law offices serving both
the Brainerd Lakes
& Little Falls Area
Helping as Your Child Custody Attorney
Parenting is a full time job with incredible responsibilities. Those responsibilities are not simply familial in nature, but often financial and economic. Children can be expensive to care for, and as it generally takes two people to make a child, that financial responsibility is often legally divided between two people. In many cases, children are conceived during the course of a marriage, and when the marriage is dissolved through a divorce process, child custody arrangements are made under the oversight of Minnesota Law.
Because child custody law can be complex, and because navigating any legal process can be trying, it’s vital to have an advocate in your corner who can help you achieve what is most fair for you and for the children involved. After all, children who experience a divorce are often under a significant amount of stress and strain. Letting our attorneys guide you through what can be a complicated process can help make everyone’s lives a little bit easier down the road. Mallie Law Office is often the child custody attorney Brainerd residents (and Little Falls residents) have come to rely on.
Two Basic Child Custody Issues
When child custody is determined during or after a divorce, or when child custody is established without any prior bonds of marriage, there are usually two basic issues that need to be resolved. The first question is a question of custody. The second is a question of child support.
Child custody is normally broken down into four categories, one of which both sets of parents must agree to or which a judge must order.
- Sole Legal and Sole Physical Custody: In these cases, one parent is granted sole legal and sole physical custody of the child. This can be the desired outcome for any number of reasons, but is quite common in cases where one parent is absent or unidentified.
- Joint Legal and Sole Physical Custody: This arrangement is employed when the child or children in question will remain with one parent full-time, but both parents want a legal say over that child’s future. This arrangement is often used when one parent lives out of state or far enough away that moving the child between households on a regular basis would be problematic for the child. This does not necessarily mean the parent without physical custody never sees his or her child—simply that visitation is arranged and mandated, but does not equal a 50-50 split.
- Joint Legal and Joint Physical Custody: Sometimes parents have the will and ability to share all aspects of raising their children. In these cases, a joint legal and joint physical custody arrangement might be the best, allowing both parents to share in all legal decisions (schooling, medical decisions, etc) and share physical custody equally. This means the child spends a roughly equivalent time in the residence of each parent.
- Joint Legal Custody with a Parenting Plan: Joint Legal and Joint Physical Custody/Sharing Parenting Time Equally. Sometimes parents have the will and ability to share all aspects of raising their children. In these cases, a joint legal and joint physical custody arrangement might be the best, allowing both parents to share in all legal decisions (schooling, medical decisions, etc) and share physical custody equally. This means the child spends roughly equivalent time in the residence of each parent.
It’s important to note that although parties can equally share the labels of legal and physical custody, one parent can still be designated, and often is, as being the primary custodian or having primary residency of the children.
That there is a financial obligation to raising a child should shock very few parents. In many cases when couple have never been or are no longer married, determining the correct proportions for this financial support often falls under the jurisdiction of the courts. In most cases, judges will attempt to mediate, along with lawyers, so that child support matters do not have to go to trial.
In Minnesota, child support is calculated based on two primary factors: the first is the combined income of both the mother and the father of the child. This is a relatively new development in Minnesota, and so it may come as news to many parents. In the past, child support was calculated based on the income of whichever parent was obligated to pay the support.
The second factor that determines child support is the time the child spends with each parent, or the physical custody. Often, the ratio of time spent with one parent to the other will determine support payments.
Child support payments are designed to cover day-to-day expenses such as food, clothing, and so on while the child is not with the parent paying the support. Often, parents will also make arrangements for expenses such as health care and child care at the same time that they negotiate child support payments.
How is Child Support Calculated?
Many Brainerd and Little Falls area child custody clients also have questions about child support. These questions are quite natural, as most parents who have some form of custody agreement will also include a child support obligation. The first question many clients have is, how is child support calculated?
There are many child support calculator tools available (although we typically encourage clients to use well-trusted sources, such as the Minnesota Department of Human Services). And it’s important to note that these calculations will vary from state to state and even from county to county.
However, there are some criteria that are commonly looked at by the courts, including the following:
- The total income of both parents
- The division of parenting time
- The number of children that live in each parent’s home
- Spousal support orders
- Other child support orders (for either parent)
- Child care costs
- Medical and dental insurance costs (monthly)
- Benefits received from social security or from the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs
In most cases, courts will use all of this information to come to a decision about what monthly child support payments should be. Parents are also able to sometimes petition the court to raise or lower monthly payments, depending on a wide variety of criteria.
Most child support orders are reviewed every year in order to establish cost of living increases, if necessary.
Child Support Enforcement
Child support orders are usually enforced by the counties in which they were adjudicated, but the state oversees those counties under the umbrella of the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
The ability to make payments or to alter payments over the internet is widely variable throughout the state of Minnesota. In many cases, Child Support Enforcement does not offer the same bill-paying convenience as, for example, making a credit card payment.
However, the Child Support attorneys at Mallie Law Office can help guide you through the process. It’s also important to note that child support enforcement laws are subject to change, so it’s never a bad idea to keep in touch and try to anticipate how those changes might affect your financial situation.
Contact us today to get the help you need.
For couples that are just learning how to co-parent or who are coping with suddenly becoming single parents, determining parenting time can be a challenge. Often, couples will have very specific ideas of what their parenting time should consist of. Other couples will need to negotiate this amongst themselves.
When one parent wants to change the parenting time agreement, or circumstances force such a change, then a petition can be composed to change parenting time. For many of our Brainerd area parenting time clients, this is undertaken because they want to increase the amount of time they want to spend with their children.
Parenting time agreements must take a very specific course of action, and due to this it is incredibly beneficial to have an experienced and highly-qualified advocate in your corner.
Championing Your Child Custody Needs
Many clients don’t know how to start a child custody case. Among the single largest responsibilities that any person may be faced with in her or her life is the responsibility of raising a child. While, legally, this responsibility lasts eighteen years, most parents will know that raising a child is a life-long obligation. While modern family structures almost always involve children, there are far more parenting modes and models than in years past.
Child custody cases today can be more complex than ever, and for all of your child custody needs in the Brainerd Lakes area or in Little Falls, Mallie Law office can be your advocate, to help ensure you get the best possible results—not only for you, but for your children as well.