Divorce and Family
Divorce and child custody disputes are highly emotional and stressful for both parties. Our divorce and custody attorneys can guide you through complex and important issues including: child custody, child support, division of property and debt, and awards of spousal maintenance (alimony). We understand that each divorce is unique and personal, and we will work with you to achieve the best result possible to enable you to move forward with your life.
Grounds for Divorce: Idaho is a no-fault divorce state and allows a divorce on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences”. That means you do not need to prove a reason to the judge why you should not be married. Other fault-based grounds for divorce exist such as adultery, extreme cruelty, and neglect, which can and should be raised in certain circumstances. We encourage our clients to look at divorce as a last resort. However, when divorce is inevitable, we can help make these determinations.
Child Custody: There are two types of child custody in every case: (1) legal custody and (2) physical custody.
Legal Custody: Generally speaking, unless good cause exists otherwise, a court will presume both parents should be granted joint legal custody. Legal custody is the right of both parents to make decisions in the children’s lives (i.e. health, education, religious, medical, welfare). If parents have joint legal custody, they both have equal say. Due to frequently conflicting parenting styles, this can occasionally lead to parenting gridlock. In many instances, we can help negotiate this gridlock and help develop helpful parenting provisions to provide guidance and reduce conflict.
Physical Custody: When considering a custody arrangement, a court is concerned with the “best interests of the children.” The court will consider factors such as the parent’s wishes; the children’s wishes; the interaction and relationship between the children, parents, and siblings; the children’s adjustment to home, school, and community; the character and circumstances of all individuals involved; the need to promote continuity and stability in the life of the child; and domestic violence in the family relationship. Everyone’s lives are different. Speaking with a qualified attorney will help you to weigh these factors in determining an appropriate custody arrangement and in assessing risks and benefits based upon your individual needs.
Child Support: Child support is a tool governed by mathematical guidelines created by the Idaho Supreme Court to ensure parents are providing for the minor children’s physical needs. While they are guidelines, the courts in Idaho rarely deviate from this mathematical calculation. These guidelines can factor in many issues such as custodial arrangements, the parties’ employable incomes, tax benefits for claiming minor children, and insurance premiums. Apportionment of day care and health insurance costs are often dealt with in tandem with child support. Child support issues many times are much more complicated than they seem at first glance. Attorneys help their clients navigate through these rules to ensure an accurate child support calculation.
Property & Debt Division: Idaho is a community property state. That means that any property acquired during the marriage is presumed to belong equally to both parties. So, generally speaking, if you and your spouse buy a $150,000 house together during the marriage, the house presumably belongs equally to both of you, even if only one person’s name is on the title. Property acquired prior to the marriage or given to you as a gift or inheritance is generally separate property—it belongs only to you. If you comingle your separate property with community property you will have to trace for the court your separate property interest, which can prove to be very difficult. Many individuals use a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement to deal with the acquisition of property during a marriage. Our attorneys can help you draft one of these agreements as a planning tool. However, even if none of these documents exist, we can still help our clients reach an equitable (fair) division of community assets and debts. The division of property and debt can easily become a complex and tiresome exercise. Hiring an experienced attorney to help you with the division of property and debt can pay large dividends in obtaining the peace of mind that you obtained the best foreseeable result dividing your property and debt.
Spousal Maintenance (Alimony): Spousal maintenance is available in some cases of marriage where a spouse lacks sufficient property and is unable to support himself/herself through employment. There is no hard and fast mathematical formula to calculate Spousal Maintenance/Alimony like there is for child support. If you believe you may be entitled to receive or obligated to pay spousal maintenance, we encourage you to contact our office to evaluate a spousal maintenance award.
An annulment is different from a divorce in that an annulment dissolves a marriage as if it never happened. There is no such thing as a no-fault annulment like there is for a divorce. An annulment can often create difficulties in cases where the parties have amassed significant quantities of community property during the marriage. If you are considering an annulment, we encourage you to speak with one of our attorneys.
Co-Habitation and Non-Marital Children
Child Custody & Support: The considerations for child custody and child support in a non-marital setting are the same considerations as those mentioned above in the divorce sections. In these cases, a petition is filed seeking to establish paternity of the children as well as an order for custody and child support. In many cases parents may be ordered to pay a portion of birthing and other associated medical costs.
Property & Debt Division: Community property laws only apply to those who get married. Cohabitating can therefore lead to very difficult issues and sometimes harsh results regarding the division of property and debt. Division of property and debt in these cases will often hinge on your ability to trace the source of funds used to acquire items of property or obtaining the contracts to verify who is contractually liable on certain debts.
Child Support & Custody: Child custody and child support are modifiable upon a showing to the judge that a substantial and material change in circumstances has occurred to justify a change in custody and/or support. Grounds to modify might include, among other things, one or more of the following: a significant increase or decrease in wages, relocating to a different city, remarriage, the children becoming older, and domestic violence. Any allegation of a change in circumstance should be evaluated carefully to ensure the change is one with merit.
Spousal Maintenance (Alimony): Spousal Maintenance (Alimony) may also be modified depending on the language of the decree. The Court again will be looking for a substantial and material change in circumstances to modify an award of support.
**The information above is general guidance regarding principals of law in Idaho. The foregoing is not intended as legal advice in any particular matter. Because all cases are dynamic and deserve special planning, we encourage you to contact the attorneys at our firm to answer questions regarding your specific case**