When parents get divorced, their child-related wishes usually fall within a handful of different scenarios. Most commonly, both parents want to remain involved in their children’s lives, and they each want (or at least are willing) their children to spend time with the other parent as well. In other situations, both parents want to remain involved, but for one reason or another (such as a history of alcohol or physical abuse), one parent wants to exclude the other from their children’s lives. In other cases still, one parent wishes to extricate himself or herself entirely from any involvement with the couple’s children after the divorce.
Of course, there are countless permutations of each of these scenarios; and, as you might expect, each one involves its own unique practical and legal implications. In this article, we discuss what parents can – and can’t – put in their marital settlement agreement when it comes to the child support and child custody matters involved in their divorce.
Resolving Child Support and Custody Matters By Agreement
Can Divorcing Spouses Agree On the Amount of Child Support?
In broad strokes, yes. Like all other aspects of a divorce, parents can include provisions for child support in their marital settlement agreement.
However, there are limitations. In California, child support calculations must be based upon the California Child Support Guidelines. While these are in fact “guidelines” – not strict formulas or hard-and-fast rules – they nonetheless place certain limits on what divorcing spouses can consider and what they can and can’t agree to in terms of child support during their divorce.
Can Both Parents Agree to Waive Child Support?
In California, parents cannot directly agree to waive child support. All marital settlement agreements are subject to court approval; and, while judges in San Diego County will usually uphold fully-negotiated and carefully-drafted settlement agreements, they have the ability to award child support if an award is appropriate under the circumstances. The ultimate focus is on the best interests of the child: If the guidelines indicate that financial support is in a child’s best interests, payment of child support will generally be required.
What Are Our Options for Custody and Visitation?
Like child support, custody and visitation determinations must also be made based upon the best interests of the child. But, within this framework, parents have fairly broad discretion to apportion custody rights and establish a visitation schedule that works for everyone. This makes sense: A plan that doesn’t work for the parents is also unlikely to be favorable to the child’s wants and needs.
What if One or Both Spouses Want Sole Custody?
The San Diego County courts will uphold agreements for sole custody in appropriate circumstances. Again, the focus must be on what is best for the child. While the courts generally favor joint custody arrangements with visitation schedules that allow children to have frequent and continuous contact with both parents, they also recognize that some circumstances call for unilateral parenting. If you are interested in seeking a sole custody arrangement, we can help you assess your options and take appropriate steps to give you the best chance at obtaining the custody rights you desire.
Speak with an Experienced Divorce Lawyer in San Diego, CA
Child-related issues are often among the most stressful and emotionally-charged issues involved in divorces. If you have questions about child support or child custody, the Law Office of Renkin & Associates can help. Richard M. Renkin is a divorce lawyer and Certified Family Law Specialist with who has been representing clients in divorces and other family-related legal matters since 1991. If you would like to schedule a confidential case evaluation, please call our San Diego law offices at 619-299-7100 or submit a request online today.
Image via Flickr by Quinn Dombrowski