Over the course of the last two decades, the idea of the “all American” nuclear family has shifted and given way to more diverse family units. As such, family law has adapted and grown to meet and accommodate these changes. As the laws continue to change, it is important to know your rights as a parent in terms of child custody, support, and visitation.
Divorce rates are at an all-time high, with the average length of a marriage in the United States being only 11 years. According to a recent study, young couples marrying for the first time have a lifetime divorce risk of nearly 40% and the divorce risk for those marrying for a second time increases to 60%. However, regardless of your marital status or even gender, you still have unalienable rights as a parent.
Parents have legal — and even moral — obligations and responsibilities to financially support their child. This is true of both the mother and the father, regardless of if they ever married, are currently separate or are divorced. When parents are not living together, one parent often pays child support to the other. Therefore, regardless of whether you expect to pay or receive child support, it is important to retain the services of an experienced child support attorney, divorce lawyer, or family law attorney to help you navigate the legal process to ensure that your child’s best interests are protected.
Below are three things to keep in mind when discussing your parental rights with child support attorneys and divorce attorneys.
Both men and women pay child support
Most people assume that fathers will automatically pay child support to the mother of the children. Though this was seemingly a given in the past, it has become increasingly common for women to pay child support as well. Compared to previous generations, women now constitute a large portion of the workforce, and are earning just as much, if not more, than men.
Access if child support is not paid
Though each state’s laws differ, the law generally assumes, regardless of if a non-custodial parent is current in their child support obligation, that it is in the best interest of the child to have a relationship with both parents. Restricting access to a child may be considered emotionally or mentally damaging or abusive and, therefore, is not tolerated by the Courts. The purpose of child visitation is to allow parents who do not have custody access to their children in order to foster a healthy relationship. However, access can be limited, or even denied, if the parent’s behavior is destructive or likely to harm the child.
There are severe consequences for not paying child support
Child support debt cannot be discharged through bankruptcy, and failure to make court ordered payments may lead to wage garnishment, seizure of assets, credit bureau reporting, revocation or suspension of driver’s license, withholding of unemployment benefits or even jail time. If you feel you can no longer make payments on time, bring this to the attention of your child support lawyer immediately.
Your child support attorney will be there to guide you through the legal process whether you are the payor or payee of child support. It is imperative you know and understand your rights, as well as keep the best interests of your child in mind.