Will Sole Custody Affect Child Support?

By Victoria McGrath

Courts can order sole legal custody, sole physical custody, joint legal custody and joint physical custody. Sole custody directly affects the amount of child support paid by the non-custodial parent. The parent with sole physical custody is the custodial parent and the parent without physical custody is the non-custodial parent. The non-custodial parent typically pays child support to the custodial parent to cover the child's living expenses.

Sole Physical Custody and Child Support Obligations

A court often awards sole physical custody to one parent so the child can stay in one household most of the time and attend the local school. The custodial parent physically takes care of the child a majority of the time and the non-custodial parent generally has scheduled visitation. Because the custodial parent must provide daily meals, transportation and housing a majority of the time, the non-custodial parent must share in those expenses. The non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent, on behalf of the child.

Joint Legal Custody and Sole Physical Custody

A non-custodial parent can share joint legal custody, but that has no effect on the amount of child support to be paid. Joint legal custody means that both parents make important decisions for the child in areas such as education, religion and health care. For example, under joint legal custody, parents decide the best type of education for their child. However, under sole physical custody, the custodial parent might need the child to attend the school closest to her work. The court can resolve child custody issues under dispute.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Child Visitation Rights for Non-Custodial Parents

Non-custodial parents generally have child visitation rights that include regular communication with the child and overnight visits at the non-custodial parent's residence. Most states calculate the amount of child support paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent based on the amount of time each parent spends with the child. For example, if a non-custodial parent takes care of the child four nights a month, the custodial parent provides care at least 26 days a month. Therefore, the non-custodial parent must split the cost of the child's 26 days with the custodial parent. Each state calculates the minimum amount of child support due based on a formula set by state law.

Change from Sole Physical Custody to Joint Physical Custody

A non-custodial parent can ask the court to modify their child custody order due to changed circumstances; if approved, their physical custody arrangement may be changed from sole to joint. Some states require that a child spend a minimum number of nights with each parent in joint physical custody arrangements. If the child lives with each parent 50 percent of the time, each parent pays an equal share of the child's living expenses. As a result, it is possible that neither parent will be ordered to pay child support to the other.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
An Example of a Child Custody Schedule


Related articles

Child Custody & Visitation Laws for Missouri

Missouri law favors joint custody of children when parents separate, so that children have "frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents." State law encourages parents to cooperate with each other in raising their children and requires divorcing parents to create a parenting plan as a part of their divorce. If the court determines the best interests of the children are not served by being with the parents, third party custody can be ordered, which might mean, for example, placing the children with grandparents.

What Is the Normal Child Visitation for Divorced Parents?

A non-residential parent can be worried and disheartened by the idea that he won't have enough time to continue to grow his relationship with his child. It helps to have a clear understanding of what normal, or standard, visitation is for divorced parents. The schedule won't be exactly the same in every state, but the guidelines are similar, and judges may deviate from the guidelines, based on the facts of your particular case.

Rights of Parents With Sole Physical Custody in California

California courts can award sole physical custody to one parent or joint physical custody to both parents, based on the best interest of the child. The California Family Code does not favor either joint or sole custody. In California, sole physical custody is also called primary physical custody. Sole physical custody includes the right to control the child's whereabouts, housing arrangements, school enrollment, after school care, medical and dental appointments, holiday and vacation plans. However, sole physical custody does not automatically give the parent sole legal custody, which is the right to make all critical decisions over the child's life. Sole legal custody would need to be included in the custody order. The court order should outline each parent's child custody or visitation rights.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Joint Child Custody: How to Create Your Child Visitation Schedule

You have the power to negotiate a visitation schedule that works well for you. If you and your ex-partner agree to ...

What Does Joint Custody Consist of in NC?

North Carolina statutes do not define joint custody and rarely award joint custody to both parents of minor children. ...

Child Custody Cases During a Divorce

Parents seek child custody orders through the court during divorce proceedings. Courts consider the custody agreement ...

Do Both Parents Need to Live in the Same State to Have Joint Custody?

The term “joint custody” doesn’t lend itself well to an exact legal definition. Few states specify the number of ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED