child welfare decisions work in New York and offer suggestions on how you should handle each situation.
Also, we will consider options for avoiding court.
Child Custody and Visitation
When it comes to custody, courts always want what’s in the child’s best interests. They aren’t too concerned with the parents’ wants or needs. After hearing each parent’s plea, it will make its determinations.
Custody and visitation determinations can be very specific. Each parent is given an allotted amount of time with the kids. Normally, there is one custodial parent who has the kids most of the time, and the other gets them on weekends, days off, etc. Parents may negotiate and alter time as necessary, but if they can’t get along, it’s best to rigidly follow court orders.
Courts take visitation seriously. The other parent cannot block this right. The same is true for scheduled phone calls, video chats, and so on.
A parenting agreement can sometimes grant certain authority beyond time with the kids. One parent may have final say on educational matters, while the other handles healthcare concerns. The levels of authority can fluctuate as well. On one matter, parents have an equal, 50% say, while on another, one parent has little to no say.
What You Can Do
Courts do not want to deny parents their rights. On the other hand, they want the kids to grow up in the healthiest environment possible. In court, you should demonstrate your value to the children’s lives. Prove that you are not a “bump on a log” parent. You are actively involved, and that involvement is a great benefit to the kids.
Ultimately, be prepared to agree to whatever is best for the children. If, for example, you will be far from the kids, you should recognize that you will see them less. Take whatever decisions you can gracefully, and always keep your kids’ best interests in mind.
If you have concerns about the other parent’s fitness, believing they are abusive or neglectful, be ready to prepare evidence with your attorney and present it in court.
It is a common misconception that only one parent pays child support. In truth, both parents contribute. Child support is based on the incomes of both parents. The custodial parent uses a portion of their income directly on the kids. To make up the difference, the non-custodial parent makes child support payments.
Child support is not a payment between adults, even though the transaction works that way. It is money to be used strictly on the children. If a parent uses child support on themselves, they could face serious trouble with the courts.
What You Can Do
Always keep in mind that child support is in the best interests of your kids. As long as it is manageable, try to agree to whatever the court has in mind.
It should become a fight only if the payments are unreasonable. Payments are meant to be based on what you can pay, factoring in the money you spent while still married. They should not be a bigger burden than what you spent on the kids before. If the court is asking for wildly disproportionate payments, you and your attorney can renegotiate the amount.
As the parent receiving child support payments, you may need to argue for a more substantial amount. For this, it’s best to keep the matter strictly based on numbers. Demonstrate the need in the home, and show how the amount you’re receiving cannot cover all of the children’s expenses.
Making Decisions on Your Own
Thus far, we’ve discussed only how courts handle these matters. Luckily, you always have the option to negotiate any divorce decisions with your spouse. You can make any agreement you see fit. It is a rare situation, but you could, for instance, agree to abandon spousal support altogether.
If you can work together, do so. Making these decisions by yourselves is always the best move for your family. People working toward everyone’s benefit usually make good decisions.
You can also avoid the legal messiness of strategizing and pleading your case. You can both walk away feeling empowered, knowing that you weren’t forced to do one thing or another.
For extra help, you can attend mediation. In this process, you meet with a neutral legal professional who works for the best interests of both parties. They can help guide you in anything you missed, and they can keep the conversation moving. If negotiations do get heated or blocked, they can help everyone actively listen and respond, keeping things from devolving into a fight.
Family First Legal Group is here to help you with all major divorce concerns. We work hard for our clients, helping them achieve the best outcome in a divorce. Set up a free consultation today by calling (914) 752-5333 or contacting us online.