Custody usually becomes an issue under one of the following situations: 1) when a married parent with a child files for divorce, or 2) when a non-married parent files for custody of a child. If the parents cannot agree between themselves on the custodial arrangement, a judge will determine both legal and physical custody. A parent with legal custody will make major decisions on behalf of the child/ren. These decisions include such matters as where a child will attend school, what religion the child will practice, and the authorization for medical treatment, etc. Physical custody has to do with where the child will physically live.
Guam law favors joint legal and physical custody under most circumstances. With joint legal custody, both parents must consult each other before making major decisions impacting the child/ren. If parents have joint physical custody, then the child/ren spends equal time with both parents. In the usual joint physical custodial arrangement, the child/ren alternate households every week. If the parents mutually agree to other arrangements, or there are unusual circumstances, a judge may grant other custodial arrangements, including granting one parent primary physical custody.
Whenever a custody case is filed with the court, the matter of child support MUST also be addressed. A judge will not entertain a Complaint for Custody unless a request for a child support hearing is filed at the same time. The amount of support is based on a formula established by the Guam Child Support guidelines. (To review these guidelines, click on the box entitled "Guam Child Support Guidelines). There are two sets of formulas: the first set is used when one parent has primary physical custody and the other is used when the parties equally share physical custody. Even in cases where parents equally share physical custody, child support will be ordered if there is a disparity between the parents' income. Because child support is a right of the child and not the parent, parents cannot waive child support.
Sometimes a parent is not requesting custody, rather s/he simply wants visitation time with his/her child. Only under very rare circumstances will a judge deny such a request. Guam law specifically provides that there is no connection between visitation and child support. A parent cannot refuse visitation to the other parent based solely on non-payment of child support. However, if visitation is pursued in court, the judge will also require the matter of child support to be addressed.
How much will a custody or a visitation case cost?
If both parties agree to all the provisions for either a Custody or a Visitation case, the legal fee is $995 and the court fees are $320 for a total of $1,315. Notary fees are extra. If either matter is contested, it is very difficult to predict the ultimate cost. The complexity of each case can differ significantly. In most instances, for a contested custody case, you will have to make an initial deposit of $3,500 before any legal work begins. For a contested visitation matter, the usual retainer is $1,500. I bill against this deposit at the rate of $225 per hour for any time I spend on your case. If the retainer is expended, other arrangements will need to be made for the payment of future services.
How can I get started with my child custody or visitation case?
Simply click on the "Custody/Visitation Worksheet" button and complete the form. It is important that you fill the worksheet out completely. Once you have completed the worksheet, call my office at 472-8472 and set up an appointment for a consultation. The consultation fee is $75 for up to 30 minutes. Should you retain my services, this fee will be credited toward the custody/visitation legal fees. Be sure to bring the worksheet with you. Without a worksheet, I will not be able to meet with you. >Click here to get started with a worksheet
This explanation sheet is provided for general information only and should not be interpreted as legal advice. You should discuss the specifics of your situation with a reputable attorney prior to taking any legal action. Neither this site nor anyone associated with this site shall be held liable for the use of the information contained in this document or for any decisions made based on the information provided herein.