Should the Richer Parent Get Custody?

In the 1980s and 1990s, it was very common for mothers to get the children in a divorce. In New York, that was common up until about 2000. However, much has changed in the last 20 years. Divorce laws nationwide have ceased to “favor” mothers in child custody battles and instead focus on the children’s best interests.

Here in Encino and the San Fernando Valley, the cost of living is high. In Los Angeles and Ventura counties, we have some of the highest housing prices in the country. That said, many divorcing couples involve a high-earning spouse and a spouse whose been out of the workforce for years because they were raising the couple’s children.

Traditionally, people may look at the situation of the wealthy husband and the stay-at-home mom and assume the mother would get custody of the children. However, that’s not always the way things turn out, especially if the wealthy husband fights for custody of the children.

We’ve had stay-at-home mothers (and fathers) get very worried when they find out their richer spouse is fighting for custody of the children. Suddenly they wonder, “Will the court award custody to my husband because he makes a lot more money than me?”

Child Custody Battles & the ‘Richer’ Spouse

Unless the poorer spouse is homeless, or living in motel rooms, the courts are not in the habit of awarding custody to the richer spouse just because they have more money. Poorer spouses run into trouble when they don’t get a place of their own, or when they can’t seem to maintain employment (when employment is necessary).

Sure, a richer spouse can buy their kids more “things,” but what children need more than anything is love and support. Even if a father earns $300K a year and lives in a gated community in a 6-bedroom home, and the mother lives in 1200 square foot condo and earns $40,000 a year, that doesn’t mean the couple’s children are better off with their father.

If the wife was a stay-at-home mother during the marriage, the children are probably more attached to her, and therefore, she’s probably the better fit. Even still, that does not mean a richer spouse isn’t more suitable, because sometimes they are.

Essentially, it comes down to the child’s best interests. Suppose a stay-at-home mother ran off with a younger boyfriend and developed a substance abuse program. Even though she could financially support her children with child and spousal support and her modest income, that doesn’t mean she’s the best choice for child custody.

In the case of an irresponsible parent, the court may very well decide that the richer spouse can take better care of the children, even if he or she spent less time with the children during the marriage because they were working hard to support the family.

It's important to remember that in the absence of domestic violence, the family courts favor a joint custody arrangement, even if the children spend more time with one of the parents.

Are you facing a child custody battle? Whether you’re the richer or poorer parent, our board-certified family law specialist is here to help. Call today for a free consultation.