For many men, when it comes to creating a custody and visitation arrangement, shared custody is particularly attractive because it comes with a significant reduction in child support.
Shared custody exists when the non-custodial parent (the parent who has less time with the children) has visitation with the children for more than 90 days in a given year. A day is defined as a 24 hour period, and dad can get credit for full or half days only; no other portion of time is enough to qualify as part of that time. So, for example, if dad has the children overnight for a full 24 hour period, he gets credit for one day. If dad has the children during the day but returns them in the evenings, he gets credit for half of a day. If dad has the children for dinner and then returns them, this doesn’t count towards his 90 day total at all.
In a shared custody situation, the child support is based “on the ratio in which the parents share the custody and visitation.” This means that dad will pay less support if he has the kids for 180 days than if he has 90.
Primary physical custody, on the other hand, exists when the non-custodial parent has less than 90 days of visitation with the children in a year. Under this custody and visitation schedule, it doesn’t matter how many days dad has, because there is no difference in child support. Whether he never sees the child, or whether he spends 89 days with the child, his support obligation will remain the same.
More and more dads these days are pushing for a shared custody arrangement, and a major motivating factor could be the substantial financial savings they’ll receive. Why are the guidelines written this way? Well, theoretically at least, if dad is spending more time with the children, he’s also sharing more in the cost of raising them. He’s paying for more meals, he’s buying more clothes, he’s giving them lunch money, and he’s helping pay for extracurriculars. The court just assumes that spending more time with the children means that it increases the financial burden on the non-custodial parent, and relieves the burden on the custodial parent. In real life, it doesn’t always work out this way, but, regardless, child support is still calculated based on a formula, and, unless your child’s father agrees to pay more than the guideline amount, you’ll be stuck with this number.