When the family structure falls apart, the children often fall apart too. Children need to know that they are safe and loved, and that they will be fine. Parents need to show their children how to cope with the changed family dynamics. There are many resources available to help both children and adults cope with their changed family structure in an emotionally healthy way. Parents can minimize collateral damage to their children and to each other by participating in various support groups, taking advantage of counselling resources, if necessary, and talking with the children about their fears and concerns. Many courts require that both parents attend a “What About the Children” seminar to help the parents understand the emotional impact to children which occurs when parents put the children in the middle of litigation.
From the perspective of the law, when a family separates, it is necessary to provide for the best interests of the children as to their financial and emotional support. Toward this end, a child support order and parenting plan/residential schedule are entered to provide for the children and promote a healthy relationship between the children and both parents.
Child Support, Parenting Plan, or Prior Court Order
- Child Support – Parents have the duty to support their children. In order to determine the amount of support required of the parents and to complete the Order of Child Support and Worksheets, financial information is required from the parents. Child support is calculated based on the net income of the parents after allowable deductions and other considerations. An experienced family law attorney can advise you as to what factors are used to determine support. A previous child support order can be modified (or adjusted as appropriate) every two years or every twelve months depending upon substantial changes or for various bases. Child support is based on the net income of the child’s parents after allowable deductions. Keep your pay stubs and copies of your annual Federal Income Tax Returns, with all exhibits and attachments, to determine child support or the appropriateness of a modification.
- Parenting Plan – a parenting plan or residential schedule provides the schedule of residential time to be followed by the parents. The courts focus on maintaining stability and the “best interests of the child,” which is perceived as maintaining a consistent parenting plan. The court will consider a modification of a parenting plan if there is a substantial change of circumstances, the parties agree to the modification, or the schedule being followed by the parents is in substantial deviation from the final parenting plan. Talk with an experienced family law attorney to determine if a modification is appropriate in your particular case.
- Prior Court Order – sometimes a court order needs to be modified because of changed circumstances or new facts. Finances could have changed significantly since the previous child support order was entered and it is now necessary to modify child support based on those changed circumstances. Talk with an experienced family law attorney to determine if a modification or adjustment is appropriate in your particular fact pattern.