Syracuse & Central New York Family Law Attorney

Mother holding children hands through field of flowers during sunset

As painful as divorce is for any couple, for those with children, it is even more heartbreaking. While decisions involving the division of marital property or the necessity for spousal support are often complicated and adversarial, decisions concerning child custody can be positively gut-wrenching. Having an experienced, assertive family law attorney on your side is not only reassuring; it ensures that you will have effective representation during negotiations and, if necessary, in the courtroom.

If you are divorcing in Onondaga County or the surrounding area of Central New York, or already divorced and facing continued issues with your ex, you should turn to the first-rate family law attorneys at Carden Dotzler Hammond, PLLC. Conveniently located in Syracuse, we have impeccable credentials and the ability to get the job done to your satisfaction. More than that, we are sensitive to the needs of your children and will work hard to protect them and have their lives impacted as little as possible by the turmoil accompanying their parents’ divorce.

Child Custody

For most couples with children, deciding on child custody is the most critical, and often one of the most contentious, aspects of divorce negotiations.  

  • Legal custody determines which parent will make basic decisions about the child’s education, religion, and medical treatment. Unless there are unusual circumstances at play, in most cases, legal custody is awarded jointly.
  • Physical custody, on the other hand, determines which parent the child will live with and is much more likely to be disputed than legal custody.
  • Joint custody may sometimes be a viable option for physical custody, especially when both parents live in the same area and have schedules that mesh. In such situations, the child will spend approximately half of his or her time with each parent and be able to attend the same school from either home base.
  • Sole custody is typically more practical and less complicated for the child because he or she lives in one place. When sole custody is awarded, due to one parent’s work schedule, the distance the two parents live from one another, or some other reason, the noncustodial parent is entitled to visitation rights, now known as “parenting time.”

In most cases, visitation results in the noncustodial parent caring for the child one or more evenings per week (typically for dinner), as well as every other weekend, on alternate holidays, for one or more vacation periods during the year, and for half of the summer.

Child Support

Legally, both parents are responsible for financially supporting their children. Because children have many physical needs besides room and board (which will be split if the divorcing spouses have joint custody), there are a number of discussions required about which parent will pay for what. Many can be decided during divorce negotiations, but some will likely have to be addressed as they come up during the child’s maturation.

Parents and their family law attorneys will have to discuss financial issues of child support as they arise, including which parent will pay for:

  • Toys
  • Clothing
  • Sports equipment
  • Art supplies
  • Medical care
  • Psychological counseling
  • Tutoring or SAT preparation
  • Lessons for special interests such as dancing, skating, sculpting, writing, dramatics

How Long Will Child Support Continue

New York State requires children to be supported by their parents until they reach 21 years of age unless they are self-supporting, considered emancipated, in the military, or married. Because college is a part of a high percentage of young lives, and because most students don’t finish college until they are 22 years of age, parents often have college costs written into the divorce agreement. Special circumstances like this require the skill set of our accomplished CDH Law attorneys.

Modification of Child Support

Divorce arrangements, like most things, have to allow for changes in circumstances. Although many noncustodial parents are non-compliant with their child support payments simply because of willfulness, resentment, or laziness, others experience unforeseeable life changes that make it impossible to pay the agreed-upon amount. A serious illness or accident, a loss of employment, or some other type of financial reverse may make a parent unable to meet the child support payments stipulated in the divorce agreement.

In situations of non-compliance with child support payments, the non-custodial parent may apply for child support modifications more in line with his or her altered financial circumstances. If the court finds the evidence presented compelling, the child support payments may be temporarily or permanently altered.

If the court determines, however, that the non-compliant parent is trying to get away without paying necessary legally binding child support payments, the non-compliant parent’s wages may be garnished to ensure that regular child support payments are extracted automatically from his or her paycheck.

Violations of Child Support Orders

As most of us are aware, it is all too common for noncustodial parents to be non-compliant with child support payments. While in some situations a modification of child support payments for a short time may solve the problem, many financially negligent parents are recidivists. In recent years, the government has cracked down on “deadbeat” moms and dads. In New York, for example, it is presumed that a parent’s failure to pay court-ordered child support is willful and therefore the burden is on the delinquent parent to prove this is not the case.

Child support violations are taken extremely seriously in New York since they increased exponentially over the past several decades and are believed to be a major factor in the rising poverty rate among American children. If a violating parent is found guilty of willfully disregarding court directives on paying child support, that individual can have his or her driver’s license suspended or be jailed for consecutive 6-month sentences for repeat violations which, in some cases, may extend into a year and a half of incarceration.

If child support payment is overdue for longer than 2 years, or the amount due exceeds $10,000, the violation becomes a criminal felony, and convicted offenders face fines and up to 2 years in prison. Whichever side of a child support violation you’re on, having a sharp family law attorney is essential in reaching a just conclusion.

Contact Our Syracuse Family Law Lawyers 

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Family law almost always involves financial and emotional turbulence. This is why it is so important to have a competent family law attorney to assist you in navigating the troubled waters of divorce. When you come to CDH Law, you become the focus of our attention. We have the communication skills and compassion to help you find your way and the litigation prowess to lead to a successful settlement. You can reach us by phone, email, or by filling out a contact form on our website.

Carden Dotzler Hammond, PLLC represents clients in Syracuse and in the following towns and villages of Onondaga County: Camillus, Cicero, Clay, Dewitt, Elbridge, Geddes, Manlius, Marcellus, Onondaga, Salina, Skaneateles, Baldwinsville, East Syracuse, Fayetteville, Liverpool, North Syracuse, and Solvay

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should not be based solely on advertising. The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.