Can I Avoid Child Support with Joint Custody?

If you’re a parent who is facing divorce, we don’t have to tell you that one of the hardest parts of divorce can be splitting up the children so they spend time in two, separate households. Historically, fathers got a raw deal. As recent as the late 1990s and later, the mother would almost always get the children and the dad would see his kids once a week and every other weekend, but much has changed in the last twenty years.

Today, fathers have equal rights to their children in the event of a divorce. This means fathers can ask for sole or primary custody. However, if both spouses are financially independent, emotionally stable, and loving parents, joint custody is usually more probable than one parent getting custody unless the parents agree on such a setup.

Child Custody in California

“In California, either parent can have custody of the children, or the parents can share custody. The judge makes the final decision about custody and visitation but usually will approve the arrangement (the parenting plan) that both parents agree on.

“If the parents cannot agree, the judge will make a decision at a court hearing,” according to the California Courts. So, what if parents decide to share custody? “Does this mean that they can avoid paying child support?” is a question that comes up frequently.

Before we answer that, we want to clarify shared or joint physical custody. Just because parents have joint physical custody, it doesn’t mean the parents have exactly 50/50 custody, or that the children spend 182.5 days with each parent, every year because that’s impractical for most families.

Usually, the children will spend more time with one of the parents because it just works out that way. But, when one of the parents has the children for more than 50 percent of the time, he or she is often called the “primary custodial parent.”

As for child support? If the parents have joint custody and one of the parents earns more money than the other, he or she may be required to pay some child support, or they may be required to share the costs of uninsured medical expenses or childcare.

Have more questions about child custody or support in Ventura? Contact Cutter & Lax to work with a board-certified family law specialist.