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Time for Child Support Reform?

January 6, 2013

child support

Child support is the financial payment or duty of a parent for a child from a relationship that no longer exist. Parents who have children have a financial obligation to take care of the children’s primary needs until a certain, usually age eighteen, when they can fend for themselves.

Child support started from the end result of the break down of marriages (divorce) when the husband and wife decided to no longer live together. During the nineteenth century, women had a lot of problems supporting the family because their primary job was being a homemaker. Women weren’t allow to work in public places based on cultural practices of America during that time and they were taught that taking care of the home was their primary duty. Most of the time after a divorce, the man would leave the family and woman would have primary custody of the children.  Since the man was the primary breadwinner and sole provider of the family, he would become richer while the mother lives in poverty as she has to provides the expenses for her children. This created a division on socio-economic class between men and women.  When women had to find a job, they wouldn’t be able to obtain certain jobs based on lack of education and work skills which was primary based at the home. Sometimes when women did obtain certain jobs, they weren’t being paid on the same level as men. This created a problem for single mothers who found it hard to provide for their children.

In the mid-twentieth century, the poverty level of single mothers started to have an effect on society creating a division in the socio-economic class.  According to the CATO Institute, the first federal aid program was Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) created by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 to help and provide families with support where the father was deceased, absent, or unable to work. This was suppose to help out single mothers in their financial situations which benefited more than 600,000 families by 1956.  The ADC tended to be successful as the number of families receiving support increased from 4.3 million in 1965  to 10 million in 1972. As the years continued, the number of welfare participants continued to increase.

Despite the success of the ADC,  child support needed to have its own division. By 1975,  Child Support Enforcement was a national program established by Congress where both parents must provide for their child best to their ability. Non-custodial parents were determined to provide financial support for their children regardless of their income status. But as time went on, some people didn’t pay or refuse to pay the child support, so the Deadbeat Parent Punishment Act was established in 1998 which individuals may face federal prosecution.  Through these laws, many parents have had their credit score ruined and faced time in jail for non-payment of child support. Since 2000, child support in the United States has been highly criticized for its practices and ethical issues.

Child support is a controversial topic in the United States as people have mixed feeling about it. But before we can make a final decision on child support, we have to examine the pros and cons.

One benefit of child support is financial support for the child. Many times a single parent may not have enough money or resources to provide all the necessary needs of the child. So receiving child support may be used to help provide the basic upkeep for the child needs.

The negative effect of child support is there no record to show how the money is being used by the custodial parent. Sometimes a non-custodial parent may be forced by a court order to pay child support but the custodial parent does not have to show how much they spend each month on the child needs which make people to become skeptical of making payments.

Another negative aspect of child support is non-visitation rights. In some cases, some non-custodial parents may be denied visitation rights despite the fact they are making monthly child support payments which may make a parent decide not to complete payments.

According to a CNN article titled Deadbeat Parent Cost Taxpayers $53 Billion, it states that in 2009, over $100 billion is owed in unpaid child support and nearly half of that to taxpayers supporting their children on public assistance. When custodial parents don’t receive child support payments, they end up receiving public assistance. This cost the government around $53 billion. 82 percent of the custodial parents were women.  Child support is an economic burden for the country and most public assistance do not want to be responsible for it.

For example a man named Desmond Hatchett, a Tennessee native,  has twenty four children with eleven different women. He has be incarcerated since December 2009 for non-payment of child support.  In the state of Tennessee, child support cannot be collected more than 50 percent of a person’s income. In Hatchett’s case, each child receives approximately $1.49 per month which can’t do very much. So the mothers will most likely have to receive public assistance for support.

Another case of child support is from William Marotta, a Kansas resident, who donated his sperm to a lesbian couple giving birth to a girl in 2009 . They had an agreement that he will not have any financial obligation for the child. The couple separated and one of the women applied for public assistance and the state contacted Marotta. According to Kansas Department for Children and Families, any agreement would not be valid because a physician was not present to perform the insemination. So according to Kansas law, Marotta is the father so he owes a  financial obligation to the child. But if you really want to question it, why should he pay if both parties in the contract agreed Marotta would have no financial obligation for the child? Is it really based on ethics or finances?

Many people don’t understand that non-payment of child support is a criminal offence. Child support is a debt and if it is not paid on time, the non-custodial parent may be subjected to a collection agency and/or face jail time.  Sometimes a non-custodial parent may lose their job and not be able to keep up with payments but still required to make payments and if they fail to make payments, they may go to jail. In some cases, if a parent is thrown in jail, they may not be able make payments and when they do get out, they may have a criminal record on their file which may prevent them from obtaining certain jobs despite their qualification. So throwing a parent in jail for non-payment of child support may not be the best option.

Every person who brings a child into this world has an obligation to make sure that the child is well taken care of their basic needs. But clearly, there are some problems with child support as the custodial parents does not have to show records on how they spend the money on the child. Sometimes a parent may be thrown in jail if they are not able to complete their monthly payments.  It is a major problem in our  society today which is a financial burden. Do you think it is time for a child support reform?


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From → Discussions

15 Comments
  1. Jason permalink

    Its simple- Child support should be like your income tax. Food, water and shelter is a basic necessity and if you cant provide that then you shouldn’t have the child. Now for the fairest way, all you have to do is show me the receipts (just like taxes) every month that you spent on the child and I will pay half. Simple and fair. Same with collecting the child income on your taxes. I should get half that too. Again show me the receipts that you spend on my child and I will pay half.

  2. SeanCJulian permalink

    In weighing the pros and cons for child support, the cons outweigh the pros a million times over. I am in a bit of a hurry here so I am not going to take the time to list anything right now.

    The Child Support system does not need reform it needs complete abolishment. Since 1950, 26 attempts to reform Child Support resulted in making life for separated parents a little more hellish each time. In order to abolish child support the Federal government must repeal all laws that mandate enforcement by State Agencies.

    ABOLISH CHILD SUPPORT

  3. Interesting and well thought out. Nice post about Child support.

  4. jeremy permalink

    Great article. I would like to add how child support should not be based on a percentage of income. This makes it more about profit, and gain than supporting a child.

  5. Cathy Arroyo permalink

    I would like to propose strictor legislation for deadbeat parents. For example it should be deemed criminal neglect to not pay your child support for one years time or if you are over 10,000 in arrears. There is absolutely no reason to fall that far behind. There are laws to protect adults if they are unable to contribute for valid reasons. It is a matter of responsibility for ones self if that is the case. This is targeted toward the complete evaision of responsibility. The ones who find the loop holes and job hop or blatenly quit working for years. Those who have multiple children and should sholder some responsibility. Also, if dcs is not going to catch up to the father until the sixty day mark when he does job hop the state of washington needs to change the law so single parents can get food stamps immediately when the parent stops payment or makes a partial payment. Food stamps should be for immediate assistance in these situations. Instead the state is playing a game along with the deadbeat parent and it is working out in a detriment to the children. It is a broken system when less then half of custodial parents recieve regular support payments at any given time. Take sometime to fix these social issues of our time. Take a stand for children in our state as they are the ones who suffer from this type of neglect. Mothers are working and struggling to make it. Moms are making daily sacrafices. Children and mothers are being driven into poverty due to the neglect of the other parent no matter how hard we work. Help rectify the problem. Maybe we need new proscecuting attorneys or new staff in our DCS offies that actually want to do their job. There are many single women who would jump at the liveable wage job and do well to contribute to the benifit of the children. Why do gun control and immigration take precidence over the children of the United States. I always thought growing up I lived in a progressive nation for womens and childrens rights but looking around as a grown women that is not so. The child support money is used to shelter feed cloth, pay for field trips, school supplies. Sports, development, activities, keep the heat on, medical, childcare ect. The way the state calculates support it is never enough. And for your information it is divided equally percentage wise to each persons income. Unless you are a ritch non custodial parent you are not paying much for the benefit of the child.

  6. Yvonne permalink

    The best solution to Child support reform
    COSTshares

    Vs. Income Shares

    Next page

    Thirty-seven states employ some form of the Income Shares model for child support awards. There are a number of large differences between the COSTshares and Income Shares models. The major areas of difference are the underlying cost tables and the method of allocating those costs between the parties.

    Income Shares is not a cost based guideline. As noted in many publications on this site (see below), the Income Shares guideline table is based on an indirect estimate of child costs using a Rothbarth estimation technique. This is an economic method developed for determining the income necessary for families of different sizes to have the same standard of living, which only has a little to do with child costs.

    Specifically, child costs are determined by comparing when families with and without an additional child spend the same amount on specific adult goods – the current version of Income Shares uses adult clothing. (An earlier version, from the early 1990s and still used by many states, was based on comparing differences in total spending on adult clothing, alcohol, and tobacco.) The difference in total household spending is taken as child costs.

    For example, suppose a childless couple spends $20,000 a year on total consumption and $2,000 annually on adult clothing. After having a child the couple reduces its spending on clothing (and other things) to spend on the child. When the couple has sufficient income to boost spending back up to $2,000 for adult clothing, what is total household spending? If total household spending is $30,000 the spending on the child is considered the difference between the two total spending amounts – $30,000 minus $20,000 = $10,000 for yearly child costs.

    A critical flaw is assuming that when a couple has a child their household has the income to boost spending to the $30,000 level when they still have the pre-child income.

    There are many flaws in the Betson calculation that lead to over-stated child costs. There are also no components that can be used in rebuttal. You cannot say, “The presumptive amount assumes $x spent on education, and we have to spend $y.” This violates the federal requirement that presumptive awards be rebuttable, or highly contributes to the need of an economist to make a rebuttal.

    COSTshares uses actual spending data on children to reflect out-of-pocket expense. Most child cost category data come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for single-parent households. However, the USDA uses per capita costs for housing which exaggerates child costs. Therefore, COSTshares uses housing cost data from the U.S. Department of Interior. The one child cost is the difference between a one-bedroom and a two-bedroom house plus utilities factored in. Ratios are then applied for additional children and different income levels.

    Per Capita vs Marginal

    A childless couple pays $500 a month for their apartment. When they have a child they move into a 2 bedroom apartment for $600 a month.

    The per capita cost of housing is now $200 ($600 divided by 3 people), but the marginal cost of the child is only $100: the increased rent specifically for the child.

    Take this the next step. The couple has a second child, but both children use the same second bedroom. The marginal housing cost of a second child is 0, but a per capita costing says the two children cost $300.

    Any child cost formula that uses per capita spending grossly overstates child cost.

    So the underlying cost table is determined very differently. COSTshares results in a realistic cost table while Income Shares includes hidden money of benefit to only the custodial parent.

    Allocation is different. The COSTshares methodology allocates child costs by income available above self-support. This allocation is also used for add-ons: The award cannot reduce the payor below a given income level (self-support). Income Shares is vague on this. Also, COSTshares treats child tax benefits as a negative cost, and these tax benefits are large. Income shares ignores offsets from child-related tax benefits which means the non-custodial parent pays a second time for what the government has already given the custodial parent.

    Finally, COSTshares allocates costs by which parent incurs them, notably important for pro-rating for parenting time. The pro-rating starts with any parenting time, necessary for the equal protection criteria to be met.

    Income shares violates equal protection standards by not treating the non-custodial parent equally. Usually, awards do not reflect non-custodial child costs until 25 – 30% of the child’s time is with the NCP. But when that is reached, total child costs are suddenly adjusted up by 1.5 before pro-rating by time.

    This is incorrect accounting. There must be an account of costs for each parent, and the other parent should share in those costs in proportion to any amount of time. When there are fixed costs, this accelerates the reversal of the flow of child support on an equal protection basis. Based on fixed costs in both households (for the child), any “multiplier” (a badly flawed concept) would wind up as less than 1, not 1.5 or so. For equal treatment there should be no multiplier, but an account of costs for each parent.

    COSTshares is the only guideline that meets equal protection standards, for the parents and the children. Income Shares has a built in biases and leads to child support awards often double or more what they should be if based on professional economic standards

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  13. yes, yes. It should be a common sense to reform this antiquated forceable law to today’s standards. why does the custodial parent keep all the money and buy whatever she wants for herself when the money given by the non-custiodial parent is for the child???? How one-sided is this old outdated law????

    • That is a very good point. In many cases, the law is not fair on how the custodial parent spends all that money in child support and the non-custodial parent sees it as a paycheck. The courts know its not fair as many people has questioned where the money is going to and how it is being spent. In some states, if a custodial parent is late in payments, they maybe in jail within a few months depending on the state. When a woman can’t afford to pay for her child, she gets support from the state, but if a man is late in payments, they will throw him in jail. This does not make any sense at all and there needs to be a reform as soon as possible.

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