If you have children and are about to go through a divorce or separation proceeding, two of the main issues you will have to discuss are child support and visitation. Depending on the level of civility that exists between you and your former spouse, these issues can be resolved with varying degrees of ease.
Child support can be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce or separation proceeding. A certain level of trust is required from the supporting party that the supported party is actually using the money that he or she is sending to directly benefit the child. So, if you and your ex are comfortable with each other in that regard, you will be able to allow the court to decide a fair amount of support, and the supporting party can make the payments with a minimal amount of conflict.
The child support order generally mandates both the frequency of payments and the amount that the supporting parent must pay to the supported parent for the purpose of providing for their child. Since there is no streamlined way of establishing child support, most states have their own formulas for determining how much child support is to be paid. Although, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act does lay out certain guidelines for the states to follow.
In Louisiana, the court follows Louisiana Revised Statutes RS 9:303, 315.2, 315.8, and 315.19 as a basic layout of the rules for determining the amount of support. Louisiana uses the income shares model which divides the obligation between the parents according to their combined gross monthly income. Louisiana also considers costs such as child care, health insurance premiums, and other extraordinary expenses.
Here is an online worksheet that can help you estimate how much the supporting spouse will be mandated to pay based on the factors outlined in the Louisiana Child Support Statutes. Keep in mind, however, that due to the specific nature of anything having to do with the best interests of the child, the court has broad discretion to consider any extraneous factors that it deems relevant.
One last thing to keep in mind is that in spite of the divorce, you and your former spouse are still in a partnership with regard to raising your child, and you have to learn to work together, or the child will be the one who suffers. Always consider the child’s needs and interests, treat your former spouse with respect – think of him or her as a business partner if necessary - and make sure to consult with him or her before making any large purchases on behalf of the child. After all, you are still sharing that financial responsibility even if you are not still together as a couple.
Visitation can be even more contentious than child support if there is bad blood between former spouses. Bad blood can make visitation a difficult matter for all parties involved – including the child – because what often ensues is the custodial parent will use the child as a pawn to agitate the non-custodial parent. The courts frown heavily upon this type of behavior because it is almost always in the child’s best interest to have a substantial relationship with both parents regardless of their marital status. As is the case with anything to do with family law, visitation laws vary from state to state; although, the National Conference of Commissioners has laid out suggested state guidelines in the Interstate Child Visitation Act.
Child visitation guidelines are usually hashed out between former spouses through mediation. If , however, you and your ex cannot come to an amicable agreement as to when the non-custodial parent will be allowed to visit the child, the court will decide this matter for you in order to meet the needs of the child. In Louisiana, if the non-custodial spouse violates the visitation order, you may file an order to hold him or her in contempt of the court.
*To learn more about how child support works, watch this YouTube video on Free Legal Aid.