Income is not the most important factor for awarding child custody

One of the factors courts in California will consider when awarding child support is income. However, it is not the major factor as factors related to the child’s best interest, including health, history and relationships are often considered more influential in the court’s decision.

The best interests of the child

In deciding child custody issues during divorce, courts will focus on the child’s mental and physical wellbeing and which parent’s care might best meet the child’s needs. While income is something that courts will consider, particularly if a lack of income prevents one parent from fulfilling those needs, other factors that are usually more important include:

  • The age of the child
  • The physical and mental health of each parent
  • The relationship between the child and each parent
  • The child’s wishes as to which parent they want to live with
  • A parent’s history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • A parent’s history of child neglect, abuse or abandonment
  • The child’s previous primary caretaker and any childcare arrangement

Income can influence how a parent addresses child custody

While income does not usually affect the court’s decision over custody to any significant extent, it can affect a parent’s approach during child custody disputes. If parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, they might end up in a lengthy and potentially very expensive court battle. A parent who lacks the income to endure the expense of a court battle might ask for child and spousal support or the court might order it when it awards custody.

In the end, courts will consider income as it relates to meeting the needs of the child but might offset any need the lower-earning parent might have by ordering support payments as well. The way this is done, and for how long, will depend on the circumstances of each case and the state where it takes place.

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