I am sure that every single one of us are excruciatingly familiar with either one or all of these 3 topics.
As a single mother these 3 topics were probably the first that were addressed when you split form your child's father. Custody, Court, Child Support.
It is amazing when two parents can come to an agreement outside of using the court system and stick to the terms from then on out, but I find that to be very rare. Going through court is tedious and extremely expensive but that is where most of us end up at one time or another. When it comes to a proper agreement we all want the same thing when addressing the issue of custody and support and that is, the best interest of our children. How much time should they spend with their father? Depending on the circumstance should you have sole custody or joint? How much support are you entitled to on a monthly bases? Should your agreement be legalizes? These are all questions we ask when we are in the situation of becoming a single parent. In most cases these issues must be addressed in court because most parents can not come to a proper agreement and most of the time our judgement is often clouded by the way we feel about the father of our children in that specific moment.
I believe from my experience that a court ordered legal agreement is always the best way to go. Yes some may be able to work out an agreement without using the court system but that could come back to bite you in the ass if anything ever went south with it.
In Ontario, if we have less then a $30,000 annual salary we are entitled to legal aid. That is the route I took when I began drawing up our legal agreement for Ben. The lawyer was amazing and drew up a very standard agreement which gave his father every other weekend access and gave me sole custody as that is the way his father wanted it at the time. Ben's dad ended up taking off for 5 months without a trace or word and so I had to go back and revisit the custody agreement to protect Ben just in case. When he resurfaced we revisited the agreement yet again and I made the decision to move closer to him so that he can finally form a relationship with his son. The agreement had a few stipulations as I did not fully trust his father and there were many issues surrounding Ben's Grandmother. In the summer I refused an over night access at his grandmother's place (for many reasons most of which consist of excessive drinking and smoking in the home when my son has asthma. I made the decision to protect my child not because I wanted to keep my child from his fathers family but because the environment was unsafe). So my sons father did not like that very much and decided to take me back to court and into mediation trying to get access and rights for Ben to go up to his grandmothers place. He was denied that right but I suggested that I would take Ben up there myself to make sure it was stable and safe and then he can begin to take Ben up there on his scheduled weekends. I only want the best for Ben and I want him to have a relationship with the other side of his family.
As you can see this process of access and coming to an agreement is tedious, time consuming and extremely stressful and often times it is not always finalized in just one sitting, the process could take months or even years. The question for most who are newly facing these issues is how and where do I begin? That is why my friends and I are making a website. All the questions for legal custody, court and child support will be readily available for you to view. Unfortunately when I was going through it all 3 years ago I did not have that type of resource available and had to call around to many places. When you are learning how to be a single parent you do not want any added aggravation and stress. The three of us are going to try to eliminate that for single mothers in the GTA and hopefully all around the world.
When addressing custody, court and child support always keep your child's best interest in mind. In some cases it may be difficult but in the end it is well worth it.