In many ways, child custody cases involving high-income parents are no different from any other custody dispute. A court will analyze what is in the best interests of the child using factors found in ORC 3109(F)(1) to allocate parental rights and responsibilities. Of course, parents are also free to come up with their own parenting plan that works for them.
However, there are some unique wrinkles that can arise in high income cases, so it is vital to hire an attorney with experience in this area of law. Below, we highlight five situations where income comes into play when determining child custody.
Unequal Incomes Between Parents
The fact that a couple has a high income does not mean that each parent will have high incomes after divorce. In many cases, one spouse often makes much more than the other parent. Once a couple divorces, one spouse might see a substantial drop in income, which spousal support payments can only partially mitigate.
Technically, judges are not supposed to award child custody based upon a parent’s income. However, biases can creep in, especially when one parent makes much more than the other.
Some judges might assume that the wealthier parent can provide a better environment for a child. For example, a parent with a higher income can often afford to send the child to a better school, obtain higher-quality medical care, and live in a safer neighborhood.
The “best interests of the child” analysis that judges undertake is sufficiently flexible that judges can usually justify any decision they make, which helps mask their potential biases. If you are the lower-earning spouse, you need to carefully consider how you present your custody case to a judge.
One Parent Works All the Time
In some high-income marriages, one spouse earns more because he or she works more. This spouse has a high-flying job that requires extensive travel or weekends in the office. The other spouse, often the wife, stays home with the children and has developed a closer relationship with them. This spouse might only work part-time or not at all.
When determining custody, judges are instructed to consider the child’s interactions with each parent. This necessarily includes the closeness of the parent-child bond. If you are a spouse who works all the time to earn a high income for your family, then you will be at a disadvantage when it comes to child custody.
At Lawrence Law Office, we work closely with our clients to help them establish enduring bonds with their children. The sooner you act, the stronger you can make your case for custody of your children.
Residences Outside Ohio
One factor the legislature has instructed judges to consider in a custody dispute is whether a parent has established a residence outside the state. High-income couples often have homes around the country, even if Ohio is their primary residence. When a couple splits, one spouse might move out of the home and live temporarily in a residence outside Ohio.
This type of move can create problems in a custody dispute where you are seeking shared custody. A judge might interpret the move to mean that you intend to live outside the state permanently, which can easily frustrate any shared parenting plan. Establishing a residence outside the state also suggests you are a risk of leaving with your children and not returning. If you are seeking shared custody with your ex, you would benefit by showing how you intend to stay in Ohio.
Extensive Use of Expert Witnesses
When a divorcing couple has more resources, we sometimes see much more extensive use of expert witnesses, including doctors, child psychologists, social workers, and others. Parents use these experts to try and gain an edge and convince a judge they should have custody.
Agreements to Pay for College
Divorcing couples can create a separation agreement in which they determine child support obligations. Sometimes, in high income cases, a parent will agree to continue to support their children after they reach 18. Generally, child support obligations end at that age, but some high-income parents agree to pay for their children’s college.
Think carefully before making this type of legally binding agreement. Circumstances can change, and it is hard to back out of any written agreement signed by you. Instead, if you want to contribute to a child’s college education, you can do so without putting a commitment in your separation agreement.
Contact One of Our Lawyers for More Information
Lawrence Law Office has extensive experience in high-income divorces and understands how child custody is affected when one or more parents has considerable assets. We can often see hurdles coming and strategize ways to effectively move beyond them.
To start working with one of our attorneys, or to get answers to your questions, please contact us as soon as possible. You can schedule a confidential initial consultation.