Custody and child support are closely related to each other, as the parent who has primary custody of a child is usually entitled to child support payments from the other parent. Decisions about custody and child support are initially made during divorce proceedings in response to information presented in court or a mediation agreement worked out by the parents. As circumstances and needs change, these decisions can be revisited to adjust the arrangement in the interests of what is best for the child.
Parents can approach custody agreements in a number of ways. One parent may have full custody, housing and caring for the child full time, while the other parent is authorized to make visits. The parents may reach a joint custody agreement where the child spends time with both parents and one parent has primary custody, keeping the child for a higher percentage of the time. In shared custody, children spend equal amounts of time with both parents.
When custody is awarded, it is understood that both parents are responsible for providing economic support to the child. The parent with full or primary custody is entitled to payments from the other parent to provide for basic necessities as well as to handle larger expenses. In shared custody arrangements, a court may rule that no child support needs to be awarded because the parents are sharing day to day expenses equally, but that the parents do need to negotiate to pay together for larger expenses, like college tuition. In cases where there is a significant income disparity between the parents, the court may award child support to the parent with less money in order to provide consistent care to the child.
When negotiating custody and child support, a number of things are taken into account, including the wishes of all parties involved, the child's age, where the child is going to school, and the financial positions of the parents. There may be situations where a parent should pay child support, but cannot afford it, and thus there is no point in awarding child support payments to the other parent. However, when there is a change in circumstances for either parent, custody and child support may need to be renegotiated.
The goal of the court with custody and child support decisions is to oversee an agreement that will provide a stable and secure home environment for a child, as well as ensuring that the child is appropriately supported.