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Do you think the child support laws in your state are fair? If no, then describe the changes that you would make.

I can’t speak for all jurisdictions, but in the jurisdiction where I practice divorce and family law (Utah), child support awards are generally, in my opinion, 1) too high, 2) often wrongfully misused by those seeking child support (and by the courts that award child support) as a means of providing financial support for a parent (not just the child(ren)), and 3) not subject to enough (if any) oversight regarding their properly use.

One factor that can cause child support to be awarded unfairly to the child support recipient is this: I’ve attended the meetings of the committee that sets child support guidelines in my state. It was clear in my observations of the committee’s work that some on the committee don’t see child supporters as financial support exclusively for children, but for the parent receiving the child support payments also. I’ve seen courts award sole or primary child custody to a parent not because that was in the best interest of the child, but because the court wanted to ensure that the parent awarded custody got the extra child support money that comes with a sole or primary custody award. In my view, that is unfair. There are many times when a judge will award child support (and the associated child custody) not strictly for the purpose of providing some financial support for the children but for the custodial parent as well. When they do, it is manifestly inequitable and unjust (to child and parent alike), and a violation of the public trust, but it still happens. Not in every child support case, but it happens.

One factor that can cause child support to be spent unfairly by the child support recipient is: no accountability on the part of the child support funds recipient for the expenditure of the child support funds. Once the parent who was awarded child support receives the funds, he/she can spend them however he/she wants. If the child support recipient (also known as the child support obligee) does not actually spend the child support on the financial needs of the children, he/she gets away with it.

In my jurisdiction (Utah), while the law provides for accountability as to how child support funds are spent, that law is literally never applied (Play 26 years of practice I have never seen it ordered). There is no accountability for how child support funds are paid. That is not opinion, that is fact. About the only way to get accountability for use of child support funds is if the child support recipient so grossly and obviously misspends them that it cannot be denied, in which case the court may make some changes to the child support award as a result.

In fairness, while it may be a little easier to devise a means for a fairer calculation of needed child support than it is to devise a workable, reliable means of holding child support obligees accountable, both tasks are extremely difficult. Everyone has a different opinion of what is a “fair calculation,” and where there’s a will to misappropriate the child support funds with which one is entrusted without being detected, there’s a way (multiple ways, in fact, the number of which is limited only by the imagination).

In my jurisdiction, there are different kinds of child support. Three different kinds, to be exact (sometimes four, under certain circumstances). What most people consider child support is known as base monthly child support in Utah. That is the amount that is paid directly to the custodial parent. But child support also includes sharing equally the cost of the child’s health, medical, dental, and hospital insurance premiums, and half of all uninsured medical, health, dental, and hospitalization expenses. Child support also includes the responsibility that the parents share equally the cost of all work-related childcare expenses. And in joint physical custody cases, often the court will order that the parties share equally the costs of certain expenses for the child in addition to base monthly child support to cover things like mandatory school expenses and cost of reasonable extracurricular expenses.

A parent has his/her own living expenses. While it is true that in some cases a parent may incur housing expenses greater than what they would be were there no need for extra room to house the child or children, child support is not needed for “extra” housing expenses if the size of the parent’s residence would have been the same regardless of the child custody award.

The problem with thinking that “half of all living expenses are the child’s”) is that rarely are half of all living expenses are, in fact, the child’s. For example, if a parent would have been residing in the same sized residence with or without the child present, then the “child’s portion” of rent is $0. Even if the residence is a 2-bedroom house/apartment, the second bedroom is not equivalent to half the cost of the residence. Children don’t eat as much food until they are older (and even so, they are not eating on the custodial parent’s dime every day because they eat some time meals the noncustodial parent). I cannot speak for all jurisdictions, but in Utah child support is usually more than what the child (the child, not the custodial parent, the child) needs to be sufficiently financially supported).

All common expenses clearly do not divide perfectly equally between the parent and child. A parent whose residence would have been the same size regardless of whether he/she shared it with a child would have $0 in child housing expenses, $0 in certain utilities expenses (i.e., heating, garbage removal, cable TV, internet), for example. So, the idea that child support must take into account that a child’s “shelter” expenses are equal to half the parent’s rent or mortgage payment is false on its face. If a court wants to indulge such a fiction for the sake of making it easier to calculate child support, that’s a different matter. A child’s transportation needs are not necessarily equal to half or 25% of those of the parent either.

In Utah, work-related daycare is an expense shared equally between the parents and is separate from the base monthly child support amount. To be clear: a noncustodial parent pays base monthly child support in addition to sharing half the costs of work-related child care expenses.

While it is true that a child’s food consumption changes as the child ages, that’s built in to the child support calculations, so that it averages out—child support is more than necessary to feed a 5-year-old and less than necessary to feed a 17-year-old, but the average child support amount accounts for both scenarios as the child ages. I have never, in 26 years of practice in Utah, personally witnessed a case (nor have I heard of any other case in which) child support was ordered increased for a teenaged child on the basis of “additional food and clothing expenses of a teenager”. Child support calculations are the same for all children, regardless of age.

The “poor hapless custodial parent” story is tired and not credible. Of course, there are many deadbeat noncustodial parents to pay less than full court-ordered child support and many deadbeats who pay none. But that is not the discussion here. The idea that child support that is awarded is somehow insufficient to meet a child’s needs (needs) is bunk. All the arguments that “child support is too low” are bunk too. Consider this: in Utah, both parents have a child support obligation (that includes the custodial parent). That means that that the custodial parent has an obligation to spend his/her own money on the child’s support in addition to the money he/she receives in child support from the noncustodial parent. So, if we have John and Jane Doe as parents, they have two minor children, John’s gross monthly income is $6,500 and Jane’s gross monthly income is $2,400, and John is the noncustodial parent, then John’s monthly child support obligation is $1,111. That’s $555.50 per child, per month, that John pays. Jane’s child support obligation is less, but still $411 per month (see the Utah child support worksheet below, calculated on a sole custody basis in this hypothetical scenario). That’s an additional $205.50 per child per month. Don’t tell me that $761 per month isn’t enough to provide for a child’s needs monthly. Remember: base monthly child support does not include both parents sharing the costs of child health insurance equally, uninsured child health care equally, and work-related daycare equally. That’s all in addition to the base monthly child support amount. In other words, the custodial parent doesn’t have to spend out of that $761 per month for child health insurance, uninsured out of pocket health care, and daycare (the parents bear those expenses separately on an equal shares basis). $761 is likely more than what the parents would have spent on the child’s support had the parents resided together with the children under the same roof.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

https://www.quora.com/Do-you-think-the-child-support-laws-in-your-state-are-fair-If-no-then-describe-the-changes-that-you-would-make/answer/Eric-Johnson-311

 

 

Don’t tell me that $761 per month isn’t enough to provide for a child’s needs monthly. Remember: base monthly child support does not include both parents sharing the costs of child health insurance equally, uninsured child health care equally, and work-related daycare equally. That’s all in addition to the base monthly child support amount. In other words, the custodial parent doesn’t have to spend out of that $761 per month for child health insurance, uninsured out of pocket health care, and daycare (the parents bear those expenses separately on an equal shares basis). $761 is likely more than what the parents would have spent on the child’s support had the parents resided together with the children under the same roof.

Don’t tell me that $761 per month isn’t enough to provide for a child’s needs monthly. Remember: base monthly child support does not include both parents sharing the costs of child health insurance equally, uninsured child health care equally, and work-related daycare equally. That’s all in addition to the base monthly child support amount. In other words, the custodial parent doesn’t have to spend out of that $761 per month for child health insurance, uninsured out of pocket health care, and daycare (the parents bear those expenses separately on an equal shares basis). $761 is likely more than what the parents would have spent on the child’s support had the parents resided together with the children under the same roof.

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