I know that in our culture, this statement is considered ridiculous. We have been fed a line for our entire lifetime about dead beat dads. I think it is time for us to reexamine this thing we call love, marriage, and child raising. The rules we are playing by are from the 1930s. They are based on a society very different than the one that we live in. Alimony and child support are based on a society where women rarely worked if they were mothers, and couldn’t earn what a man earns. They are based on a society where women rarely left left their husband providers, but the men left their families to start over with another woman. I don’t know that I actually believe that story, but it was certainly more likely than it is today. I am not going to talk about abusive relationships, and when I say abusive, I mean someone is being controlled or broken in some way. We all feel abused after going through the trials of a failed marriage. Truly abusive relationships are much more rare than we are led to believe. Now in modern culture marriages are ended with little more thought than a dating relationship, and women have the same opportunity to earn what a man earns.
The next problem is that the courts, at least here in the USA aim to provide the same standard of living for the children that they had during the marriage. They also apply a standard that the children deserve a certain portion of the parents income. The standard of “the best interest of the children” is applied.
The first problem is when two parents are not together, unless there is significant means involved, it is impossible to provide the children with the same standard of living. You suddenly have two households where there was one. Now that father’s rightfully expect to have equal time with their kids, they must have a home that is adequate to house their children.
The next problem is the idea that the children have any right to the parents income. This is the idea that is applied to justify child support. When a marriage stays intact, the only index used to measure if the child is receiving what they deserve is whether they are healthy mentally and physically, and if they aren’t then they are receiving appropriate care. Suddenly in divorce, they deserve a percentage of the income, and that income is entrusted without strings to one of the parents, usually the mother. This is insane. What if the parents normally saved 60% of the income, and now suddenly one can’t. Or what if the divorce is over the fact the husband wants to take a job that pays 50% of what he used to make, so he doesn’t have to travel anymore. Suddenly the court has control over whether he is allowed to do that without going to jail. The court says he must earn close to his total earning potential. He no longer has a choice in the matter like he did before. Sure sounds like slavery to me.
The best interest of the child drives me nuts. If the court were interested in the best interest of the child, then there would be more remidations ordered to avoid divorce by the court, and less screwing with peoples lives. Since when is it in the best interest of the child to have the court in the middle of their lives their entire childhood. The other problem with that argument is that it is completely subjective. The courts are supposed to try to make objective decisions, and they are being placed in a position that requires subjective reasoning, which they are not equipped to handle, so they try to pretend that with the right experts they are making a subjective decision. Lets not kid ourselves, none of this is about the best interest of the child. If it were, then very few parents would be allowed to raise our children. We screw them up even in a good home. That is a part of life. We learn how to overcome the shit in our lives, and we all have shit even in the best of circumstances.
All this sets the stage a little, but the truth is in the western world, money is power. Having money gives you power, but so does controlling someone else’s money. Child support being based on a percentage of the parents income is not about providing for the child. It is about transferring wealth, and that is always evil. Simply put in the modern world, when parents are sharing responsibilities for the kids, there is no reason for a wealth transfer. The logic is convoluted. Probably because it isn’t about the kids at all. If a mother or father has chosen to cut out the other parent, then they deserve no part of that person’s income, and if that person shares in any part of the parental duties, then they should pay while they are have the children in their custody for the child’s needs. If the carrot of money from the other partner is removed, there would be far fewer divorces and out of wed lock children.
Now lets look at the logic of child support turned on its head a little. If time with children is valuable for the parent, then the time that is taken away from the parent should be compensated for. The parent who has the most earning power has the most valuable time. They should be compensated for the lost time with the children at a higher rate than the parent who has a lower income. In most divorce situations that would mean a stay at home mom would be due no child support at the time of the divorce, and if she had the children 50% of the time, she would owe the father a large sum for the lost time with his children. She would have to get a job, and support herself and compensate her ex-husband for his lost time with his kids. Isn’t this how most law suits work. The person who has incurred harm is compensated to make up for the harm. Well in a split custody situation both parties have incurred harm, but one is more valuable in the market place than the other.
Men have sought divorces at roughly the same rate throughout the history that it has been tracked. They divorce today for roughly the same reasons they always have. Women rarely sought divorce before. It took some extreme circumstances to give up the security of marriage. The system has been changed enough that they don’t lose the security when they divorce. They get financial support, and the state steps in to make sure their ex-husband continues to dutifully take care of her in the name of the children. Once the risks of not being married with children were reduced women have sought divorce for rather frivolous reasons at an alarming rate. Not that the men’s reasons were less frivolous, but the rate of them choosing to divorce is and has been much lower than the women choosing to do so now.
The truth is I don’t think anyone should pay child support. If two people or one of two people choose to part ways, then the children should be considered marital assets (didn’t want to say property). They have value to both the parents. It doesn’t matter much if one is a better parent than the other, if both are adequate. Yes merely adequate, because if the bar is set any higher, it is just a foothold for the state to come take everyone’s kids and give them to parents they deem better than you. We have already established that with the parents not together, the best interest of the child isn’t really the issue. Both parents decided to have kids together, so they decided at some point the other one was going to be the kind of parent they would like to raise a kid with. The ramifications of that decision is that you are stuck raising that kid together whether you want to or not. Along with the decision to split, both parents should determine how they are going to afford to not be together. The fact our society puts so much weight on romance in marriage is ridiculous. The purpose of marriage is to raise a family. It is designed to combine the financial a time resources of two people to take care of each other’s needs and the needs of the children. Since the marriage is broken, then each party should be responsible for both the financial and time needs of their family, which is inclusive of the times you have the kids and are nearly complete, and the times when you don’t and are single.
We all know that the biggest reason for child support is to prevent divorce from putting women and children on the welfare roles. I suggest that if the financial incentives for divorce were removed, and some disincentives for divorce were in place, then you would have fewer split families, and the cost of the welfare cases that result would be less than the cost of child support enforcement costs now, and fewer dads would be estranged from their children. Of course this is supposition, but I don’t think I am too far off.