When it comes to children and divorce, there can be confusion on legal custody, physical custody, parenting time, child support and medical support. Each one of these is a separate issue that must be resolved before the Judgment of Divorce is entered. This blog is introductory on what each one is, and we will explore them in further depth in upcoming blogs.
First, legal custody means that a parent has the right make important decisions about your children, such as where they go to school, what religion they are, and major medical decisions. There are two ways this is handled in Michigan. The first way is that the court can award sole legal custody to one parent. This is become the exception more than the rule. The second way is that the court can award joint legal custody to both parents. This is when both parents would have to work together and agree on each of the decisions. If the parents cannot agree, then either one can petition the court for a decision.
Physical custody is who the child lives with after the divorce is finalized. If parties can agree, then the physical custody can be one that consider both parents’ work schedules, distances to school, ability to transport back and forth to school for each parent, extracurricular activities of the children, and any unique of the children or parents. The schedule should promote what is best for the child and not necessarily what is the most convenient or desired outcome for either parent.
Parenting time is the time the non-custodial parent (the parent who does not have the child living with him or her most of the time) spends with the child. For parents with joint physical custody, this would be the time the child spends in his or her house. Each county has a version of standard parenting time. However, the parties can craft a parenting time schedule that is best for children and considers work schedules, distance to school, ability to transport the child to school, need for childcare, and extracurricular activities. For some parents, parenting time may be supervised for a period of time and would be dependent on the circumstances for those parents and children. Parenting time cannot be denied if child support is not paid.
Child support is money a parent pays to help meet his or her child’s needs when the parent is not living with the child. The court orders the support based on the Michigan Child Support Formula. Support may include payment of the expenses of medical, dental, and other health care, childcare expenses, and school expenses. If either party receives state assistance in any form, then the parties cannot deviate from the child support formula. Child support cannot be denied if parenting time is not occurring.
Medical support is a form of child support that is often provided through an employer’s health insurance plan. Child support agencies will send a National Medical Support Notice (NMSN) to the employer to order coverage for an employee’s children. The medical support language is contained within the Uniform Child Support Order. It will designate if one or both parents will maintain medical insurance on the children. It will also set a limit of the parent’s income to be used to obtain the medical insurance. If the cost of medical insurance exceeds the limit, the parent can petition to not have the insurance. If both parents are carrying medical insurance on the children, then one parent’s insurance will be primary, and the other’s will be secondary. The order will determine how much each parent will pay toward any uninsured medical expenses not covered by the insurance.
Each one of these areas are considered separately from the others. Although some areas can affect another area. For instance, the number of overnights exercised by a parent for parenting time will impact the amount of child support. However, which parent has legal custody will not change the outcome of child support including medical support.
If you have minor children and are considering divorce, call us to learn more about how a divorce will impact your children and what you can do to minimize that impact.