Custody When One Parent is Substantially More Wealthy / by Cassandra Hearn

The wealth gap in the United States is continuing to widen.  With the commonality of income disparity, marriages between those from wealthy backgrounds and those of more humble means are not unusual.  Typically, when we consider the impact of a large difference in wealth and assets during a divorce, we think of spousal support and division of assets.  However, the impact of a large wealth disparity between parents during a custody battle should not be overlooked.  In addition to child support, one parent being substantially more wealthy can present other issues that the parents should be aware of before proceeding to court for a custody trial.

 

Child custody and parenting schedule issues are decided by a court based on a child’s best interest.  The factors are set out in the California family code.  Not one of these factors include a parent’s wealth or assets.  The list does include that the court shall consider the “health, safety, and welfare of the child.”  Some would make the argument that a child’s welfare is better served by being placed primarily with a parent with vastly more financial resources.  This, however, overlooks the purpose of child support.  Child support is meant to ensure that the children continue to receive the necessities, and it attempts to equalize the standard of living between the two households.  This is why a parent who makes more money would have to pay more child support than a parent who makes only minimum wage, even with all other factors being equal.  In short, the law already attempts to equalize the issue of wealth by way of guideline child support.  There is some discussion, however, that there can be “too much” support, and cases where one parent has exceptional wealth may deviate from the statewide guideline if the support would be otherwise excessive, oppressive, or gratuitous.

 

That being said, parents should be sensitive to the psychological and emotional ramifications to the children of living life in two separate households, both with vastly different standards of living.  If one parent has large financial resources, he or she should make efforts to understand the financial situation of the other parent.  Efforts by the wealthier parent to “spoil” or “buy the love” of the children can have a negative impact not only on the relationship of the other parent to the children, but also directly on the children themselves.  Especially young children may have difficulty understanding why one parent can always spend freely while the other parent must be more careful with money.  Separation and divorce is a confusing time for children, and leveraging financial assets to show children that one house is “better” or “more fun” will only exacerbate this uncertainty for them.

 

 

Equalization is a complicated issue, and a court must carefully balance the rights of the parents against what is best for a child. You need an experienced attorney to help you with this issue. Contact us today at 619-800-0384 to discuss your child and religion in your case.