5 child custody and support questions and answers

You and your spouse have decided to break off your marriage. You're both a bit sad about it, but you agree that it's not working out. You want to work together to find the best possible child custody solution. You both also agree that the children have to be the priority.

You've never done this before. You may have a lot of questions about child custody and child support in general or the specifics of your situation. Below are five questions and answers to get you started:

1. How many other children are in this situation?

You're worried that the new living situation may be strange for your kids. While it will be an adjustment, many children live with only one parent. In the United States as a whole, roughly 28.1 percent have parents who live in different residences, while they live with one parent.

2. Do mothers or fathers end up with custody most often?

This is one of your most pressing questions. If you wind up in court, where are the children most likely to land? While it's important to remember that courts tend to favor joint custody and a parenting plan that keeps both parents involved, it's also true that about 18.3 percent of custodial parents are fathers, meaning that a full 81.7 percent are mothers.

3. Is poverty an issue?

Concerns about money are common after a divorce. You have to support yourself on one income, when you may have gotten used to having two incomes -- or perhaps you didn't work at all. Statistics do show that 16.2 percent of fathers with custody are living under the poverty level. Things are even more dire for custodial mothers, who come in at 31.8 percent. This is why it's so important to know what rights you may have to child support payments.

4. So, how common is child support?

The statistics show that parents pay child support in about half of all cases. When looking at parents with custody, slightly under 50 percent have an agreement or a court order saying how much should be paid and when. If you and your spouse are on good terms, you may be able to work together to find a solution that court can then approve. If not, the court can pass down an order after looking at the facts.

5. How often are full payments made?

Unfortunately, much child support is not paid, even when it's owed. In 2010, for example, the parents who had custody only got 62.3 percent of what they should have received.

It's good that you and your spouse are in this together, as this last stat shows how hard it can be for parents who don't cooperate after a split. Working together is beneficial, no matter how you feel. Put the children first, remember your rights, and make sure you know your legal options if things don't go as smoothly as you hope.

Source: Nov. 30, -0001

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