On a recent episode of MTV's Teen Mom 2 television show, viewers watched as 19 year old Leah Messer and her 21 year old husband, Corey Simms decided to end their marriage of six months. They are the parents of two year old twin girls.
The West Virginia residents first made reality show headlines with their appearances on MTV's 16 and Pregnant. The cameras documented Leah's pregnancy and her relationship with Corey. The two of them had met a short time before she became pregnant with the twins. One of their twin daughters is developmentally disabled.
Corey proposed to Leah with the cameras rolling. They married in the fall of 2010 and were divorced in June of 2011. The cameras are continuing to follow these young parents and their twins.
Each parent retained an attorney. The care and custody of the twins was a very important issue, as it is to most parents. The developmentally disabled twin needs special care.
How would these issues be addressed under Illinois law?
The parents could agree on either of two kinds of custody: sole or joint. In sole custody, the child lives with that parent, who is responsible for all the day-to-day care of the child. This parent may have the right to make all decisions for the child or it may be shared with the non-custodial parent.
The parents could share custody with the child residing with one parent. This is known as Joint Parenting. This requires a written agreement detailing the custody arrangement, including visitation, vacations, holiday schedules and education, among other issues.
Each type of custody arrangement requires the parents to take a parenting class through the court system or one of its agencies. This is supposed to remind the parents that the welfare of their children is most important and to teach them to deal with the conflict inherent in most divorces.
The amount of child support to be paid by the non-custodial parent is based on a percentage of that person's net income. For one child, it is 20%, two children 28%. These are guidelines and not written in stone. Families with high incomes and assets may not have these applied by the judge. A child with special needs will receive extra consideration, whether it is in the form of child support or an order to pay for needs such as special equipment, education or help at home.
Child support is always subject to change or modification. It may be increased or decreased if brought to court by the filing of the necessary petitions by either party.
Navigating the thorny issues of child support and visitation are rough for mature adults. Stay tuned to see how this very young couple and their children fare.
This article was written by attorney Amanda Rubel Portes, an associate of the firm.