Child Support and Custody: Understanding the Relationship Between the Two

Although child custody and child support are separate matters, when a couple goes through a divorce, they are often linked.

One of the most contested elements of any divorce tends to be issues involving children. Even after legal agreements of child support and child custody are finalized through courts, circumstances can change, requiring these agreements to be modified.

mom comforting child

Child custody and support matters can be complex; sometimes, modifying one agreement can significantly impact the other.

Whether you’re working with a child support attorney in Phoenix or in small-town Canada, knowing the difference between, and the relationship of child support and child custody can be incredibly helpful while navigating divorce.

What Is Child Support?

When a couple files for divorce, courts ensure that the parent who has custody of the child is not overburdened financially, so they order each parent to contribute a proportionate share of their income for the child’s financial well-being.

What Is Child Custody? 

Generally, both parents can work together to decide who will hold custody of the child following the divorce.

However, courts can determine who gets custody based on the child’s best interests if the matter is contested. The court can rule in favor of joint custody or sole custody.

The Link Between Child Custody and Support

Although child custody and support are considered separate entities, courts do generally consider custody arrangements when determining child support.

For example, the parent with physical custody of the child can be viewed by the court as contributing more financially day-to-day.

That’s why often, to even things out, the court can order the non-custodial parent to pay child support. 

However, child custody arrangements may not be influenced by child support agreements in the same way. Instead, those cases are often decided by other factors, including the child’s relationship with each parent. 

Most people presume that if someone shares joint physical and legal custody of the child with their ex-spouse, they would not be required to pay child support, but that is incorrect.

When a parenting plan is finalized during divorce proceedings, courts will generally consider that the parent spending the most time with the child would be spending more resources on them, which is why they can require the other parent, who shares less time with the child, to pay more child support.

But, the income of each parent is also taken into account by the courts. If a parent who has the child for more days of the week has a significantly higher income than the parent who only has the child for one or two days, the parent with the higher salary may be required to pay child support to the other parent.  

How Modification of Custody Agreements Influences Child Support Agreements

The child support agreement might be directly linked to the custody arrangement, but it does not change automatically when the custody agreement is modified.

Instead, either of the parents must file a motion to modify the support agreement in light of the new child custody arrangement. 

A significant change in the custody arrangement can be a reasonable ground for modifying the child support agreement. You may want to contact an experienced child support attorney to learn how child support agreements can be changed.  


Going through a divorce is challenging at the best of times, and it becomes more challenging with children to consider.

Luckily, the legal system is designed to keep the best interests of the children in mind at all times, to help ensure they can thrive in a difficult situation.

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