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When there is income disparity in a custody case

Despite one former spouse receiving alimony and/or child support from the other, many divorced co-parents have significant income disparity between them. This is particularly true if the less financially well-off spouse spent years out of the workforce rearing the children and taking care of the home.

Regardless, this financial inequality can create problems for the parent who has fewer resources. While not always the case, it is usually the wife who struggles more financially after a divorce. She may feel at a loss to compete with her well-heeled former husband regarding providing for the children. Below are some ways that problems may manifest in these situations.

Gift-giving is lopsided

If your ex is able to buy the kids all the latest electronic gadgets, designer clothing and high-end accessories, you may feel at a loss shopping for far more modest purchases. But you shouldn't, as you have the opportunity to share your values with your children. These can include living within your means, saving up to buy quality items and using sales and other discounts to get good prices.

Your ex takes the kids on exotic trips

Maybe their dad wants to whisk them off to St. Barts for spring break or out to Vail to do some skiing. You can counter with an afternoon of laser tag with friends, video games and a spring break slumber party. Making great memories doesn't have to be an expensive undertaking.

He foots the bills for tuition and lessons

As a parent, you want your children to have every enriching opportunity possible. Still, you feel awkward that it's your ex who pays the private school tuition and for the music and dance lessons, and sports fees.

Don't let it bother you. Few children have any real grasp of the financial breakdown between their parents. You contribute your time and attention by participating in their school activities and shuttling them to practices and games. You're in the trenches cheering them on, perhaps even more than your ex due to work constraints. Kids get that — they know you care.

When your ex doesn't play nice

If your ex is particularly vindictive and tries to use the children to hurt you, they may attempt to draw attention to the financial disparity between the two of you. If such is the case and you fear that it could damage your relationship with your children, address this with your family law attorney.

If you are involved in a contested custody case, your attorney can take legal steps to prevent your ex from using your modest financial means against you with the children. That could mean, among other things, putting spending caps on gifts you both give to the kids.

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