There are two specific types of custody that are dealt with in a family law matter. The first is referred to as "legal" custody. Legal custody relates to the major decision-making with regard to the children of the relationship. This would include major decisions regarding the children's education, healthcare, religion, and extended periods of time away from the family home. The second is referred to as "physical" or "residential" custody. This determines which party the children will reside with on a primary and secondary basis. The primary custodial parent is referred to as the parent of primary residence. The other parent is referred to as the parent of alternate residence.
When determining issues involving legal custody and physical/residential custody, the Court applies the best interest evaluation. The Court considers all of the relevant facts in the case in an effort to further the best interest of the children.
Parenting time, also known as visitation, involves crafting a schedule where each parent would enjoy time with his or her children. There are many different aspects of parenting time which must be addressed in each and every case. These include regular parenting time, special occasion parenting time, holiday parenting time, and vacation parenting time. Regular parenting time refers to a schedule where the parents of a child may spend time with the child on a week-to-week basis. Special occasion parenting time refers to time spent with a child on each parent's birthday, on the child's birthday, and on Mother's Day and Father's Day. Holiday parenting time involves the division of parenting time with the child during holiday periods.
When establishing custody schemes and parenting time schedules, it is important to take into consideration not only the immediate circumstances facing the parties, but also to consider the future circumstances affecting both the children and the parents.
In child support situations, every parent of a child has a duty to contribute to the care, support, maintenance, and education of that child. The amount and duration of this support obligation depends upon the specific and unique facts of each case.
Child support is the continuous duty of both parents, that the children are entitled to share in the current income of both parents, and that the children should never be the economic victims of divorce or out-of-wedlock birth. In most cases, the Court use specific child support guidelines with relevant economic information to assist in the establishment and modification of fair and adequate child support awards.
While these child support guidelines are used as a reputable presumption to establish and modify all child support orders, the Court may deviate from these guidelines if the Court believes that the guidelines are inappropriate in a specific case.
In determining whether or not to enter an award of alimony, spousal support, or separate maintenance, the Court consider numerous factors. In all actions brought for divorce, dissolution of a civil union, legal separation from a partner in a civil union, or an action for nullity, the Court may award one or more of the following types of alimony to either party: permanent alimony, rehabilitative alimony, limited duration alimony, or reimbursement alimony. The Court weighs and considers the following factors:
· the actual need and ability of the parties to pay;
· the duration of the marriage or civil union;
· the age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
· the standard of living established in the marriage or civil union and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living;
· the earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;
· the length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance;
· the parental responsibilities for the children;
· the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, the availability of the training and employment, and the opportunity for future acquisitions of capital assets and income;
· the history of the financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage or civil union by each party, including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities;
· the equitable distribution of property ordered and any payouts on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration is reasonable, just, and fair;
· the income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party;
· the tax treatment and consequences to both parties of an alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a non-taxable payment; and
· any other factors which the Court may deem relevant.
The specific type, or types, and the amount of alimony, spousal support, or separate maintenance actually ordered is determined after the Court undertakes an analysis of all the foregoing factors and considers the equities of the situation. Unlike the establishment of a child support award, there are no presumptive guidelines which establish or predicate an alimony award.
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