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Ending a Marriage When Children are Involved

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Ending a Marriage when Children are Involved

By: Heidi M. Cisan, Esq.Thrasher, Dinsmore & Dolan, a Legal Professional Association.

If you have children and are facing the end of your marriage, one of your biggest concerns is what will happen with your kids when you separate.  You may have heard terms like “parenting time,” “joint custody,” and “shared parenting,” and been confused about what they mean.  Our experienced family law attorneys can help.

When minor children are involved in a divorce, dissolution, or legal separation, many issues – such as where the children will live, who will have the authority to make major decisions affecting the children, how much child support will be paid, which parent will provide health insurance, and who will get to claim the children for tax purposes – must be decided. The parties can agree on these issues, or, if they are unable to agree, the court will make the decisions for them. The division of these rights and obligations between the parents is called the “allocation of parental rights and responsibilities.”

In some cases, the children will live primarily with one parent, and that parent will make all of the major decisions affecting the children.  That parent is called the “primary residential parent and legal custodian” of the children.  This is essentially the same as what used to be referred to as “sole custody.”  The other parent will have visitation, now called “parenting time,” and will pay child support to the primary residential parent.

Alternatively, parents can enter into a shared parenting plan, similar to what used to be referred to as “joint custody.” This means that the parents will share decision-making authority with respect to important matters involving the children such as medical care, education, extra-curricular activities, and religious practices.  A common misconception about shared parenting is that each of the parents will have the children fifty percent of the time, and that neither parent will pay child support.  This is not accurate.  It is much more likely that, even under a shared parenting plan, the children will live a majority of the time with one parent, and the other parent will pay child support.

Parental rights and responsibilities are not always allocated the same way for all of a couple’s children. On occasion, the court will order split custody.  This means that some of the children will live with one parent, and some will live with the other parent.  Although it is normally considered preferable to have all of the children live together, there are sometimes special circumstances when this is not the case.  In a split custody arrangement, one parent may pay child support to the other, depending on the parties’ respective incomes and the number of children living with each parent.

If you are considering a divorce, it is important to protect both your interests and your children’s.  The divorce lawyers at Thrasher, Dinsmore & Dolan in Chardon and Cleveland can help you deal with these issues in a way that makes sense for both you and your children.