How Does Job Stability Affect Custody?

by Beverly Bird

When parents divorce, courts can be charged with the unenviable job of deciding which parent their children are better off living with. You and your spouse can avoid putting this delicate issue in the hands of a judge by negotiating your own custody terms. Otherwise, the judge will base a decision on a legal standard called the best interests of the child. Employment in itself isn't generally a best interests factor, but your job might still influence a judge.

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Custody Factors

Each state has its own list of best interests factors. No single factor is any more important than the others – they're weighed in total. Some common themes include the child's preference if he's old enough, which parent traditionally cared for the children when the marriage was intact, and whether either parent is likely to interfere with the children's relationship with the other parent.

Job Implications

If you've loyally worked for the same company for years, a judge might consider that a good reflection of your character, and a parent's character is a best interests factor in many states. If you've shown a tendency to job-hop, however, this might indicate to the judge that you have a problem committing yourself to important things. Some states, such as Michigan and Tennessee, look to which parent demonstrates a capacity or disposition to provide for the children's needs, so a parent who chronically avoids working might not be favored in this respect. In Tennessee, judges can base custody decisions, in part, on the available hours you can devote to your children, so a workaholic parent may not win points either.