Divorce is difficult both parties, but even more so when children are involved. It is therefore important that each decision made concerning children is made with their best interests in mind. It can be easy for parents to use them as pawns to get something in a divorce, but the custody and support of the children should be the paramount concern, regardless of the parent's own interests.
A recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Indiana considered an interesting issue involving child custody arrangements that could take place in other states as well, including Georgia. The case stemmed from a divorce decree in which the father agreed to relinquish parenting time in exchange for not having to pay child support, with the mother taking on full financial responsibility for their child. The father attempted to modify the arrangement, but his attempts were repeatedly denied. In making its decision, the court ruled that child support and parenting time are different issues, and no arrangements should be made in which the decision of one is based on the other.
The typical child custody order involves the children living most of the time with one parent, while the other parent retains visitation rights and legal custody, which is the right to be involved in decisions concerning a child's health and well-being. The determination of a child custody arrangement is based on numerous factors. These factors include the health of the parents, religious and education considerations, the need for a stable home environment and parental abuse, among others. Not included in this list, however, is the amount of child support paid by one of the parents.
The original arrangement in this case stated that the father would be able to do away with any child support obligation if he agreed to forgo his parenting time with the couple's child. The mother would be financially responsible for the child, but it was contingent on the father having to give up something that was, or should have been, unrelated to the child support arrangement. Child custody and child support are completely different determinations and should not be reliant on each other in any way.
Source: NWI Times, "High court rules parenting time can't be bargained away in divorce," Dan Carden, June 25, 2013