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Child support is a complex portion of the law. In theory, when one parent is not raising their child, they should financially support the custodial parent to ensure they grow up well cared for. However, a grey area exists in the legal field. How do you handle child support when you and your spouse are separated, but you aren’t yet divorced? This situation occurs commonly. Both parties often wonder whether separated spouses are financially obligated to pay financial support before the divorce filing. Does the court believe that failing to pay is the same as abandoning the child?
Thanks to the intricate workings of our judicial system, there are practical legal places to look for answers. To begin with, child support payments are never required unless they’ve been ordered by a court. Some parties will make their own arrangements without the court, agreeing on certain child support terms. However, this doesn’t count as a legally binding contract. The court is the only entity that can make child support mandatory.
On an ethical note, though, parents have an obligation to support their children. If the involved parties can’t come to an agreement about child support themselves, and they’ve filed for divorce, the courts may handle the decision. Child support payments may be required on either a permanent or temporary basis. The main focus of the judge will be the welfare of the child or children, the number of children, and the income of both the parents.
When a court orders temporary child support, your children receive necessary care until the divorce papers are officially filed. Permanent solutions usually aren’t created until after the divorce has been finalized. This is in the best interest of the child, and it also lets both parents provide for and support their child.
Legal Questions About Separation
In many ways, separation is like divorce. Separating is a popular option when couples do not want to continue cohabitating, but also do not want to get a divorce. They may not want a divorce due to religious reasons, or they may be hoping to resolve their issues.
Legal separation is a way of ensuring that a court order settles any issues with the marriage. This includes spousal support payments, division of property, debt allocation, child custody arrangements, and child support payments.
Agreement to Legal Separation
With a legal separation agreement, every concern about the marriage is handled. There’s a definitive judgment passed down for how different aspects of the marriage should proceed. When children are involved, the agreement will outline the terms of the custody arrangement. It will also explain the amount that each parent is required to pay for child support. The amount will vary depending on the amount of time the parent has lived with the child, the laws of the state, and the income of each of the parents.
One of the most helpful things you can do in a divorce or separation case is to voluntarily offer to pay child support. This lets you avoid adhering to a temporary mandate of the court. It’s helpful if both parties can work constructively to find a solution that’s best for their children. In the end, the child should be supported without the other parent being impaired.
Some states don’t have a legal separation option. Even if a person is not legally separated in the eyes of the court, child support payments might still be a necessity if the spouses live apart. When this is the case, the custodial parent will use the court to seek payment fro the non-custodial parent. The process is similar to the one used with legal separation, but the couple is still considered to be married. This means that receiving child support during any kind of separation is indeed possible.
The Divorce Transition
There are cases where the separation doesn’t resolve itself. After a certain period of time, the couple will decide that their relationship is not salvageable. This is the point at which they’ll file for divorce. In cases where couples were legally separated, the legal terms of the separation are often the groundwork of the divorce agreement.
In these cases, child support payments can’t be set in stone. If different factors change, the amount of court-mandated payment might increase or decrease. Transitioning to divorce is sometimes grounds for a judge to reexamine the child support payment arrangement. If the parents have had any income changes, the agreement may be amended.