To begin with, one of the most important parts of the divorce or separation process that both parties hopefully recognize is that it’s going to happen in multiple phases or stages. So, if you are at a beginning stage, they should try to look forward in order to see what will become necessary in the later stages. Generally, this means looking at Mom and Dad’s, and the kids schedules to derive a plan where the children feel completely loved and taken care of, while Mom and Dad have sufficient time with their children.
If the parties can come together to do what needs to be done and reduce conflict, this part of the process can be done on their own as soon-to-be-ex-spouses, but more importantly as co-parents, as mom and dad.
If there’s a significant degree of tension and conflict between the two, it may be more helpful to have a third-party who can assist and help you work through this phase of the negotiation process, whether it be a mediator or whether it be collaborative lawyers/parenting coaches.
As I said earlier, these things happen in stages. What this means is that when you start the process, you could have an interim agreement or partial agreement as to how many and which specific evenings each child spends with each parent. At this point, we’re just measuring custody agreements, not explicitly discussing the child support piece of it. Still, custody is usually a determinative of how much support is being paid. These decisions are tied to the number of evenings a child spends with each parent.
However, the number of evenings a child spends with each parent is determined by entirely separate factors. These include how old the children are, what their needs are, what their interests are, and many other factors of that sort. These come down to decisions made in the best interest of the child or the children.
If separating or divorcing parents are cooperating with one another and want to jointly come up with a schedule, that is an excellent start. The State of Maryland and/or the District of Columbia will then determine whether that schedule is in the best interest of the child or children. The factors that are considered include their best education interest, their health interest, their spiritual interest, their emotional interest, really looking at the total wellbeing of the children. It is also important that we are looking at the total wellbeing and interest of the mother and father as well, because if mom and dad aren’t taking care of themselves through this process and it’s stressful, it really tests everyone’s wits’ ends and so how they protect themselves and care for themselves is key because that way, their best of service to their kids and you could be a decent human being to the other person as well.
Is There Ever An Age Where The Child Or Children Will Have Input On Who He Or She Will Live With In Maryland Or DC?
The answer is it depends. If you have a parenting agreement that’s in place and you have a schedule pre-determined, unless you say that schedule got worked out when the children were 3 or 5 or 7, then certainly at that stage, children are going to have little or no input into when and who they see. But you fast-forward to 13, 15, 17 years old and we all know that children all go through different developmental stages and one child may be defiant, one child may be angry, one may just be easy-going and goes with the flow. And so my suggestion to parents, even in developing the initial parenting plan, is to be able to plan and expect that your children may have some input. And most importantly from a developmental stage, they need to be heard, they need to be listened to and they need to know that something they care about went into maybe changing the final outcome. And I say that a little bit tongue in cheek because parents also need to have time with their child and if there’s psychological or emotional issues going on between a parent and a child and the child doesn’t want to see the other parent, then that needs to be looked at.
When a child does not want to visit with a parent, this is something that I might refer for someone to do counseling, even post-divorce, if that could be set up.
Who Is Responsible For Child Support When Parents Are Divorcing Or Are Not Raising A Child Together In Maryland Or DC?
The child support in Maryland and DC is set by statute, very comparable to other states. And the key determinants are going to be the parents’ income and the number of evenings that the children will be spending with either parent. So that all goes into a calculus that spits out a number. There are other factors that go into it such as healthcare, education, tutoring things along those lines that factor one way or the other. But in the end, usually the parent who is the larger income earner and/or would have the children less evenings would be paying a little more in child support. The one who would have them the more evenings would receive more especially if, in a case where they’re not the lead income-earner but if you are the income-earner and also have the children most evenings, then you may also receive a little bit of child support.
So it’s set up by formula and ideally, you want the parents who are learning to understand child support, to work with their budgets, their overall financial setup and to make sure they can survive overall in this new future. Our team at Resolution Mattes works with the parties depending on their level of financial wherewithal.