Economic Security in Determining Child Custody in NJ

If a Parent is Denied Custody Due to Income, They Can Reevaluate the Situation When Their Financial Circumstances Improve

Economic Stability Matters in Child Custody Decisions in New JerseyDivorce is complicated enough with dividing marital assets and trying to figure out what to do next with your life. The last thing any parent wants to deal with is worrying about whether their income will play a role in whether they get custody of their children. Yet, many low-income parents, or parents who have an income lower than their spouse’s, find themselves worrying about just that. As a parent, they want what is best for their children. How do they convince a judge not to count their lower-income against them when determining child custody? Fortunately, they may not have to.

Are Finances the Deciding Factor in Custody Decisions?

When determining child custody, New Jersey judges consider what is in the child’s best interest. But what does that mean? The child’s best interest means that the judge must decide what they believe would be the safest, most stable, and most beneficial environment for the child to live in. This requires the judge to consider a variety of factors, including the parent’s involvement in the child’s life and education and whether the parent would help foster the relationship between the child and their other parent. While finances may play a role in the judge’s decision, they are not necessarily the deciding factor.

Assessing Financial Factors in Child Custody Cases

Financial stability, or the ability to financially meet all of a family’s needs comfortably and consistently, is a factor in determining child custody. In many cases, this factor is not a deciding factor. Instances where it could be the deciding factor in whether a parent gets custody might include if one parent is unemployed and homeless while the other has a stable job and has a home; if one parent does not have a consistent income and moves from house to house, staying with friends, relatives, or even strangers; or if one parent has a larger income but must work extremely long hours or travel frequently and would need to leave their children in someone else’s care more often than not.

In most cases, however, finances are not so black and white. Most cases include two parents who both work and have different incomes or one parent who was the sole financial provider while the other parent contributed by taking care of the children and the home without an income. For those parents who stayed home and did not have an income, not having an income is unlikely to be held against them.

Weighing Non-Financial Factors in Determining Child Custody

The factors that a judge may consider when determining a child’s best interest include the relationship the child has with each parent; the quality and amount of time each parent spends with the child; the mental and physical health of each parent; how safe the child is with each parent; whether either parent has now or has had a substance abuse problem; whether either parent has been accused or convicted of domestic violence; how old the children are and how many children there are; parental employment responsibilities; the needs of the child; and the child’s preference for which parent to live with

These factors are all weighed together, along with each parent’s income, to determine which parent may be the better custodial parent.

Three Critical Elements for Assessing Financial Capability in Custody Decisions

When a judge is considering financial stability specifically, there are three key factors the judge will likely consider. First, they will consider which parent can most easily provide for the child’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare. The court will also consider which parent has a consistent housing situation, with utilities such as electricity and water, and if the home is the neighborhood is safe. Finally, the court will look at which parent can financially provide access to educational, academic, or extracurricular opportunities that will help foster the child’s development and growth. However, beyond the financial aspect, the court will consider whether that parent would sign the child up for and take them to and from these opportunities.

Analyzing New Jersey’s Income Share Model

Even if a parent has a lower income than their spouse, this does not mean they cannot be granted custody. In cases where the judge determines that the lower-income parent is the one better suited to having custody of the child, the judge will often order the higher-income spouse to pay child support.

New Jersey follows the income share model, which indicates that the child should receive the same amount of their parent’s income as if they still lived together. In this model, both parents’ incomes are calculated together, and a minimum statutory amount is calculated based on that pooled income. Additional expenses, such as childcare or extraordinary medical expenses, are divided between the parents and added to the minimum child support calculation.

In some cases, the lower-income parent may also receive spousal support, or alimony, from the higher-income spouse. A judge may consider the financial standard of living during the marriage, the length of the marriage, each party’s ability to earn an income, and other factors in determining whether to order spousal support and how much to order.

Strategies to Highlight Other Crucial Factors Besides the Economic

Influence of Financial Challenges on Child Custody Decisions in Wall NJA lower income does not preclude a parent from being granted custody of their children. However, as financial stability is considered, a lower-income parent may want to help level that lack of finances with other factors that are also crucial to determining child custody. Some factors they can bring to the judge’s attention to try to be on equal ground with the other parent include that they spend more time with the child, evidence that they are the primary parent (attending parent/teacher conferences, taking the child to medical appointments, attending child’s extracurricular practices and events, etc.), and evidence of having more emotional and physical support from family and friends.

Modifying Custody Based on Changing Circumstances

In cases where a parent is not granted custody of their kids due to income, it may be possible to reassess the circumstances if and when their financial situation changes. New Jersey allows for modification of custody when there is a substantial change in circumstances. Two examples of a possible substantial change in circumstances include a major relocation of one or both parents and a change in employment or work schedule. Additionally, if the child is getting older and their needs are changing, parents may be able to get custody as well.

Financial Concerns Affecting Child Custody Issues? Contact Bronzino Law Firm with Offices in Brick and Sea Girt

Lower-income parents may be hesitant to hire a skilled attorney to help them fight for custody. They may feel they cannot afford the fees and that the money they will pay the attorney would be better spent on other things. However, it is important to remember that the other party may have a lawyer, which can disadvantage the non-represented party. Our custody lawyers at Bronzino Law Firm are familiar with and thoroughly understand New Jersey’s family laws and can often make arguments that a parent who is not as familiar with the laws may not think of. Additionally, we can prepare a parent for questions that the other parent’s attorney may ask. Our attorneys will also know what kinds of documents and other evidence to ask for during discovery so we can help build a solid case for why our clients should be granted custody.

If you are going through a divorce or facing a custody battle, consider reaching out to an experienced New Jersey family law attorney today for a free consultation. We at Bronzino Law Firm represent clients facing custody issues in Barnegat Light, Long Branch, Red Bank, Beach Haven, Lavallette, Eatontown, Waretown, Lanoka Harbor, Manalapan, and throughout Ocean and Monmouth County. Contact us at (732) 812-3102 for a free consultation to discuss your case today.  We offer free consultations and encourage you to reach out with any questions or concerns.