For parents with children, getting a divorce requires each spouse to make multiple decisions about their children’s futures. When working through a divorce settlement with your spouse, be sure that your plan for child support and visitation addresses each of these ten issues before signing any paperwork.
#1: Where Will The Children Live?
First and foremost, parents will need to decide on living arrangements for their children. This could mean that the kids will spend half their time with one parent and half their time with the other, or one parent could have the children for the majority of the time while the other receives visitation less frequently. Regardless of what you and your soon-to-be former spouse decide to do, determining living arrangements is usually the first step.
#2: How Will Legal Decisions Be Made?
In most cases, decisions about the children’s lives will be made by both parents equally. In some states, this is referred to as “legal custody.” While Washington state does not use this distinction, it is important to decide if and how parents will split decisions about where the children should attend school, what type of medical attention they should receive, and other important issues.
#3: How Much Child Support Is Needed?
When deciding issues like child visitation, one parent will be designated as the “primary residential parent.” This is true even if the children split their time equally. The designated parent will often receive child support payments from the non-primary parent. How much child support will be ordered will depend on things like how much time each parent spends with the child as well as each parent’s financial resources.
#4: Who Will Provide Health Insurance?
State and federal laws require that children have health insurance. During a divorce, the parents need to decide which parent will pay for this coverage. If one parent has better health insurance than the other, then that parent will likely be required to continue providing coverage for the children after a divorce. The payments made towards health insurance will be considered during the process of calculating child support.
#5: Who Will Provide Transportation To And From School?
Parents will need to come up with a plan for reliably transporting their children to where they need to go. Each parent will have to consider his or her work schedule, and work out a plan that will ensure that the kids have reliable transportation to and from school, sports practices, and extracurricular activities.
#6: How Will the Children Spend Their Summers, Holidays, and Birthdays?
It is also important to come up with a plan for how the children will spend holidays, birthdays, and vacations from school. Parents should attempt to be flexible with their regular visitation schedules so that each former spouse can spend time with the children during important events in their lives. Often, the regular visitation schedule will need to be altered around the holidays to ensure fairness.
#7: Who Will Claim The Tax Deduction?
In general, the primary residential parent will claim the tax deduction for the children each year. However, this tax deduction is valuable, and can often be used as a bargaining chip during negotiations for child support and visitation rights. Parents should remember to decide who will claim the deduction to avoid tax issues with the IRS later on.
#8: Will You Save for College Expenses?
Many parents view saving for their children’s college tuition as an important goal. If you and your former spouse plan to help your children out with college expenses, it is helpful to create a plan during the divorce settlement negotiations. Parents may decide to contribute jointly to a college savings plan or trust fund, or both parents may decide to start a savings account on their own.
#9: Who Will Pay Uncovered Expenses?
Life is full of unexpected expenses. When parents need to pay for expenses that were not anticipated in the divorce settlement, like uncovered medical bills, there should be a plan in place for splitting those costs. Similarly, parents should discuss how they will cover other types of sporadic expenses, like new textbooks for school, orthodontic braces for younger children, or a vehicle for driving-aged teens.
#10: How Will Future Conflicts Be Resolved?
No matter how well parents plan for the future, conflicts will eventually arise. When parents can’t resolve these conflicts by themselves, they should have a plan in place for settling disputes. Running to court and having legal hearings over relatively minor issues is a waste of time and money—instead, parents should consider agreeing on a mediator or other type of counselor that they can use whenever a serious conflict arises.
Children are a lifetime commitment. When separating from your partner, it is important to remember that you will have to deal with that person for the rest of your children’s lives. Rather than focusing on “winning” the divorce, parents should try to work together to create an amicable solution.
At Pacific Northwest Family Law, our attorneys know how important it is to maintain a good relationship with your former spouse. That’s why our attorneys offer a range of divorce services, from traditional divorces to collaborative divorces, legal separations, mediations, arbitrations, and many other family law agreements.
We look forward to helping your family move on after a divorce. To learn more about your options, contact us today by calling 509-572-3700.