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The Financial Implications of Shared Residential Custody

Of all the legal concepts that baffle and frustrate matrimonial litigants, none causes more confusion than the issue of child support in shared residential circumstances (custodial arrangements where each parent has “equal” residential custody). .

In a shared residential arrangement, with the parties having the children reside with them for an equal amount of time, each presumably will have the same child-related expenses. Undoubtedly, the more monied spouse will have greater financial resources to sustain this custodial arrangement. Thus the law provides that the more monied parent will be deemed the non-custodial parent for purposes of child support, and the formula set forth in the Child Support Standards Act will be utilized to calculate his/her obligation. In this regard, logic may dictate that if parents have equal time with the children, and therefore presumably equal financial responsibilities on a daily basis, then the paying parent, should only be required to pay 50% of the usual child support obligation. Unfortunately, the law is very clear on this subject, and requires that the more monied parent provide full statutory support in most cases. Fortunately, depending on the Judicial Department where your case is being litigated, you may have the opportunity to demonstrate that the full statutory obligation yields a result that is unjust and inappropriate or other factors, including but not limited to expenses incurred by the non-custodial parent during the “extended visitation” period, resulting in a substantial reduction in the custodial parent’s expenses.

The legal principles above often interfere with the resolution of custodial issues as one party may refuse to agree to shared residential custody unless full support is paid. This is an unfortunate position in that it prioritizes financial considerations over parental access and relationships, which will not escape the Court’s attention. That being said, there may be a valid reason for demanding full support, including a significant income disparity between the parties.

As with any contested matrimonial issue, it is always better for parties to chart their own course and fashion their own resolution rather than leaving it to be determined by the Court. Your attorney can help you fashion a resolution which may be acceptable and represent an equitable accommodation between the statutory calculation and the needs of the children. If full support is warranted, your attorney will advocate that position (if you are the custodial parent) or explore factors which would suggest that full support is unjust under the circumstances (if you are the non-custodial parent).

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