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Determining child support in a joint custody agreement

The decisions parents make today and in the future could impact the wellbeing of their child. This is especially true during divorce. Even when divorcing parents in North Carolina can come to an agreement on a custody arrangement, they must also address the financial needs of their children as well. Will they be able to cover the costs of raising their children independently, or will one parent need assistance to ensure these needs are met? This is where a decision on child support must be made or requested.

A joint or shared custody arrangement is not only ideal, it is commonly the go-to custody plan for divorcing parents today. While custody obligations are typically 50-50, this does not mean that financial obligations can be split equally in half. In order to determine what each parent should and can contribute to the monthly finances used to raise their child or children, parents in a joint custody situation must turn to the courts if they cannot resolve this issue on their own.

Each state has a formula to determine what the support obligation is for each parent. The best way for parents to understand or even predict what these obligations are is by looking at the cost to raise the child on a monthly or yearly basis and the income of both parents. A parent who has a higher income will likely have to pay more towards the support obligation.

Agreements reached between parents can look different from those courts will reach. In some cases, parents will agree to pay for the needs of the child when he or she is in their care. This means any costs that occur when it is not during their designated parenting time will not be a financial obligation. However, this may not address certain costs such as those considered to be on-going needs, extra-curricular activists, and doctor bills.

Child support should not be looked at as a negative financial obligation. When handled appropriately, it can serve a very important purpose. Child support ensures that a child is adequately provided for by his or her parents. Additionally, child support can help ease the adjustment for a child, as it is never easy to go from one household to two households. Nonetheless, it can still be challenging to reach a final agreement or maintain it. Thus, those seeking to develop, modify, or enforce a child support agreement should understand how to best protect their rights, and their children's best interests, while coming to a resolution.

Source: The Spruce, "Joint Custody Child Support," Debrina Washington, July 10, 2017

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