Washington DC Child Custody Lawyers
Looking after children’s emotional and financial needs
One of the most important decisions couples face in divorce is over child custody, and the subsequent issues surrounding possible visitation and financial support. At Kuder, Smollar, Friedman & Mihalik, PC, we believe the emotional and financial needs of children must always be kept foremost in the minds of all parties.
When the courts are involved
Courts are always seeking to create a legal framework that will offer the least possible long-term stress and conflict based on their view of the child’s best interests. As a result, courts try to assure there is frequent contact with both parents regardless of who has custody, and without prejudice toward either parent unless there are extenuating circumstances. In looking at child custody and visitation, the courts consider:
- The age, physical, and mental condition, and developmental needs of the child
- The child’s preference, if the court feels a child has maturity to make express a reasonable preference and understand its consequences
- The age, physical and mental condition of each parent
- Existing relationships between each parent and each child:
- Parental ability to provide emotional, developmental and financial support
- Parental ability to provide frequent access to siblings, peers and extended family members
- Parental interest and history of supporting a child's contact and relationship with the other parent
- Each parent’s demonstrated willingness and interest in maintaining a close and continuing relationship with the child
- Each parent's ability to cooperate in dispute resolution in matters affecting the child
- Other factors the court feels are relevant in determination a child’s best interest
Different types of custody
There are several types of legal child custody a court can mandate in a divorce either separately or in concert based on what it seems are in the best interests of the child. These include—
- Sole legal custody—a specified parent retains responsibility for the care and control of the child, and also has primary authority for making decisions about the child. The designation of one parent as the sole custodian means that the other parent may or may not have rights of visitation.
- Joint legal custody—both parents have responsibility for the care of the child and joint authority in making decisions, even though the child's primary residence may be with only one parent.
- Joint physical custody—both parents share physical and custodial care.
DC child support guidelines
Under the laws of Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland, both parents are responsible for the financial support of their minor children. In each jurisdiction guidelines are provided for calculating basic monthly child support obligations for each parent. The formulas are based on—
- Combined monthly gross incomes of the parents
- Number of children
- Percentage of time the children physically reside with each parent
It is important to note that these are guidelines. Support can be modified based on the cost of variable or extraordinary expenses, and courts may modify amounts to be paid if they believe the statutory guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate. Child support is typically a parental obligation until the child reaches the age of 18. However, it can be continued if the court feels a child over 18 is incapable of independence because of severe or permanent mental or physically disabilities. Our lawyers have years of experience working for the best interests of children of divorce, and the protection and security of their emotional and financial interests. We can counsel you on what is in the best interests of your child from a legal standpoint.