How Dad and mom’ Funds Impression Custody Battles

Getting involved in a custody battle can be time consuming and expensive for everyone involved. The average custody attorney can cost anywhere from $ 1,200 to $ 4,500, although the cost can be higher if the case drags on over a longer period of time. If one parent earns significantly less than the other or has no income at all, this can raise fears that they will be disadvantaged in the event of custody. In addition to income, however, other factors also play a role when deciding on custody.

The central theses

  • When deciding on custody of the child, the courts usually place the best interests of the child or children above the income of one of the parents.
  • The parents’ income is taken into account when making decisions about child and spouse maintenance.
  • A higher income can make it easier to bear the costs of custody or divorce proceedings, although it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the court will rule in your favor.
  • If the lower-income or inactive parent is granted custody, spousal and child support can also be provided to ensure that the child’s needs are met.

Income and custody of children

When a custody case gets to court, either parent’s income is generally not the only factor influencing the court’s decision-making. Instead, courts focus on the best interests of the child when deciding how and to whom custody is granted. For example, in New York State, when considering custody decisions, the court considers the following:

  • Stability of both parents
  • Childcare offers
  • Who was the main administrator prior to filing a custody case?
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Mental health of both parents
  • Physical health of both parents
  • Evidence of domestic violence by one of the parents
  • Evidence of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment by one of the parents
  • The child’s preference as to which parent they want to live with
  • Where the child’s siblings live
  • Educational offers for the child
  • Observation of the parents by the court
  • Each parent’s finances

In terms of how finances can affect custody decisions, the court examines each parent’s ability to provide for the child financially. For example, if one parent is homeless and unemployed, they obviously have fewer chances of gaining custody because they cannot accommodate the child.

Conversely, if one parent has no income because they were the child’s primary guardian, the court may consider their ability to earn income in the future as a determining factor in a divorce. The court may also consider the payment of spousal or child support to a parent who stays at home.

Income can also play a different role in custody cases in terms of motivation and resources to pursue a custody case. For example, if one parent has always stayed home while the other has been the main breadwinner, the former may lack the resources to engage in a lengthy legal battle. Conversely, a parent who tries to avoid or minimize his or her financial responsibility for child or spouse support may not raise any custody issues at all.

State laws can recognize both custody and physical custody, and it is possible that they could be given or shared to just one parent.

Income and child support

When deciding on custody, the courts can also examine whether it makes sense to grant child support to the parent who is primarily responsible for looking after the child. States can use different models to determine how much child support to allow.

  • Income Share ModelThis model assumes that the child should receive the same share of the parental income from the parent who is not custodial as if both parents were still living together. Forty-one states use it to determine child support.
  • Percentage of the income model-The income percentage model defines child support as a percentage of the income of the non-custodial parent. The income of the parent with custody is not included in these calculations. Four states use a flat percentage model, while two use a varying percentage model.
  • Melson’s formula –The Melson formula is a variant of the income-sharing model and is designed to ensure that both the basic needs of each parent and the basic needs of the child are met.

In the case of child support, a higher income can mean paying more, although this may depend on the model used in your state. If both parents have equal earnings or if custody is divided equally, the court can decide that no child support is required for either parent.

For all divorces concluded on or after January 1st, 2019, child support for the paying parent is not deductible. It is also not considered taxable income for the parent receiving it. Depending on the conditions of the court order, child support can be continued until the child is 18 or 21 years old or until the end of their studies.


States can impose restrictions on how often and under what circumstances a child support order can be changed, including changing the financial situation of either parent.

Income and spousal support

It is possible for a parent seeking custody of one or more children during a divorce to apply for both spousal support and child support. Spousal support, also known as “support”, is a form of court-ordered financial support that can be paid by a higher-income parent to one with little or no income. All states recognize child support payments, although the laws on this vary from state to state.

Alimony is not the same as palimony, which is financial assistance that can be paid between unmarried people under a common law arrangement.

For example, in California, the court may order one partner to pay the other spouse maintenance in monthly installments after a divorce. Cohabiting couples can apply for partner support. The amount a spouse or domestic partner can receive depends on:

  • Employability, including their marketable skills and their ability to find employment
  • Financial standard of living they were used to during the relationship
  • Length of marriage or civil partnership
  • Evidence of domestic violence on the part of the spouse or life partner

California lists three conditions regarding the duration of spouse or partner support:

  • When the court orders the end of the assistance
  • In the event of the death of a spouse or partner
  • If the supported spouse or partner remarries or enters into a new civil partnership

Other laws have more specific guidelines on how long support can last. For example, in Massachusetts, you can receive alimony for as little as 30 months, or as long as the judge deems appropriate, depending on how long you’ve been married.

If one spouse earns significantly more than the other, this can have a direct impact on maintenance decisions when it is clear that the other spouse needs support. If both spouses have similar income or work skills, the court may decide that the spouse’s maintenance is not required.

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