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New Orleans Family Law Blog

Study finds child support amounts differ widely between states

Louisiana parents may have higher child support payments than they would if they lived in the neighboring state of Mississippi. This was one of the findings of the company Custody X Change, which conducted a study to examine the wide disparities in child support payments between states.

The study identified four different tiers of child support payments, with Louisiana in the next-to-highest tier of typical payments at $735-$880 monthly. The lowest tier of typical payments had a range of $400-$528 and included such states as Oregon and Tennessee while the range in the highest tier was $881 to $1,187. The hypothetical parents in the study earned $100,000 between them, which is much higher than the average for two-income earners of $56,000. However, even if the amounts are not exact, the study still demonstrates the substantial variation in payments.

Non-custodial parents have an active role to play

When parents in Louisiana divorce or separate, they may face the difficult task of working out a child custody arrangement and having it approved by a family court. There are a number of systems that work for different families depending on each child's needs and the parents' circumstances. Joint and shared custody are becoming much more popular options than they were in the past. However, in many families, one parent may be granted primary physical custody of the children. This does not mean that the non-custodial parent will be excluded from the child's life.

Many non-custodial parents enjoy active, involved relationships with their children. They have an extensive visitation schedule, which can frequently include overnight stays or holiday time, and they regularly pay child support, a major factor in contributing to the child's health and well-being. In addition, even parents who do not share physical custody may share legal custody, giving them an equal voice in making decisions about their children's education, health care and other major issues. Both parents and children benefit when non-custodial parents stay active and involved in each other's lives, absent a situation of neglect or abuse.

Financial repercussions of divorce

Divorce can negatively affect people in Louisiana financially, and a study that appeared in "Sociological Science" found that it can hurt some children's access to education as well. This is often related to the reason for the divorce itself, a father's lack of employment or underemployment. Some data indicates that men who are not in a breadwinning role are more vulnerable to divorce.

Income may also drop after divorce because one spouse is unfamiliar with the family finances. In some marriages, men take responsibility for the finances, and some divorced women have to balance insurance, housing costs and more for the first time. However, there are also relationships in which the woman says she entered the relationship with a strong credit score only to have it drop over the course of the relationship. Credit scores can also be hurt if a spouse does not pay a fair share of debt. Both people may agree to split a debt, but if one person does not do so and the debt is in the other person's name, it is that person's credit that will suffer.

Steps to take when buying the home in a divorce

Some Louisiana homeowners who are getting a divorce might want to buy out a spouse and keep the home. The first step in this process is getting the house appraised to determine how much equity is in it. This can be done most accurately with an appraiser, but it can be expensive. Some couples may opt for a broker price opinion or a comparative market analysis, both of which can cost less and can be performed by a real estate broker.

Since Louisiana is a community property state, each spouse may be considered to own half of the equity in the home. However, a court may consider other factors as well. The person buying the home will then need to find out what the mortgage will be. This will be affected by whether or not the person has to take cash from the property for the buyout.

Damage to a credit score may be one of the pains of divorce

For most, divorce is an emotionally painful experience. However, it can be just as financially painful over the long term. A hidden pain that many ex-spouses suffer is a lower credit rating. Those in Louisiana going through a divorce should take steps to prevent this from occurring.

Divorce itself does not affect a credit score one way or the other. Rather, it is when the party divides the marital debts that mishaps could occur. If a former partner fails to pay the debts assigned to them, both exes will suffer. Women tend to get hurt more from this situation. In a recent survey, more than half of the female respondents indicated that their credit scores suffered.

Some reflections on divorce-linked behavior and processes

A family law commentator notes in a recent Forbes article that divorce can be “one of the most difficult transitions in life that a person may go through.”

That’s obvious, right? And because marital dissolution profoundly signals a material change in circumstances, it is key for any potentially divorcing party to know with confidence that opting for divorce is the right decision.

Steps to take after a divorce is final

While a divorce can feel exhausting, the work does not necessarily end when the final paperwork is signed and submitted. Estranged Louisiana couples may still have several other issues to address.

For example, some people may need to change their name on their driver's license and other documents. Others might need to remove a former spouse from a health insurance plan. A commonly overlooked step is changing the estate plan. This can mean altering a will or a trust and drawing up new powers of attorney. People should also check their beneficiary designations on insurance policies and retirement accounts and change them if necessary.

How to be better coparents after divorce

Once the difficult process of working out a schedule for custody and visitation is over for a divorced couple in Louisiana, they still must learn to coparent. A parent should always avoid speaking negatively of their ex. Children can learn on their own if a parent is irresponsible. Furthermore, a child should only be kept away from the other parent if it affects their safety.

Exes may not share parenting styles, but they should try to have similar expectations for the children in both households. Online tools can help parents communicate about the schedule and other issues affecting the children. In addition, a calendar in each parent's home can provide an easy visual for everyone to keep track.

Dealing with cryptocurrencies during a divorce

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have become extremely popular among investors in Louisiana and around the country because they offer the promise of robust returns and operate outside the sphere of government regulators. However, the qualities that make them an attractive addition to investment portfolios can be a major challenge to divorcing spouses and the attorneys representing them. Placing a value on these volatile assets can be difficult during property division negotiations, and the privacy offered by Bitcoin and its competitors have made these alternative currencies a popular way for high-net-worth individuals to conceal funds.

The value of marital assets are generally set based on what they were worth when divorce papers were initially filed, but legal and financial advisers say that a different approach should be taken with cryptocurrencies because their value fluctuates so much. Between November 2016 and February 2017, Bitcoin prices surged by more than 1,200 percent and then fell by 40 percent. To address this problem, experts suggest waiting until assets are distributed to set the value of cryptocurrencies.

Social media helps kids get through divorce

While many Louisiana residents bemoan the effect of social media and online communications on children's psyches, some research indicates that these forms of communication can be highly beneficial to children whose parents are going through a divorce. Studies show that even kids whose parents are engaged in high levels of conflict and disagreement benefit greatly from online communication.

When parents of minor children divorce and one parent maintains primary custody, it can be challenging for the other parent to remain as close to the children. This is especially true when work or other factors cause the other parent to move away. However, social media, texting and video calls enable these parents to bridge the gap. While experts agree that in-person contact is always best, they noted that whenever parents and children stayed directly in touch, the relationship between the parents mattered much less to the children's sense of love and connection with both parents.