In the past, it was typical for family courts to award custody to the mother because it was extremely common for mothers to be their children’s primary caretakers – the ones who fed their children, dropped them off and picked them up at school, took them to doctors’ appointments, ran them to extracurricular activities, and so on. But now that it’s the 21st Century, much has changed. With so many working mothers these days, mothers and fathers are given equal consideration when it comes to child custody.
When couples divorce, ideally, they’ll reach a child custody and visitation agreement among each other and with the help of their divorce attorneys, but not all couples agree. Sometimes both parents want primary custody. If one parent is abusive, has a substance abuse problem, or suffering from a severe mental illness that’s impacting their parenting skills, it’s appropriate for the other parent to draw the judge’s attention to such issues and seek a custody arrangement that protects their children’s health and safety.
But what if no such problems exist? What if both parents are quality individuals who are locked in a child custody battle, but the one thing distinguishing the parents from each other is their annual salaries? Does the richer parent automatically get first dibs on the kids because they can provide their children with annual European vacations and a Mercedes on their 16th birthday?
When One Parent is Richer
When two parents can’t agree on custody, a judge will have to decide for them, but the judge will render a decision based on the best interests of the child doctrine. While the quality of the home environment and each parent’s income and assets will be considered, they are not the only factors that determine who gets the kids. It is very fact specific.
For example, let’s say that Dad earns $500,000 a year and Mom never went to college and she’s been a stay-at-home mother since she got married. She has invested 15 years in her marriage and children and as a result, she may have difficulty finding a job that pays her more than $40,000 a year, and the courts are aware of that. Even if Dad can afford a 6-bedroom estate in a gated community and a full-time nanny, when the judge takes a closer look, he discovers that Dad is on the road 20 out of 30 days of the month.
While the mother can only afford a 2-bedroom condo on the other side of town, she gets off work in the afternoon and can pick the kids up after school, barely interrupting the children’s normal routines. Dad can certainly buy the kids more stuff, but Mom can provide the children with the love, time, and attention they need while still providing for their basic necessities.
Sometimes though, the richer parent does win custody simply because it’s in the children’s best interests. If the same mom abandoned her children while still married to run off with a man she met at the gym, forcing her husband to hire a full-time nanny, and now she’s living in her boyfriend’s one-bedroom apartment, the judge would likely award custody to the father. So, it’s very fact specific and handled on a case-by-case basis.
If you need help with a divorce or child custody matter, contact the Law Office of Dennis R. Vetrano, Jr., LLC today.