Can a Parent Have Joint Custody and Still Pay Child Support?

By  //  October 27, 2022

There is a lot of complexity that comes with divorce or separation. Who gets the car, the houses, the lands, and other properties can be an issue. However, as vital as some of these questions are, the most important one is: Who will look after the children?

“During divorce or separation, children tend to suffer more when the issue of child custody and support comes up. Thus, these parents need to create a child custody plan and support that is conducive to the well-being of their children,” says family law attorney Charles W. Wheland III.

Taking Child Custody Disputes to Court

Without consulting a lawyer or going to court, most separated or divorced parents may agree on child custody. While this is admirable, it is advisable to file the agreement with a preferred custody lawyer near you in a court that would have authority over the situation. It is vital in a case whereby the relationship between both parents worsens in the future.

Furthermore, when parents disagree on custody or visitation, they may hire a family law attorney to take their case to court. However, in almost all cases, the court requires parents to try a mediation session first. The session requires both parents to sit with an impartial, qualified counselor hired by the court to help create a custody plan without judge involvement.

However, if the mediation sessions fail, the only option may be to go straight to the judge. Divorce can sometimes involve more issues, such as domestic violence or drug and alcohol addiction. In this scenario, going straight to the judge may be the best option for the safety of the parent and the children.

Determining Child Custody

Whether parents choose to start with a mediation session or move right to the judge, they will have two major types of child custody options. The two types of custody include legal and physical custody.

Similarly, when a judge issues court orders, the judge also determines legal and physical custody. A court must also decide on custody options, such as whether joint or sole custody is suitable.

#1. Legal and Physical Custody

A parent with legal custody has the right to make decisions on behalf of the child or children. Legal custody does not involve who has primary custody of the child or where the child lives. Legal custody is about who decides the school the child attends, the religion they join, and the health treatment they will receive.

On the other hand, physical custody defines where the child or children will live daily. Thus, it refers to which parent has primary custody of the child.

#2. Sole and Joint Custody

A court must decide whether joint or sole custody of a child is appropriate, in addition to physical and legal custody. The court decides this if both parents are yet to agree on the matter.

If both parents share joint custody, the share may not be equal due to some factors. The factors include the primary caretaker and the personal responsibilities of each parent. As a result of these factors, a court may award one parent more custodial time than the other.

Furthermore, when one parent lives in a different school district, one parent may have primary physical custody of the child during the school year. During the summer vacation, the other parent may have primary physical child custody of the child. Custody orders can change, either by agreement between the parents or by filing a court petition.

Is a Parent With Joint Custody Under Obligation to Pay Child Support?

When determining whether or not a person with joint custody is still obligated to pay child support, the focus is usually on joint physical custody. The worry of parents here is if they will still pay child support while the child is under their custody half of the time.

In general, courts take child custody and child support decisions as two separate issues. Child support calculation depends on the amount of time each parent spends with their child and their respective incomes. As a result of this and other reasons, a parent with joint custody may still need to pay child support.

Calculation Models For Child Support Payment 

Different states use different formulas, and courts have the authority to deviate from the formula to accommodate special situations. The popular models for calculating child support payments include:

#1. Income Shares Model

In the income shares model, the financial assistance both parents need to provide does not change even if both parents divorce or separate. The calculation of obligation depends on a percentage of the income of both parents. It is usually similar to what they would have paid if they lived together.

The percentage depends on the state and the unique circumstances of each situation. However, determining the amount of support both parents will pay may need comparing the income of both parents.

If one parent earns more than the other, the former must pay more for child support. However, the amount of support may reduce if the parent has joint custody. The reason is that the child is given food, shelter, utilities, clothing, and other necessities while present.

#2. Percentage of Income Model

In the percentage of income model, the court sets support as a percentage of only the income of non-custodial parents. Irrespective of the fact the dollar amount may change depending on the financial status of the non-custodial, the court still sets the income percentage.

The model does not consider the income of the custodial parent. The reason is because of the belief that the custodial parent is already providing enough for the child.

#3. Melson Formula

Courts in Montana, Hawaii, and Delaware commonly use the Melson formula. It is an updated and more complex version of the income shares model.

The model considers the self-support needs of both parents and their children. It also enables the allocation of additional money to child support as the income of one or both parents increases.

Bottom Line

Child support and custody can be hard to understand. During the process, most non-custodial parents often feel they receive unfair judgment by the court when the child support money seems too much. Thus, it is advisable to contact an attorney throughout the entire process; the lawyer will evaluate and explain everything in a more simplified way.