Family Law Blog

How much will the non-custodial parent expect to pay in child support

Among the many considerations involved during divorce is the question of how much child support will be paid each month by the non-custodial parent. There are legal guidelines in each state that will determine how much the non-custodial parent can expect to pay to the custodial parent. The custodial parent is responsible for the day to day aspects of taking care of the child. The amount of child support determined to be paid by the family law court is based on the incomes of the parents, needs of the children and living expenses involved. Child support will usually be determined as a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income. The payment will increase based on the amount of children that need to be supported. There are special instances where more child support will need to be paid after a thorough review by the family law judge of all assets involved.

Being that the determination of the amount of child support to be paid is based on income, it is necessary for the parties to figure out what can be considered income under the law and what income is excluded.

Of course, many parents decide to refuse to pay child support. Consequences for not paying include:

  • Wage Garnishment – The non payee’s employer is ordered to garnish income in order to pay back child support. The money comes directly out of your paycheck.
  • License Revocation – The non payee’s license may be revoked.
  • Credit Reports – States have the option to report missed payments to consumer reporting agencies.

The laws are in place to determine an appropriate amount of income to be paid based on the income of both parties. It is essential to retain the services of a family law attorney to make sure that you are not paying more than you can or afford and end up getting behind on payments. Likewise, the custodial parent will want to make sure they have enough to take care of the children.

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Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce occurs when the couple agree to and have reached agreement on most or all matters of dispute, such as division of property, child custody visitation etc. Reaching such agreements out of family law court can save a significant amount of money as well as avoid the stress of a contested divorce. Lawyers are not required in order to reach an uncontested divorce, but it’s always a good idea to consult a lawyer to make sure you are not overlooking anything that could be regretted down the road. In many instances couples may choose to talk to separate lawyers even when they believe they agree on everything.

When children are involved in the uncontested divorce the case may often be referred to the applicable family law court for interviews and recommendations in regards to child custody. These interviews determine which parent receives custody, the type of custody and the amount of child support to be paid by the non-custodial parent. If an objection occurs then the case now becomes contested.

Many couple who pursue an uncontested divorce choose to draft their own divorce agreement and hire a family law attorney to look over it. It should be noted that many attorneys will be reluctant or even refuse to sign off on an agreement that they didn’t draft themselves.

Even if both couples feel they agree on everything it is generally a good idea for them to retain separate counsel. This will ensure that his or her best interests are looked after. A divorce agreement is legally binding and it is a good idea to consider everything before you agree to it.

If any party challenges any part of the divorce then it becomes a contested divorce. Some states do not allow uncontested divorce and additional paperwork will need to be completed.

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Marriage Counseling

Before following through with a divorce and all the costs associated with family law court not to mention the emotional strain, you may want to consider marriage counseling. Divorce can be one of life’s most stressful events for adults as well as the children involved. Children can experience emotional distress for many years to come. 50% of first time marriages in the United States end in divorce. This statistic has remained constant for the last 30 years.

Marriage counselors help couples work on their problems and come to mutually beneficial solutions. Divorce may be the best solution for many couples but counselor can address many stressful issues including:

Affairs – Affairs are the cause of many divorces and recovering from an affair is not easy and it takes a lot of commitment and forgiveness. If both couples are on board in the therapy process they may be able to eventually salvage the marriage and avoid divorce.

Negativity – Many couples after being married for many years develop a habit of negatively talking to their spouse leaving them feeling depressed, unloved and withdrawn.
Can’t resolve differences – If a couple can’t resolve their differences even when they know they exist then that is the time to get a third party involved in order to offer an objective viewpoint.

Alcoholism or drug abuse – When on spouse has a problem with alcohol or drugs it can leave the other feeling alienated and ignored. A counselor can help resolve the emotional distress that has been caused as well as refer the person with the substance abuse problem for additional help.

Finances – Differences over the finances can be the single biggest problem in many marriages. A counselor can come up with a plan to address these differences.

It may be that the marriage is beyond repair, but for many couples counseling may guide them and remind them why they loved each other in the first place.

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When to choose legal separation over divorce

If you are uncertain whether you want to get a divorce, but feel that you can no longer live with your spouse then you may want to consider legal separation. During a legal separation you will still have to negotiate issues such as child custody, spousal support, visitation and division of property. Unlike divorce, you will still be legally married after the process. You will still have to go to family law court to reach a settlement.

Reasons to consider separation include:

Religious considerations – Many couples oppose divorce for religious or moral reasons. Many religions frown on divorce and couples may choose to skirt the issue by getting a legal separation instead of divorce enabling them to live separately while remaining legally married. If, down the road, you choose to re-marry you will have to go through with the divorce.

Expenses – One point that cannot be underestimated is cost. Getting a divorce can be a very expensive process with the legal fees involved.

Benefits – Couples may choose separation in order to retain government benefits as well as tax benefits. If you choose to stay married for government benefits, make sure to read the fine print in order to ensure that you are complying with all applicable laws.

Reconciliation – Many couples believe that there is a chance they may come together again after getting some distance from each other.

Stress – Some couples may find it less stressful to negotiate a separation agreement as opposed to a divorce agreement.

A family law attorney can give you the pros and cons of separation vs. divorce in more detail. Make sure to consider consulting with your accountant and financial advisor to get an idea of the legal ramifications.

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Symptoms of child abuse after divorce and family law legal recourse

After a divorce, if you suspect your ex-spouse of abusing the children whether verbally, physically or sexually there are tell tale signs to look out for. This can often be a touchy subject and many parents may choose to turn a blind eye to events they may suspect or know to taking place. It is often not clear whether the issue is a family law or criminal matter. This article will attempt to first describe the symptoms that children may be exhibiting as the victims of abuse, and second, offer suggestions on legal recourse, whether it takes place in the setting of a family law court or is a criminal matter. Divorce is already and extremely traumatic time for the children involved, if abuse is also in the equation the children may have lasting psychological trauma that could impact them for their whole life.

Symptoms of child abuse include:

  • Changes in behavior – The child may start to underperform at school or exhibit negative emotions, such as anger, hyperactivity or hostility
  • Depression or loss of self confidence
  • Withdrawal from family friends or activities in which they usually have been involved
  • Reluctance to go home from school or sports activities
  • Suicide attempts
  • Rebellious behavior such as running way

One step you can take before consulting a family law attorney is to call a child abuse hotline. Such hotlines allow you to remain anonymous and you will be given advice on whether an investigation should take place. Many parents have concerns that the children may be taken away from the custodial parent, but these hotlines are completely confidential. If the abuse concerns don’t rise to the level of investigation then counseling for the child may be advised.

Another recommended activity is to keep a journal in order to record children’s behavior and comments. This journal may come in handy in the parent ends up in family law court.

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The difference between annulment and divorce

In family law, annulment and divorce are both legal ways to dissolve a marriage. Annulment differs from divorce in that it treats the marriage as it if it never happened effectively making the marriage contract null and void. People may choose an annulment for many reasons, the most common being religious concerns. Getting an annulment instead of a divorce in the family court may make it easier to remarry in the church. Divorce is forbidden in the Catholic Church. So, one may need to get a religious annulment in order to remarry in the church even after getting an annulment in the family law court.

Obtaining an annulment can often a difficult and lengthy process. Expert witness testimony may be needed and can be very expensive in order to prove the reasons for divorce.

Most annulments occur with marriages of a very short duration of a few weeks or months. Usually this means that there are no children, debts or assets. If the marriage was long term most states have provisions in which to divide assets and debts and determining custody and alimony. Children coming from annulled marriages are not considered illegitimate.

Grounds for annulment include:

  • The marriage was entered under distress or coercion
  • Either part was underage and/or lacked consent
  • Either party lacked mental capacity to enter into the marriage
  • Either party concealed a key piece of information such as an addiction to drugs or previous felony
  • Marriage was never consummated whether by impotence or refusal
  • A misunderstanding prior to marriage such as on party wants children while the other does not
  • Either party was under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Material fraud or misrepresentation

Laws vary from state to state, but generally you should be able to obtain an annulment rather than a divorce if you can prove one of the reasons listed above. Consultation with an experienced and competent family law attorney is always recommended.

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Parental Alienation Syndrome

One subject not often talked about in family law, are the psychological effects occurring after divorce to not just the children but the parents. Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a collection of behaviors in which one parent deliberately influences and manipulates the children into turning against the other parent. This process may develop slowly over time and eventually this may lead to severe distress in the children and is considered a form of child abuse. Divorced ex-spouses may do this as a form of revenge after a nasty divorce. Some things to look for in event you suspect your ex-spouse of this disorder:

Putting down the other parent – The parent with PAS may berate or put down the other parent in the presence of the children. This is done in an attempt to invalidate the children’s views about their parent. A conflict is created within the child’s mind between what he/she know to be true and what the controlling parent is saying. This often can lead to psychological issues down the road for the child and may be considered a form of child abuse.

Refusing to be in contact with the other parent – The parent with PAS may tell their children that they can’t be around other parent for a number of reasons. One reason may be that they falsely accuse the ex-spouse of always being angry. These types of accusations may cause the child to develop unfounded feelings of resentment towards the other parent.

Limiting or blocking visitation of the children – The custodial parent may attempt to limit or block the visitation of the non-custodial parent. This causes great distress not only for the non-custodial parent, but for the children as well.

Accusations of abuse – The offending parent may go so far as to falsely accuse the other parent of sexual, physical or emotional abuse. This can be greatly damaging to the other parent and recourse is often difficult as the children may have been manipulated from a young age and may start believing these accusations.

This is often one the most subtle and vexing issues to come up in family law because of the subtle nature involved with the nature of PAS. Children not only suffer because of the separation of the parents during divorce, but suffer many years afterwards because of the inner turmoil created in having to choose between one parents.

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Domestic Partnership Pitfalls

When it comes to benefits of partnership, domestic partners have some specific challenges as opposed to traditional married couples. A domestic partnership is the most basic level relationship and isn’t recognized legally and as a consequence doesn’t offer the benefits that both civil unions and marriage offer. Rules vary in regards to domestic partnership depending on where the couple reside. While some jurisdictions will confer some legal protections, it falls far short of the benefits offered in marriage. Depending on locale, some of the benefits that aren’t covered under a domestic partnership include:

  • Joint government benefits
  • Visitation rights at hospitals
  • Inheritance of property
  • Child custody complications

In order to receive the benefits that are available depending on the jurisdiction a couple should file a “Declaration of Domestic Partnership” at their local county court. Domestic partnerships in jurisdictions where they are recognized are defined and regulated by statutes and not judicial decisions. Couples in common law marriages or traditional marriage are automatically protected when it comes to property and other issues. As a result many jurisdictions have instituted special protections for domestic partners.

With laws varying to such a great degree regarding domestic partnership, it is a good a idea to consult a local family law attorney who knows the laws where the couple reside.

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Common Mistakes During Divorce

Getting a divorce is one of the most difficult decisions many people have to make in their lives. Whether the divorce is contentious or amicable there are still pitfalls and challenges that may arise during the process of divorce. A family law attorney will help you navigate through and avoid these common mistakes. In any case, here are a few common mistakes that need to be considered.

  • Not consulting a family law attorney: Many couples believe that they can agree to terms and dissolve the marriage without the help of an attorney. The truth is this can lead to unforeseen consequences that will impact you financially and emotionally. Divorce attorneys are trained to know the complicated structure of the law inside and out.
  • Not considering the children’s best interest: Many couples put their children in the middle of the conflict and don’t consider the tremendous emotional burden this imparts. Your children should come first and every effort should be made to minimize the trauma that they will inevitably be going through.
  • Making short term decisions: Many people going through a divorce will make concessions in the short-term that they may come to regret down the road. People may do this in order to make the process of divorce as quick and stress free as possible. It is important to stay resolved and to make sure to make rational decisions when it comes to child support, division of assets and other issues that may arise.

In conclusion, the guidance of an experienced attorney from the beginning of this process will help to relieve stress and will make the best possible outcome possible.

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Changing Your Name After Marriage

Times have changed and traditions have come and gone, but one tradition remains that is still very common. That’s the tradition of the bride changing her surname to her spouses after marriage. After receiving your marriage certificate from the registrar you may begin the process of changing your name. Most states will send you a copy of the marriage certificate after it has been processed, but in some states it may necessary to request a copy.

After receiving your certificate the first, and most important step, is to change your name with the Social Security Administration. This process is fairly easy. To download the form and get instructions on the process visit this page: ssa.gov/online/ss-5.html . Or, you can simply pick up the form at your local office. After filling out the form you can mail it in or take it in person to your local office. After submitting your forms you should receive your new Social Security card. Completing this process with the Social Security Administration will automatically update your information with the Internal Revenue Service.

The next step is to update your information in person at the DMV. You will need to bring your new Social Security card, marriage certificate, proof of address if you moved and finally your old license.

Remaining entities that will need to be notified of your name change are:

  • Employer
  • Bank
  • Passport
  • Credit Card Companies
  • Car Registration
  • Car Insurance
  • Any Investment Accounts

For other legal implications you may need to consult an experienced family law attorney.

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