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Q: What’s the difference between contested and uncontested divorce?
In a contested divorce the spouses cannot arrive at an agreement on one or more key issues in order to conclusively terminate their marriage, such as:
- child custody
- child support
- property division
- asset distribution
- debt allocation
- temporary spousal support
Uncontested divorces are also known as “joint petitions” since both parties will execute the document submitted to the court.
Q: Can I get a legal separation or an annulment instead of a divorce?
Yes. If you are granted an annulment it is as if the marriage never took place. However, an annulment is only available under limited circumstances. If you obtain a legal separation, you and your spouse will remain married, but the court can divide your property and issue orders relating to child custody, visitation, child support and spousal support. However, you cannot remarry while only legally separated.
Q: What are some of the grounds for an annulment?
An annulment can be based on a number of factors, including: lack of consent of a parent or guardian (if underage), lack of understanding/insanity, fraud and/or void marriages (spouses that are closely related by blood; polygamy/bigamy.)
CHILD CUSTODY FAQs:
Q: How is child custody determined?
The court looks at the best interests of the child in determining the proper custody arrangement. The judge considers many factors when deciding custody, including:
- Age and sex of the child
- Compatibility with each parent
- Ability of each parent to care for and nurture the child.
Q: What is a parenting plan?
A court ordered arrangement of the custody and visitation details surrounding the child(ren)s day to day needs, along with a set of guidelines as to both parents rights and responsibilities regarding their child(ren).
Q: Can child custody be modified?
A court maintains jurisdiction to change a custody order as long as the child remains a minor. Visitation may be changed as well, however, there are certain limitations that may apply.
Q: What if I am not married to the mother of my child?
If you are not listed on the birth certificate, you have no legal rights until you obtain an order legitimating the child.
Q: May parents share custody?
Although it is rare, the court, in its discretion, can award sole legal custody instead of joint legal custody – usually reserved for situations where there is a “bad” parent. Sole legal custody means that one parent makes all of the major parenting decisions for the child(ren), where joint legal custody means that both parents have equal rights to and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child(ren).
- Primary physical custody, which means that one parent has substantially more physical custody and contact than the other parent – often used where the parents have a substantial physical separation; and
- Joint physical custody, which means that physical custody is shared by the parents in such a way that the child is assured substantially of equal time and contact with both parents.
In awarding joint custody, the court may order joint legal custody, joint physical custody or both.
CHILD SUPPORT FAQs:
Q: What factors may cause variations in child support?
Some factors that may warrant variations in child support include, but are not limited to:
- Ages of children
- A child’s medical costs
- Educational costs
- Day care costs
- Shared physical custody arrangements, including extended visitations
- A party’s other support obligations to another household
- A party’s own medical expenses
- The income of the custodial parent
Q: Can a parent receive money for the children’s college?
The court cannot order parents to pay for college. However, parents may agree to pay child support beyond the age of 18 or to pay for college expenses.
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