Divorce Article #3--Fairness and Equity in Parenting, Part 2



How to negotiate children’s visitation and custody, along with child support, remain the burning issues among parents. Both parents wish to maintain a certain percentage of time with the children, but neither wants to give up money or time to the other parent. I am sorry to say that, unless you negotiate a parenting agreement with your spouse, the courts will simply give you the standard visitation or some alternative to that, and then calculate child support accordingly.

Some counties offer mediation through the courts as a way to resolve some of the marital parenting issues related to visitation. This can help parents come to agreements before their court day that both can be happy with. During the divorce hearing, the visitation plan will be ordered, if it hasn’t been in place already. Child support, though, can be, and should be, ordered before a divorce if a spouse needs it. The spouse seeking child support should be able to file for it using the ACF website immediately. It is easy—just find your state and get the paperwork done online! Most states offer an online filing option.

I don’t believe either party thinks that negotiations end up being fair or equitable. Both people will lose much of what he/she originally hoped for. However, it is possible, as a DIYer, to take control of the process, keep some of the emotion out of divorce, and be the best parent you can be. One way is to sit down with your soon to be ex, and find out what type of parenting arrangement he/she would like. Most people who are very extreme will be disregarded if it goes to court; so, a mom who wants full time custody just because she is angry will not get it (in that case, the divorce may be contested anyhow), and a dad who doesn’t want to pay child support will still have to, even if he just got laid off his job.

Your family’s parenting plan should include weekly, weekend, monthly, and holiday visitation scheduling. Here are some simple ways to work out your plan by following a preset guideline.

  • Children are with Mom from 6 pm on Sunday evening until 3 pm on Friday evening, then Dad has the children from 3 pm on Friday evening until Sunday at 6 pm. (5 Mom/2 Dad, 5 Mom/2 Dad,etc…)

  • Children are with Mom from 6 pm on Sunday evening until 6 pm on Friday of the following week (standard visitation), then Dad has children from 6 pm on Friday to 6 pm on Sunday. (12 Mom/2 Dad, 12 Mom/2 Dad)

  • Standard visitation, but Dad also gets the kids on Weds. Evenings for dinner, homework, and activities.

  • My own parenting arrangement is 10 days with Mom/4 days with Dad.

  • If you have extended family helping you with school pick ups and drop offs, it is still the parent’s responsibility to ensure the correct timing for school and activities. For instance, if you’d like your mom to pick up your children from school, the school will need documentation about who is allowed to pick up the children. Likewise, make sure you inform the school if someone must be removed from the list. You may not remove a parent without the proper documentation though.

  • Young children—I am very sorry to say that although I personally believe that children should have years to stay home with their mom, the courts generally rule that moms will need to go back to work. (Imputed Income is a topic of interest to SAHMs, or stay-at-home-moms). Staying at home with children is considered a lifestyle choice, rather than a necessity for children. So, again, if your divorce is going to be uncontested, be ready for this. Otherwise, get some legal help and contest it. But be aware that you can only get money from a spouse who HAS MONEY. For instance, if your husband makes $45,000, he will most likely not be able to pay his expenses, plus child support, plus alimony because you are making a “lifestyle choice” to stay home with children. The mother’s income will be considered necessary, even if it means childcare expenses also.

  • A note on Assistance for Single Mothers and Fathers: at tax time, single and working parents are allowed to take the Earned Income Tax Credit, but only when single. If you remarry, you will lose it.


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