What can parents do when they share time equally with their children after divorce?

One of the most difficult decisions couples face in the divorce process is determining the type of custody for their child or children. Although there are some unconventional models, the most common is joint legal custody with physical custody primarily with one of the parents (the custodial parent).

“Joint legal custody” means that the parents agree to consult with each other on all major decisions affecting their child or children. This makes sense and gives each parent an opportunity to be involved in the important issues that are part of every child’s life.

When a child is physically with one parent for a majority of the time, that parent is considered the “custodial parent”. The custodial parent provides the primary residence for the child and will generally receive financial support from the “non-custodial parent,” who has specified visiting times.

However, some parents wish to share joint physical custody along with joint legal custody. In this case the parents have their residences reasonably close to each other and so it is possible for each parent to share equal time with their child. In this case, there is no traditional “custodial parent” (though the courts may consider the less monied spouse the presumptive “custodial parent” for the purposes of support calculations). So what do the parents do about child support?

Any divorce with one or more minor children requires the couple to make child support calculations based on New York’s Child Support Standards Act formula. The formula produces a “presumptively correct” amount of child support.

I recommend to some of my clients that they establish a separate, shared child support checking account. I suggest they contribute half of the annual child support on a bi-weekly basis to this account, and that each parent be able to draw from it for the needs of their child or children.

For couples able to work together, this is a reasonable and rational way that provides for each parent to contribute an equal amount of financial support for an equal amount of physical time with their child or children. Like all matters in a separation agreement, it requires a good faith effort on the part of both parents. However, if they are able to cooperate for the welfare of their child or children, this type of provision solves a difficult question regarding child support.

Need help with a child support issue? Contact Jerry Fabiano today.

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gebala/524803905/ children’s day by M@rg, on Flickr Used with Creative Commons license.