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Custody and support issues often difficult for parents

When parents in New York decide to separate or divorce, it can be particularly difficult to move from full-time parenting to sharing the parenting time with an ex. While some couples are able to negotiate a balanced solution fairly easily, people with a more contentious relationship may see their discussions degenerate into a battle over custody time. Both mothers and fathers often feel unheard in family court; while mothers may feel their real concerns aren't taken seriously, fathers often worry that they are victims of gender bias in court.

Statistics show that up to 80 percent of cases involve mothers with primary or full child custody. However, most of these cases involve fathers who are not involved or not actively seeking additional parenting time with their children. When fathers seek a higher level of custody, they will often succeed in court, even though they may face some judges with a biased or traditional view of a father's role.

Child support can also pose an issue when financial problems rear their heads after the initial issuance of a support order. A child support order is based on the parent's income and time with the child according to a state formula. However, if a paying parent loses his or her job or becomes disabled, a previously manageable support payment can become overwhelming. If debt racks up, the parent could even be threatened with jail time for contempt of court.

There are actions that parents can take to protect themselves and their relationship with their children. A family law attorney may help parents file for a child support modification with documentation of changed financial circumstances. By modifying the order to reflect hardship, a new support amount suitable to a parent's current situation might be issued, reducing the risk of overwhelming debt and damaging punishments.

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