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Do I have to pay child support if I have joint custody?

Whether or not joint custody and child support payments go hand in hand depends on several factors. Courts will make a decision based upon the living situation of both parents and the best interests of the child.

Will joint custody change child support payments?

The answer to this question depends on whether you have joint legal custody or joint physical custody.

Joint legal custody is when you and your former partner make legal or medical decisions together. This type of custody won't affect child support payments.

Joint physical custody is when your child splits their time between your home and your former partner's home. This kind of custody does affect child support payments. However, it doesn't simply reduce child support payments automatically.

Child support payments are supposed to provide for the child regardless of where the child lives. If you earn more than the other parent and have joint physical custody of your child, you'll usually pay child support.

If both parents earn about the same amount and have 50/50 joint physical custody, the courts may not order any child support. But most family law courts don't award 50/50 joint physical custody, because the logistics of splitting time perfectly in half can be difficult on the child.

How much child support will I have to pay?

Each state has its own rules and calculators for figuring out the amount of child support. A few key factors still tend to go into any child support determination:

  • Parent income
  • Physical custody
  • Child's lifestyle before divorce
  • Child's medical and educational needs

Also, there are always some bills that will take a divorced parent by surprise. For example, if your child plays extra-curricular sports or must pay for field trips. All of these fees will need to be paid by someone. Be sure your divorce decree addresses what bills the child support should and should not pay.

If you are paying child support, your former spouse may ask for a cost of living increase. Cost of living increases are awarded when it takes more money to pay for necessary things like a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread. These cost of living increases occur for everyone over time.

It is alright to ask that a cost of living scale be included in your final divorce decree. If your decree includes this kind of scale, it may help you avoid additional court time and legal fees in the future

What can I do if my child support payment isn't fair?

If you don't think your child support payment is right, you can petition the court to adjust the payment. The court will usually not hear your petition after the final divorce decree unless your situation has changed. Changes that might adjust your payment include:

  • Change in income - your salary or the other parent's salary has changed in any way
  • Change in physical custody - your child decides to live with your former spouse
  • Disability - if either parent or the child becomes disabled
  • Cost of living increase
  • Change in child support law for your state
  • Medical emergencies
  • Remarriage resulting in change of income
  • Change in child's medical or educational needs
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