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Child support: What you need to know

Whenever you have to decide on the custody arrangements for your child, there are bound to be some disagreements or key issues raised. You'll need to consider where your child will live, who will pick up or drop him or her at school, decide on visitation times and plan for how you and your spouse will work together to raise him or her. If you want sole custody and the sole right to make parenting decisions, that's another issue that you might want to raise with the court.

There are a few ways that child custody decisions can be made. First, many parents work together to reach an agreement outside of course. The informal settlement negotiations are made with the help of attorneys in most cases, or the couple may go to alternative dispute-resolution programs like mediation. If this process doesn't work, then the court can make decisions on child custody and visitation that the couple must then abide by.

In the case that a couple with a child is not married, then it's most likely for the mother to be awarded sole physical custody by default unless the father takes action to seek custody. Fathers have a right to pursue custody and visitation, but since they are unmarried, they will have to show proof of their lineage; a DNA test is normally required unless both the mother and father agree that he is the biological father of the child.

After all the custody arrangements are settled, families can go on with their separate lives. If the person paying or receiving child support has a change in his or her circumstances, a modification can be requested. Our website has more information on what to do in that case.

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