If you are considering divorce, or in the middle of one- the kids are probably the number one concern (or maybe a top 3, at least I hope).
So what about the children? (Aside: I won’t say kids because there is a judge that always yells “KIDS ARE BABY GOATS!” when you say kids and mean children)
There are so many facets with children and divorce I am not sure I can even cover them all but here are some:
Child Support tends to be one of the highest priorities for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. It’s typically the dad who pays to the mom some money to help support their children. There is a child support worksheet available online to fill out if you are so inclined. Click here. The child support worksheet factors in the gross monthly income of both parents, daycare costs, educational costs, health insurance costs, and how many children are part of the worksheet. There is a place for more kids if the parent is paying for children not a part of this divorce. So if you are paying child support to one child, and now you have to arrange payment for another child with a different mother, the State does factor that in.
Most people want to know if child support can be waived. The answer is NO. The child support is a right held by the child, and therefore, cannot be waived by the adults. The State of Georgia REQUIRES proof that someone is taking care financial care of their children.
Just because child support cannot be waived does not mean your hands are tied, however. If both parents can agree with an amount that is not far from what the child support worksheet would have deemed appropriate, the court can take that into consideration before issuing a final order.
Visitation and Child Support are NOT linked. Your ability or inability to pay child support does not allow you or prevent you from seeing your child(ren). You do not have to pay for the right to be a parent. I will do a more in-depth post about child support at a later date.
So let’s talk about visitation. Parents can agree to their own visitation schedule. There must be something filed with the court, however, that shows what a schedule would look like in the event you and your spouse cannot agree. Most visitation schedules are every other weekend starting from after school Friday until Sunday evening with alternating weeks in the summer. This does not mean this is how your visitation will look.
Taxes and the children. Recently there have been a lot of disagreements about who gets the child tax credit, but normally the focus is on who gets to claim the kids on the taxes. Some couples split the kids with one parent claiming one child on their tax forms, while the other parent claims the other child on their tax returns. This only works if you have an even number of kids. Some parents claim one year, and then switch so the other parent can claim the year after.
Guardian(s) Ad Litem. I am a Guardian Ad Litem or GAL. A GAL represents the interests of the children. Normally I will meet with the child or children just to get to know them. Normally I tell the parents to tell the children that they get their own attorney- me! Children love that power! I ask about sports and school, and a little bit about the case. I make sure to tell them that what they tell me does not get back to anyone unless I feel like the children are in some kind of danger, or if the Judge asks about something. I usually give the following example: “If mom’s lawyer says she wanted to sign you up for soccer, and dad’s lawyer says you hate soccer and actually want to play basketball, the judge might ask which you actually prefer, and I would tell him.” What a child says to me will not get anyone into serious trouble, unless of course, again, we have a serious threat of danger to the child or someone else. A GAL can be expensive- usually each party pays $750 to the GAL, for a $1,500 deposit. I can assure you that it is often worth it, as parents will fight tooth and nail and completely forget what the children want. Sometimes children are afraid to tell their parents what they want for fear of upsetting them but have no problem telling their own attorney in private. A GAL can be an amazing third party advocate for your child(ren) and I highly encourage you to get one if you can.
Therapist/Counseling. I also recommend the child(ren) seek outside professional help. As I have mentioned previously, a divorce now ranks higher among stressful life situations than death. If it is that stressful to a parent, imagine what it is doing to a minor child. They have 2 houses with 2 sets of rules, and sometimes stepparents and stepsiblings to contend with. They may have friends at both houses. They may have to change school districts and make new friends. Children need to learn how to deal with all their emotions resulting from the tumultuous change that a divorce can bring. Only a therapist or counseling can help to navigate that turmoil.