Many Coloradoans have followed the lives of Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston, the teenage Alaskan couple whose on-again, off-again relationship was tabloid fodder after her mother's unsuccessful run for the U.S. vice presidency.
Levi put the never-wed couple back in the spotlight when he filed a petition for equal custody of their 4-year-old son. In the court document, he stated that he wants the child to have equal access to him as well as to his mother, Bristol.
After the couple split, Levi married and now has a daughter. According to Bristol's lawyer, as of Oct. 2013 Johnston owed $66,000 in back child support.
This is the second time the ex-couple has been involved in a child custody dispute. Back in 2010, the two agreed that she would have primary physical custody of their son, but that legal custody would be shared. Levi was given visitation rights and agreed to pay child support. Without any activity in the case, the state of Alaska automatically posted a notice of pending dismissal last July.
Child custody disputes are possible whenever one or both parents feel that his or her rights in the matter are not being addressed. In this case, the parents are not married, which could complicate the resolution of the case. Although child support has nothing to do with assigning child custody, it may affect the court's decision.
In settling child custody, the court utilizes several factors, including financial and physical capability. Above all, the best interests of the child are seen as the first priority.
Settling custody agreements and parenting plans can involve a substantial amount of time and money. A qualified legal expert can help a parent resolve child custody concerns. If parents try mediation first without success, a family court can intervene.
Source: USA Today, "Dad of Bristol Palin's Son Files for Custody," Nov. 7, 2013