If you need to see a lawyer for a divorce or to fight for custody of your children, it is likely an exceptionally stressful time in your life. You may feel as though you are on an emotional rollercoaster. There are so many important decisions to be make that will impact your future and the future of your children.
When you and your spouse agree to divorce, the most simple and cost effective route is to pursue an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce couples agree to the division of their assets and debt without the help of the courts. You work out an agreed upon plan for child custody and child support. There is no reason to justify a contested divorce if you and your spouse agree to all issues involved in the termination of your marriage.
When married parents divorce or separate, or when only one of the unmarried parents of a child has custody, the court may order the non-custodial parent, or the one with whom the child does not live, to pay a certain portion of his or her income as child support. Less frequently, when neither parent has custody, the court may order them to pay child support to a third party who cares for their child. When the child is in the custody of both parents, however, and the parents are providing a reasonable level of support, the law usually does not interfere with or regulate the amount of financial support provided.
Because in the United States nearly half of all marriages end in divorce and almost one-fourth of all children are born to unmarried parents, the regulation of child support is an important social issue. Whereas once the arrangement for and payment of child support was left to the parents, now state child support enforcement agencies are taking an aggressive role in seeking payments from non-custodial parents. Frequently, the agency and court will work together to implement a child support withholding order, by which the child support amount is automatically taken from the payer´s paycheck. If the child support payments become delinquent, the agency can implement other collection mechanisms, such as withholding support amounts from tax refunds, or seizing real estate or personal property.
When parents divorce, the divorce decree will specify with whom the children will live, and how often and under what circumstances the other parent will visit with the children. Often, parents work out these arrangements between themselves, either completely voluntarily or with the assistance of their attorneys or a mediator. When they are unable to reach a decision, however, or when unmarried parents are unable to agree on who will have custody of their child, the court may intervene and make a decision based on the child´s best interests.
In most situations, physical custody is awarded to one parent with whom the child will live most of the time. Often, however, the custodial parent shares "legal custody" of the child with the non-custodial parent. "Legal custody" includes the right to make decisions about the child´s education, religion, health care, and other important concerns. When one parent is awarded sole physical custody, the other parent is granted visitation, either according to a clear schedule of dates and times, or simply on a "reasonable" basis.