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Changing family structures impact child support, alimony awards

Data from the Pew Research Center indicates that the number of stay-at-home dads has nearly doubled in the past twenty years. Around two million fathers reported staying at home to care for their children in 2012.

Such changes in American family structures could have broader implications, especially in family law. For example, child custody arrangements in many American states no longer presume the mother is the primary caregiver or will seek sole physical custody. In Michigan, specifically, courts consider spending time with both parents to be in a child’s best interest.

Notably, there is a distinction between legal and physical custody. That means that one parent may still have joint custody even if his or her work schedule prevents a joint physical custody arrangement. Creative approaches are also possible.

For example, parents may agree to a flexible parenting time arrangement that does not include specific days or times. Parents agree to adjust their time with their children as needed, according to their children’s needs. That flexibility also spares parents a trip back to court for a modification order, which might be required under a more specific parenting time arrangement.

Our family law firm encourages our Michigan clients to reach agreement on as many issues in their divorce as possible. If one parent has put his or her career on hold to raise minor children, a divorce court may also factor that sacrifice into child support calculations. While both parents share a legal obligation for their child’s financial needs, a support order considers many factors, including the income of each parent. One parent may even need spousal support to get his or skills and training back into marketable shape.

Source: Journalist’s Resource, “Stay-at-home dads: How unemployment, mother’s education impact family decisions about child care,” Denise-Marie Ordway, Sept. 26, 2016

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