INDIVIDUALS who are in the process of getting a divorce often have questions and concerns about how judges make child custody and support decisions. In today’s column, we will provide basic information on these issues and address factors that influence child custody and support determinations. Keep in mind that the information below is not a substitute for legal advice. For advice about your individual situation, you should consult with an experienced, trustworthy family law attorney.

Child custody has two components: legal and physical. Legal custody determines who has the right to make important decisions for your child, such as what doctor to go to. Physical custody determines with whom your child will primarily reside. The court favors joint custody if both parents can agree to it. If the parents cannot come to an agreement, the court will decide custody based on the best interest of the child. One of the factors the court will consider is who has been the child’s primary caregiver until now, although that is not the only factor. The court also looks at other issues such as domestic violence and the child’s age. Please note that the issue of child custody and visitation only applies to minor children under the age of 18.

In regards to child support, both parents are responsible for supporting the children. Therefore, the non-custodial parent will generally have to pay support to the custodial parent. How much the child support will be depends on the parents’ incomes and the amount of time the children spend with each parent. If the person owing support is employed by a company, his wages may be garnished to collect the support. If the person works in a cash job or is self-employed, it may be very difficult to force payment of support. Typically, the non-custodial parent will have to pay child support until the child turns 18 years old, but there are some exceptions.

If you want custody and support orders before your divorce is finalized, it is not enough to file or respond to the initial paperwork. In order to get temporary orders, you will need to file “Request for Order” (RFO) paperwork. This is the paperwork that will give you a court date, so that the Court can make relevant orders while your divorce case is still pending. The final custody and support orders are part of what make up the divorce judgment and may be the same or different from the temporary orders that were made or agreed upon initially.

Please note that every case is different and judges often have significant discretion when deciding issues of custody. So while an experienced attorney can help you prepare and present your case as best as possible, there is no way to predict or guarantee any outcome. If you have questions about your situation or need legal assistance, please contact Advancing Justice – L.A’s Tagalog helpline at 855-300-2552.

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Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice – LA) is the nation’s largest legal and civil rights organization for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (NHPI). Founded in 1983 as the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Advancing Justice – LA serves more than 15,000 individuals and organizations every year.  Through direct services, impact litigation, policy advocacy, leadership development, and capacity building, Advancing Justice – LA focuses on the most vulnerable members of Asian American and NHPI communities while also building a strong voice for civil rights and social justice. For more information, please visit https://www.advancingjustice-la.org/. 

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