Child custody arrangements not just for the recently divorced

When married parents decide to get a divorce, addressing child custody and support concerns is rarely an item that is missed. However, marriage isn’t on the table for everyone these days as the definition of family continues to change. Many individuals are choosing to have children outside of marriage.

What some people don’t realize is that a formal child custody and support plan isn’t just for divorced parents. Many unmarried couples find that an informal co-parenting relationship works for them, until it doesn’t. The fact that two parents can work together doesn’t negate the possibility of a conflict that could be resolved with a legal arrangement.

For instance, what happens when one parent decides to travel for Christmas and wants the kids to come along? In the past, mom always had the children on Christmas Eve and dad always had them on Christmas Day. What happens when they can’t agree on a solution?

What about an instance in which one parent enters into a new relationship? A child custody agreement can help regulate how or when that new boyfriend or girlfriend should be introduced into the children’s lives.

What about a parent who decides that the amount of money he or she gives to the other parent is more than is needed to help out with expenses? What about a parent who wants to start spending more time with the kids during the week? What about a parent who purchases a house in a new school district? How are these questions handled and who gets to make the decision?

A child custody or child support order can help give parents clear legal rights both to visitation and parenting time and to protect the child’s interests financially.

Low-income families have been found to be a group that is significantly affected by this issue. In fact, over 50 percent of low-income families have children living outside of a two-parent household. The Child Support Enforcement system helps with financial rights, but some advocates say it should reach further to provide visitation services as well.

For unmarried parents in Fulton County, the best way to protect their parental interests and the interests of their children is to seek advice and assistance from a family law attorney. The attorney can work with them to draft a legal agreement and provide alternative options, like mediation, for those that want them.

Source: The Washington Informer, “Putting the Spotlight on Family Law Needs,” Joy Moses, Sept. 17, 2013

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