This is another area of family law fraught with angst. Although the general rule is that the child should be able to continue living at the level to which she or he has become accustomed, there are always exceptions. Sometimes two-income couples simply do not have enough money, now that they will be living separately, to conform to this rule. However, digressions from it must be scrutinized carefully, and this Ms. Feigen does. One client, for example, insisted that her child have all the “things” including a fancy home in a very expensive area simply because her husband’s child from his first marriage was living that way. The mother feared that her child would feel “inferior” to her older half sister. Meanwhile, the father’s circumstances had changed, and Ms. Feigen had to work hard to get her client to face the present reality and accept a slightly less munificent settlement than she had wanted. It all worked out in the end, as did the sibling relationship about which the mother had been so worried.
Sometimes, women (especially) worry that if they agree to joint custody with the child’s father the support they get for the child in the divorce decree will be lowered, taking into account that the child no longer lives full-time with the mother. The truth is that it usually costs the same amount to provide for a child who visits the other parent on alternate weekends and even during the week. The amount of support must be determined by the reality of what it costs for each parent to take care of and provide for the child properly.
The same principles regarding child support apply to same-sex couples who are seeking to separate. The best interests of the child are paramount as they are in custody determinations. Support, of course, must be determined based on what the parties can afford, as well as what the child needs.