GETTING A DIVORCE WITH CHILDREN?
What you need to know first…
When kids are involved with a divorce, the process is more complicated and there are more things to consider and make decisions on. The first thing you should be prepared for is that you are going to be spending more time with your Lawyer discussing what is most important to you in regards to custody, visitation rights and schedule, parenting plans on how the kids should be raised and typically the most complex is often the child support that must be paid.
Often times a divorce process starts with the parents attacking each other and placing blame which does nothing but put the kids in the middle and make the whole process more difficult for everyone. Hiring the right Divorce Attorney can be very critical because they can guide you on how to avoid common pitfalls, unnecessary drama and ultimately help you get what is most important to you faster, cheaper and with less hassle for everyone.
It is also important to know that Character Witnesses, Testimonials, Text Messages and Social Media Posts can help or hurt you in a complicate divorce case with children involved.
Most Family Law Judges are looking for ways to grant the parents Shared Custody, unless they see it as not being in the children’s best interest. When you hire the right Divorce Attorney they can help guide you so you don’t end up in the category of an “Unfit Parent” and lose what’s most important to you.
Being prepared for the Divorce Process will help you understand what changes will be coming your way.
The Process Of Divorcing With Children
Below is a general overview of how divorcing with children works, but each state has a different process and uses different terminology for child custody and visitation.
1) Divorce Filing
Child custody and child support will be part of your divorce filing (your request to start your divorce case).
2) Emergency Orders
If your children face harm, you can ask the judge for an emergency custody hearing and temporary orders to protect them. If you are wrongly being accused of harming your children and your spouse might be looking to start an Emergency Custody Hearing and/or Emergency Order, then you really should reach out to Steve Whitworth for a free consultation to discuss what options and steps you can take to defend yourself and increase your chances of a favorable outcome for years to come.
3) Divorce Settlement Agreement And Marriage Settlement Agreement (MSA)
If you decide the issues of child custody on your own, you can include it as part of your divorce settlement agreement or marriage settlement agreement and ask the court to approve it. A judge will lean towards making sure it is in the best interests of your children. You will need to decide on all of the complicated issues, ranging from who your children will live with to who gets to make decisions about schooling and healthcare.
Some states and counties require parents to attend mediation for custody and visitation. During mediation, you and your spouse will meet with a neutral mediator who will help you reach an agreement on child custody/parenting plans/visitation.
5) Court Hearings
If mediation is unsuccessful or not required, and you cannot agree on your own, your case will go to a hearing in front of a judge. You will have a chance to present your side. The judge may ask mental health experts to weigh in on what is best for your children, and they may even have a Guardian represent your children’s interests.
You may have numerous hearings during your divorce. If it is going to take awhile to get to the final custody decision, the court will make temporary custody and support orders that you and your spouse will need to follow.
6) Divorce Order/Decree
The judge will make a final decision on your divorce, including orders for custody, parenting time/visitation, and child support.
7) Appeals And Changes To The Divorce Decree
If you disagree with the court order, there are ways to appeal the decision. Similarly, if anything substantial changes in your life that will affect custody or child support, you can ask the court to change the order by filing (with the court) a motion to modify child support or child custody.
Can I Get An Uncontested Divorce With Kids?
You can get an Uncontested Divorce with children if you and your ex-partner both agree on:
- The physical custody percentage (typically 50/50)
- Parenting time (does one parent get kids on the weekends or for certain holidays?)
- Responsibilities as parents (driving to school activities, vacations, purchasing clothing, paying for insurance or cell phones, etc.)
- Who makes the big decisions (schooling, healthcare, religion, etc.)
- Child support payments and payment schedule
You will also need to agree on all other divorce issues such as property division and alimony.
Agreeing on these topics during such a difficult time is not easy. It may take some “unofficial” negotiations to reach an agreement. Once you both agree to the arrangement, you can skip arguing in court or in mediation and jump to making the plan official.
Because there are so many details to consider in child custody, many people chose to have lawyers review their divorce agreements before they give them to the court. This is called limited scope representation.
Can I Appeal Court Orders If I Have Kids?
Most judges are open to hearing appeals on child support amounts, changes to your financial situation, unsafe home situations, or seeking more or less time with your kids. An attorney can guide you on the best way to approach these matters and the likely outcome for your situation.
It’s hard to predict what life will be like post-divorce, so it is common for parents to re-negotiate child support and custody as lives change. The agreement that made sense for your preschooler probably needs to change when they turn 16, want a car, and need car insurance.
Your Children And Divorce: Putting Them First
Research shows that the divorce process does affect kids. Even if you do your best to shield them from the divorce proceeding, this is a significant change for them, and they will sense your emotions. Divorce might separate your child from their friends or school, or make them think negatively about one parent or the other. It might reduce the time and attention each parent can provide.
An experienced divorce lawyer can advise you on the best ways to help your kid’s new life feel stable (such as keeping the family home) while ensuring they are provided for. Your county judge’s job is to make sure your child’s best interests are top of mind for everyone.
While the change is dramatic, you can work toward a smoother transition for your children and still protect your legal rights as a parent. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Judges Focus On Children When Deciding Custody
The judge’s role in a divorce involving children is to determine what is in the child’s best interests. The judge will likely consider your child’s needs above your own when it comes to:
- Keeping the family unit together for siblings, half-siblings, step-siblings, adopted siblings, etc.
- Assigning a co-parenting schedule or child custody schedule that favors one parent above the other (most courts presume 50/50 child custody)
- Selecting higher or lower child support than you predicted
- Reconsidering custody or financial orders if you or your ex-spouse are remarried or have other children
- Choosing the most stable environment between two homes
- Limiting changes for your child (such as keeping them at the same school or home)
While this can feel like judges take sides, most state laws enforce the best interests of minor children over any other family members.
- Consider Keeping Your Kids Out Of Court
Your children may hear about addiction, cheating, crimes, fraud, domestic violence, financial issues, or other stressors. Children that are old enough to understand these topics may need to talk with you before you attend court together.
The effects of divorce are unique to each family, so the process could take extra time or require professionals to speak with your children.
Divorcing parents may want to consider methods like mediation or Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to help soften the process, soothe difficult topics, and help ease the transition for children. Divorces that involve criminal matters (like domestic abuse or a parent losing all their money by committing fraud) generally need to work with a judge.
Most divorces are in no-fault states so your child won’t be asked to testify against another parent. However, if it is relevant to the case, you can ask your child to speak, or a judge could ask them to testify. This is rare, but may happen if there are harassment problems or abuse, especially domestic abuse and child abuse. If you are being wrongfully accused of harassment, drug abuse, domestic abuse, child abuse or anything criminal…you should call Steve Whitworth today for your free consultation of what your options are and what steps you might want to take in order to defend yourself.
- Children May Be Able To Share Their Custody Preferences
There are times when your children will be directly involved in the proceedings. This varies depending on the child’s age and state. Some states allow children as young as 12 to state which parent they want to live with, and many courts will let even young children offer an opinion on questions of custody. This often happens in a private conference with the judge, rather than in a large courtroom.
Older children might be able to voice their opinion, and judges in many states will consider their wishes — unless it puts the child in danger.
State laws and specific judges vary greatly on the age a child can provide input. For example:
- California will let children explain who they want to live with at age 14
- Washington does not let minors offer their opinion unless the judge requests it
- Wyoming allows judges to consider the wishes of children age 12 and up
This also works the opposite way. A child can choose to live with one parent, but later refuse visitation with that parent, and the courts will consider the child’s wishes. If state law allows it, and a child is competent and can explain their reasoning, they will be able to have input.
Taking The First Steps In Divorce
A good first step is finding the right Divorce Attorney when children are involved and it’s complicated, like Steve Whitworth, who you can feel comfortable with and will guide you through the entire process.
If your facing a divorce and being wrongfully accused for with things like Criminal Charges and Convictions, Sex Crimes, Drug Crimes, Domestic or Child Abuse, Restraining Orders etc., Steve Whitworth can help!
Steve Whitworth does offer free consultations so you can ask questions and find out your options. Steve, realizes that finding the right attorney-client partnership can help set a divorce with children off on the right foot for the emotional journey ahead.