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Can I Do My Own Divorce if I Have Children?
A pro se divorce means the petitioner or plaintiff represents him or herself and bypasses the hiring of a lawyer. Many people contemplating a pro se dissolution of marriage ask if self-representation can be an option with minor children. The answer is yes. Many parents file their own divorce without a lawyer as long as they can agree on a parenting plan that focuses on the custody arrangements, child support obligation, visitation/parenting time, and other child related issues like health insurance coverage.
A filing of an uncontested divorce with children does not mean that the spouses do not initially disagree; it means they eventually work out their differences (if any), essentially negotiated their own settlement and proceed to the court in an uncontested fashion. 3StepDivorceTM is streamlined to help those in this situation file themselves, even if they have minor children.
Depending on the jurisdiction, the pro se dissolution may entail the completion of 10 or more forms, which are commonly referred to as "the divorce papers". When children are involved, a few more forms and divorce papers must also be completed, and a comprehensive agreement such as a Marital Settlement Agreement and Parenting Plan is often required or recommended. These, along with all the other required forms, are the documents that are completed and instantly printed through your 3StepDivorceTM online divorce account.
Parents know their children best, so they are most equipped to decide child-care arrangements. If they are acting in an amicable fashion the courts prefer their involvement. When parents cannot or will not agree, courts makes decisions for them based on the gold standard of child welfare -- the best interest of the child. If this is the case it is always recommended to hire a lawyer.
Deciding Physical Custody Arrangements
Parents must decide who receives physical custody of the children. Physical custody is the right of a parent to have a child physically reside with him or her. It is physical possession of the child. There is such a thing as split or shared physical custody, but it is not overly common, because rarely can a child and/or parents routine support the children physically residing with each parent approximately half of the time. This being said, normally one parent is labeled the physical custodial parent and the other parent (noncustodial) is granted visitation or parenting time rights per a written schedule.
Deciding Legal Custody Arrangements
Parents must also decide who will be granted legal custody of the children. Legal custody is the right and responsibility to make decisions about the rearing of the child. This includes issues such as education, religion, medical care, and discipline. Courts generally award joint legal custody, allowing both parents to share these rights. This is the most common option for parents filing an uncontested divorce. Everyday daily decisions are still made by the physical custodial parent. Today most (if not all) courts favor joint legal custody if the parents can cooperate.
Moreover, courts approve a variety of custody arrangements as long as the parents can cooperate. Other regimes include sole physical and legal custody, where one parent has total custody rights, allowing the other parent only visitation rights.
Deciding Visitation and Parenting Time
With custody, comes visitation, which is now more commonly called parenting time. In a divorce and child custody setting, parenting time refer to the rights of the non-custodial parent to see and visit his or her children on a routine schedule. The terms of the parenting time is usually set forth in a written schedule, which is often part of the Marital Settlement Agreement and/or Parenting Plan.
What About Child Support?
Both parents, married or divorced, must financially support their children. Usually, child support is court-ordered monthly payments the non-custodial parent pays to the physical custodial parent.
Child support is not a gift or payment for the privilege of visiting the children; it is an obligation.
Child support typically cannot be waived, but it can be a "zero" amount. A child has a legal right to support, and no parent can give this away. Parents may agree that no child support will be paid from one to the other, but the court will have final say as to whether this would be appropriate. A "zero" amount of child support is often warranted when both spouses have similar monthly income and/or each parent has the children for a similar number of overnights per month.
In calculating child support, courts sometime use what is called the income shares model, wherein child support is calculated by estimating the amount of support that would have been available to the child(ren) if the family had remained intact, or the percentage of income model, wherein support is a percentage of the income of the parent obligated to pay the child support. The courts expect to see a child support calculation worksheet completed, even if the amount agreed to is different. The support worksheet and guidelines are also available with 3StepDivorceTM.
Using 3StepDivorceTM To Prepare Your Divorce Papers
Now that you have a good grasp of the important issues you and your spouse must agree upon to file your own uncontested divorce with children, you can consider saving money and time by actually doing your divorce online with 3StepDivorce™. 3StepDivorceTM is an affordable option to easily prepare all your required divorce papers and Marital Settlement Agreement for filing your own uncontested divorce in your state and county. The system will address the required child related issues and walk you through the process of filing with the clerk at the courthouse. The only requirement is you and your spouse agree on all the issues and are both willing to sign the documents. If this is the case, go ahead and get started today!