Child support and custody are important matters to settle in a divorce. They are two distinct issues, meaning the court may consider them separately and will consider different factors when determining a resolution. That said, support and custody are connected in that the amount of time one parent spends with the child can affect how much they have to pay in child support. Still, once custody and support are decided, they, in a way, go back to being separate matters. In other words, whether a parent allows visitation or pays support should not impact whether either is withheld.
What Is Child Support?
Child support is a court-ordered monthly payment from one parent to another. Often, it is ordered as part of a divorce case or when an unmarried individual has a child and parentage has been established.
The monthly payments provide financial assistance for childcare and everyday living expenses for the child. Therefore, child support plays a crucial role in ensuring healthy, safe, and secure environments for children.
What Is Child Custody?
Child custody refers to the responsibilities of the parents concerning day-to-day decision-making and the residence of a child. Two types of custody may be ordered: physical and legal.
Physical custody concerns who the child lives with and the amount of time they will spend with each parent. Legal custody concerns who makes decisions regarding the child’s health, education, and welfare.
Both types of custody can be ordered as sole or joint. With sole custody, one parent is the decision maker or provides the primary residence. With joint, both parents share responsibilities equally.
How Are Child Support and Child Custody Determined?
Parents are encouraged to work together to develop support and custody arrangements. However, these matters aren’t always easy to resolve, and sometimes the court has to step in.
When the court gets involved in child support and custody cases, a judge will apply the law and their discretion to make decisions.
At this point, child support determinations are partially linked to child custody. Aside from considering factors like the parents’ incomes and the number of children the parents have together, the judge will also take into account the time-sharing agreement. In other words, the time each parent has the child may affect how much one parent has to pay the other. For instance, if visitation time increases, child support payments may decrease.
Regarding child custody, the court will make a determination based on what’s in the best interests of the child.
Factors the judge will consider include the following:
- The child’s age and health
- The child's relationship with each parent
- The parent's ability to care for the child
- Any history of domestic violence
Generally, courts prefer to order joint physical custody, but that’s not always possible. Therefore, sole physical custody is awarded. This means that the child will live with one parent most of the time and have visitation with the other. The parent with visitation may be ordered to pay child support.
Can Support or Visitation Be Stopped Because of Noncompliance?
Although a connection may exist between child support and custody when these matters are initially being decided, the link between the two does not continue after the orders are final. To clarify, suppose one parent stops allowing visitation with the other parent. The parent with visitation rights cannot withhold child support payments as a result. The opposite is also true. If a parent stops paying child support, that does not give the other parent the right to withhold visitation.
When issues arise concerning either child support or custody, the parents must try to resolve the issue together or go to court to seek an enforcement of the orders. They might also consider having either order modified to establish an arrangement better reflecting the current circumstances.
Speak with a Lawyer for Help
Child custody and support matters can be complicated and emotional. Ensuring that the outcome is fair for you and your children and protects your best interests is essential. A family law attorney can review your case and develop a legal strategy to pursue just results.
If you need help with your case, please reach out to our Los Angeles lawyers at Claery & Hammond, LLP by calling (310) 817-6904 or submitting an online contact form today.