Most of us feel that children are the most important assets in our lives. They represent our love, our future, and to many of us our highest achievement. We want to protect them in all ways, and their happiness, health, and education are primary concerns. So how can children help us in make divorce decisions that relate specifically to them?
Listen to Your Children
Almost any teacher or psychologist will tell you that one of the most important things you can do with your child is to listen to them. Children can tell us what they want and need, we just need to ask and then listen to their response. Even younger children can be capable of expressing their desires. Of course, the age of the child is a deciding factor as to how much input a child can provide in court. In California, most courts accept age 14 as the age when a child can address the court (provided the court has decided it is in the child’s best interest), to express their preferences regarding custody and visitation.
Make a Parenting Plan
Making a parenting plan is a good way to make decisions relating to children. Parents work on the plan together and may want to include their children, when and if appropriate. The plan should include Legal Custody, Physical Custody and Parenting Time (time-share or visitation); It should specify if legal and physical custody is joint (both parents share responsibilities) or sole (one parent has all responsibility). Making it on your own is great if you can both agree on the issues, but if you can’t, an experienced mediator can help you resolve any disagreements about custody, child care and support, in an atmosphere that supports love and a commitment to family.
Federal tax regulations are very clear when it comes to child support and taxes. For federal income tax purposes, child support is always tax-free. This means that neither the custodial parent who receives child support payments, nor the child, owes any taxes on those payments. As for the non-custodial parent who makes those child support payments, they are not classified as tax-deductible. One very important consideration for custodial parents is to make sure that those monthly payments are specifically designated as “child support” in the final divorce agreement, also known as marital separation agreement (MSA). Child support payments should be completely separated from spousal support payments and not lumped together as “family support”. This is an important step to follow for one major reason: while child support is tax-deductible, spousal support is considered income and taxable. The final agreement between parents needs to be very clear on identifying which payments are for child support and which ones are for spousal support, so that custodial parents do not experience unnecessary tax burdens.