Whether you and your child’s other parent are divorced or were never married, co-parenting can be difficult. Having two separate households navigate schedules and communicate to raise a child is often complicated. Therefore, it can be helpful to get the law involved.
Although some people create custody agreements themselves, it is highly beneficial to go through the court system. In doing so, your custody agreement becomes legally binding. This allows the state to act on your behalf if the child’s other parent does not meet their portion of the responsibilities. It also ensures that the time the child spends with each parent is fair and that the child is safe and always supported.
Many people are intimidated by the idea of going through an official child custody case. They often feel overwhelmed by the process or that they do not understand their options. Our firm is passionate about providing reliable legal information. This can allow families and co-parents to make empowered decisions about their children.
Legal vs. Physical Custody
The law separates custody into two categories: legal and physical. Legal custody involves making major healthcare or lifestyle decisions for the child until they are old enough to do so for themselves.
Physical custody is what most people think of when they consider child custody. Physical custody describes the amount of time a parent spends:
- Caring for the child
- Providing shelter and food
- Overseeing basic hygiene
- Offering some level of emotional support
It is common for a parent to have both legal and physical custody of their child. However, it is possible to have one without the other. For example, a parent may have a small amount of custody without being able to make major medical decisions on behalf of the child.
Physical Custody Agreements
There are many ways to organize your custody agreement with your child’s other parent. However, there is a basic outline that the court will give you. This is based on how much time each parent should spend with the child. The court’s top priority is the health and safety of the child.
Potential physical custody arrangements may include:
- Shared Custody: Both parents share equal amounts of time caring for the child.
- Partial Custody: One parent spends most of the time caring for the child, but the other parent has a regular minority portion of custody.
- Visitation: One parent has nearly all the custody rights, but the other parent has the legal right to see their child for a certain number of hours per month.
- Sole Custody: One parent has total custody over the child. The other parent does not have the right to see or spend time with their child except at the discretion of the custodial parent.
Within these categories, you and your co-parent can decide what schedule works right for you. For example, some families that share custody have the child spend three days at one house and four at another. Others do one week at one home and one week at another.
Child Custody and Child Support
The court requires that both parents contribute an equal percentage of their income to their child’s upbringing. This can be done through custody, child support, or both.
Child support is often required when one parent has most of the custody. To make sure their contribution is equitable, they pay the custodial parent a monthly sum to help fund the child’s upbringing.
In some situations, parents may have equal custody but still have child support agreements. This occurs when one parent makes significantly more income than the other. To make their contribution an equal portion of their income, they may be forced to take on a higher financial responsibility than the other parent.
Q: Do I Need a Lawyer to Get Custody?
A: It is important to have legal representation if you are fighting for custody. During your case, your co-parent’s attorney may attempt to make you look like an unfit parent so that their client gets full or majority custody. This may also result in you having to pay child support. When you have an attorney, you can refute these claims and protect your right to custody.
Q: How Much Does a Child Custody Lawyer Cost?
A: Many attorneys charge hourly for their services, and their hourly rate depends upon their experience. The average range is between $225 and $325 per hour. To ensure that you can afford your attorney’s fees, discuss salary expectations with them when you have your consultation. This will help you find an attorney within your price range and budget accordingly.
If you find that you cannot afford your attorney during court proceedings, it could hurt your case.
Q: What If My Co-Parent Doesn’t Follow the Custody Agreement?
A: If you made your agreement on your own without legal help, there is little that can be done if your child’s other parent begins to break your custody agreement. However, if you go through the court system to determine child custody, you can take legal action to get your co-parent to comply with your custody terms. This is one reason it is safer to create a custody agreement through the court system than it is to do so alone.
Q: Can I Change My Custody Agreement?
A: The court understands and accounts for the fact that families grow and change. If your circumstances have changed, and you believe that your child custody agreement should be updated, you can seek a modification through the court system. When you make changes through the court, the updates are enforceable. Simultaneously, it can protect you from penalties for not following the original agreement.
Contact Stange Law Firm in Topeka, KS
Our team at Stange Law Firm understands how difficult child custody agreements can be for children and parents alike. Because of this, we offer great care and consideration to all our child custody clients. You can trust us with your family and your family’s future.
To schedule a consultation with us to begin the process, contact Stange Law Firm.