What’s Wrong With The Child Support System?

Recently I expressed distress to other attorneys for what I feel is unreasonably high child support payments mandated by current guidelines. Coming from an economics background I recognize that the cost allocations are incorrect in that they seem to come from figures based on per-capita household costs, inaccurate market prices, or choices that at income levels calculated for would simply not be made.

This was inevitably met with a “try to raise a child for under $1000 a month” response, which made me realize where the problem lies. Child support policy is being made by aloof members of the upper class who have no idea what is like to budget and also cannot differentiate between fixed and variable costs.

For example for true dual parenting to occur, which is the ideal, both parents would need to maintain housing for both children. There should only be a marginal increase for time spent in terms of utilities. Similarly, clothing should be calculated at a basic level. Australia has an excellent idea to allow the non-custodial parent credit for items bought directly for the child. What too often happens is that the guidelines appear calculated to assume all durable or semi-durable items are bought exclusively by the custodial parent. This leads to a diminishing parent child relationship as children question why the non-custodial parent doesn’t buy them as many non-necessities or perceived to a child as luxury items.

This also leads to custody battles being waged over “the child support money”. This effects both custodial and non-custodial parents and leads to strife and turmoil. Six figure lawyers can’t understand this having conditioned themselves to believe designer clothing, cars, tutoring, electronics, are all normal items to be bought for children and thus perceiving without performing a calculation the child support as barely adequate.

The enforcement mechanism is also messy. Parents who fall behind often are not allowed to pay small amounts owed to the government first, even with the custodial parent’s request. A particular problem is license suspension, while an effective tool there has been no provision made for those whose jobs require driving.

By all means if someone won’t support their children and has the funds available they should go to jail, but the current enforcement mechanism has run amuck. The kicker to all this is that the law on the subject clearly indicates punishment should only occur for a failure to pay in the presence of a clear ability to pay. The controlling Supreme Court case on the subject actually supports that all that is required is the testimony that payment is impossible and then the burden shifts.

However, courts have failed to read the entire case and are now requiring the borrowing of money from family and friends, deeming payments made outside the system gifts which I can find no authority for unless they occured before amounts were due in some circumstances, prove that it is impossible to find work which is irrelevant logically to a “present” inability to pay, and frequently just outright ignoring the law to the point where the process as currently performed has become accepted as the law in an urban legend gone insane.

These cases usually deal with the most down on their luck members of society. Lawyers who defend them can’t establish the law for several hundred dollars and to properly try one of these cases would require five to ten thousand dollars of legal work for appeals.

Evil in truth rather then fiction usually results from sloth, laziness, and arrogance. The child support system as currently setup is a classic example of this.

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