Parents work hard to protect and provide for their children. Single parents face even greater challenges, whether they have full legal custody, are obligated to pay child support, or are completely on their own.
Unless your former spouse surrenders parental rights or has them revoked because of untoward behavior, the fact that you both have equal parental rights can be problematic, particularly if one parent is mostly out of the picture but occasionally steps in to wield some muscle. Such unpredictable “drop-in” parenting can be hard on both the custodial parent and the children.
Child custody issues are not only for people who are divorcing. In the case of unmarried parents, a single mother is automatically given sole legal and physical custody rights. Unmarried single fathers have no legal rights when it comes to custody or visitation until a court order states otherwise. For the fathers who are devoted to their children, this can be a major blow, especially if the split from the mother was acrimonious.
In some cases, an ex is permitted to make child support payments on good faith. Oftentimes, however, child support is automatically deducted from the obligated parent’s paycheck through a garnishment or income-withholding order. This becomes necessary when the obligated parent doesn’t pay what is due, is late with payments, or simply disappears, leaving the custodial parent financially strapped. But even garnishment is no guarantee that the full payments will be made, since only a certain percentage of the obligated parent’s income can be deducted from the paycheck for child support. So, if the deadbeat parent isn’t earning much or is working less, the custodial parent still might not receive the full child support payments.
Sharing legal custody of the children with an ex complicates life, especially for parents with sole physical custody. They’re tending to the children’s needs – chauffeuring them around, managing their education, feeding them, clothing them, arranging child care – all on their own. Legal custody, however, means that the ex, no matter how much of a deadbeat he or she may be, still has a say in making decisions about the children’s education, religion, medical care, and more. It can be a bitter pill to swallow.