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    What is Custody and Child Support?  
    The main focus of family law usually concerns custody of the parties' children and child support. Almost 50 percent of all marriages in the US end in divorce and approximately one-fourth of all children are born to parents who are unmarried.

Child Custody
When a marriage dissolves or the parents separate, the issue of who the children will live with and how visitation will be handled may have to be decided in court if the parties cannot agree.

The basic standard for awarding custody to a parent is the “best interests of the child.” The legal forms of child custody include the following:
  • Joint custody: In some instances, the children spend an equal or approximately equal amount of time, with each parent.
  • Split custody: This is a rare arrangement where one parent will have custody of one or more children while the other parent has custody of the remaining child or children.
  • Physical and legal custody: Generally, one parent is awarded full physical custody with visitation granted to the non-custodial parent. With legal custody, both parents have an equal say in the child's most important issues such as educational, health, religious and social concerns.

In contested custody matters, the court may order a court-appointed mediator or social worker to facilitate a custody and visitation agreement or to investigate the living conditions and other issues regarding the parties and make a recommendation to the court. There are many factors that a court considers in determining the child's best interests and which parent can meet this standard including the age and sex of the child, evidence of parental abuse, the child's adjustment to the community and school, and the child's interaction with other members of the household.

If the child' parents are not married, most courts will award sole physical custody to the mother unless the father can demonstrate she has serious psychological or legal issues so that it would be in the child's best interests to reside with the father.

Child Support
Child support is generally ordered to be paid by the non-custodial parent to the other based on state guidelines. Should the paying parent become delinquent, the court and child support enforcement agency can have a child support withholding order issued and the wages of the delinquent parent garnished, his or her tax refunds taken or real or personal property seized.

If a parent moves to another state, the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act can be used to enforce the issuing state's support order in another state and take steps to collect the arrearages.