Does the Custodial Parent Have to Work?

When judges make custody decisions, the overarching principle they must follow is the best interests of the child. A parent who can meet that standard is more likely to win a favorable custody order.

In deciding which parent will advance the child’s best interests, judges often examine whether the parents are working. Employment can also play a role in child support issues. If you have any pending matters in Greenville family court, especially those involving your children, it’s time to reach out to our Greenville child custody attorneys at Turner Family Law.

Can an Unemployed Parent Get Custody?

Custody decisions involve multiple factors, making it nearly impossible to compare one case to another. The judge’s main concern is the child’s best interests. Because every child and family are different, what is in your child’s best interests will be different from someone else’s situation.

For that reason, not being employed does not automatically deprive a parent of custody or visitation time. Employment issues should be examined in detail so a judge can determine how it might impact custody.

For instance, there is a major difference between not having a job due to a drug addiction versus not having one because of a bad economy. The court will be concerned about both parents’ fitness to provide stability and a good upbringing to the child. Being out of work because of a drug addiction will be viewed more negatively since parental drug use can harm a child.

If a Parent Has an Unorthodox Work Schedule, Will It Impact Custody?

As with unemployment, an unusual work situation should not, itself, disqualify a parent from custody or affect parenting time. A non-traditional (like working nights) or even erratic work schedule, subject to fluctuations, must be viewed in the context of how the child’s welfare will be affected.

Of course, that won’t prevent the other parent from arguing that the parent with the non-traditional schedule should have less parenting time. He or she may even contend that an unorthodox work schedule makes the parent unfit. But neither of these are necessarily true.

While a parent’s work schedule should not affect custody rights, it could affect the actual parenting schedule. The child’s best interests must prevail, and children need proper amounts of rest at night so they are healthy and can perform well in school. A parent with an unusual schedule should work with an attorney to propose a parenting plan that fits the child’s needs.

If a Parent Has to Rely on Daycare, Will It Affect Custody?

Needing daycare doesn’t impact a parent’s ability to have custody, nor is it a proper basis to grant him or her less parenting time. Daycare is a necessity for many if not most parents, and finding quality and affordable daycare can be a challenge. A parent may need to go to great lengths to find a good child care provider that fits his or her work schedule.

The parents can agree that if one of them is unemployed, he or she can spend time with the child during that period instead of placing the child in daycare. The judge will need to review and approve this arrangement even if the parents mutually agree to it.

Does a Job Search Affect Custody?

Remember, being out of work alone does not negate a parent’s custody rights. Neither does trying to find a job. If anything, trying to secure employment shows the court that a parent is serious about providing a stable home for the child. Job searches usually do not interfere with a parent’s ability to care for the child, and interviews can often be done remotely.

How Can I Make the Best Case for Custody With My Employment Situation?

Here are a few common employment situations and how you can argue them in your favor:

  • Unemployment: You will want a good explanation for why you are not employed. If it’s something out of your control, like a disability, be sure to document it. Regardless of the reason, focus on your ability to be a fit parent who can care for your child.
  • Looking for work: If you are actively seeking employment, be ready to show the judge that you have the experience and skills for the job you seek. Document the positions you’ve applied for and interviews you’ve had.
  • Education and job training: You may decide to improve your employment prospects or get a better job so you can provide for your child. That might require more education or job training. Again, be ready to explain these circumstances to the judge.

Can a Parent’s Refusal to Work Affect Their Rights to Custody or Child Support?

If a parent is choosing to not work, it’s a fair question as to why. The reasons for the unemployment, and its effect on parental fitness (and, in turn, the child’s best interests), are relevant. But a judge may decide it is reasonable for the parent to stay home with the child instead of work.

What happens to child support if a parent refuses to work? If the parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the judge may impute income to that parent. Voluntary unemployment could be due to quitting a job, taking early retirement, or doing something illegal that costs one’s job. Meanwhile, underemployment means a parent is not working his or her full potential based on their experience, education, and training.

As with all child support cases, it’s imperative that you abide by any court order that requires you to pay. If the other parent isn’t working, consult your attorney about the possibility of modifying the order.

Contact an Experienced Greenville, SC Child Custody Attorney

Whether you’re a working dad or mom, our goal at Turner Family Law is to make sure your parental rights are protected. Every child custody and child support case is different. Regardless of what the other parent wants, you deserve to have your case heard on its own merits. We can help. Reach out to attorney J. Michael Turner, Jr. and his team today at 864-778-2734 or online.

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