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Family Law

History

Historically, marriage was essential to social acceptance.  Some described it as including intimacy, having a well-maintained home and family, a decent job, mutual spousal-aid, child rearing, shared religion, and eventually, the American dream.  The two-parent family became a cultural ideal and the sanctity of marriage was eternal.  However, society’s notion of marriage has changed rapidly.  Sometimes, marriage does not work, and it is not for everyone.  Unfortunately, you only find this out after being married, and you sadly come to the realization that it is time for a divorce. On the left are some common issues that come up when dealing with divorce.

Child Custody

Who gets custody of the children?  Almost 50% of the children born today are born to single parents. Whether you are married or single, the court determines which parent will have custody of the child or children.  In most jurisdictions, the mother will be the physical custodian while the father will have reasonable visitation rights set by the court.  This means that the child will sleep most nights with mom, and the vacations, summers, and holidays will be split between both mom and dad.  This is important because the physical custodian will not usually have the responsibility of paying child support, or at least, will not pay as much as the non-custodial parent.  Either party may file a motion for the court to decide whether or not custody should be changed.  Common factors that a court will consider are: the home environment, the stability of the party or parties, whether the child is in danger, or one parent presents a threat to the child, and the child’s age.  The child’s age is important is because it is unlikely that a court will separate a mother from her child by divesting her as the custodial parent, if the child is between a newborn age-to-11 years old.  Beyond 11 years old, some courts will seek the input of the child or children involved.  This is why it is always important for mom and dad to be amicable and to have a plan in place to keep the courts out of their lives.  You have to remember that a judge does not know one parent more than the other, and the more the legal system is involved, the more likely one party will feel as if the system has been unfair to them.

Child Support

Do I have to pay child support?  Whether an individual has to pay child support depends on a number of factors.  First, the court will take into consideration the salary of both mom and dad.  If one of the parties is not working, under the Uniform Child Support Formula, often times at least $20,000 of income will be imputed to the non-working party.  Generally, it is based upon the average weekly salary that an individual makes over an entire year.  From this calculation, a monthly sum is derived. Daycare expenses, housing expenses, and other educational expenses can all be factored into this equation.

SPOUSAL SUPPORT

Am I entitled to spousal support? Spousal support in every jurisdiction is based upon the length of marriage. It is also based upon other things such as, the need for one particular spouse to have support in the event of loss of income or other extenuating circumstances.  The length of spousal support varies.  Some courts will award spousal support for as short as 6 or 7 months, while others will order spousal support for several years.  It should also be noted that it is important for the parties to agree on whether spousal support will be necessary, and to what degree.

PENSION ACCOUNTS

Am I entitled to my spouse’s pension?  Typically, this depends on the length of the marriage. Usually parties in long-term marriages, which are considered to be ten years or more, may be mutually entitled to the marital portion of one another’s pensions.  In some instances, if the marriage is 15 years or more, the parties shall be entitled to 50% of the marital portion as defined in each particular benefit plan of their respective employers.  This benefit is calculated by using a complex formula to arrive at the proper amount.  There are also other issues relevant to pension accounts, such as an alternate payee’s entitlement to early retirement accounts or the calculation of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, that should be considered.

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