I harp on this idea. Its fundamental to what is wrong with child custody in America, and probably throughout a large portion of the world. One parent is rewarded with for limiting access to the children by the other parent. Here are a few ways to that this could be fixed, and could be done quickly. For things to get better, these are cases where parents should be allowed to go back to court and get it fixed quickly once changes have been voted on. Yes the courts would be overwhelmed, but this kind of change could save a lot of kids from living their life estranged from their fathers.
To truly simplify things, child support should be clearly defined to cover certain things, and only those things. I should preface that I am talking about situations where the mother and father live in a reasonable proximity to split the duties of raising the kids. So in other words, your typical divorce. Not an abandonment case or other complexities that people like to talk so much about. Lets define child support to pay for education expenses, health and dental fixed cost, and basic needs. The basic needs might need to be spelled out, because some people think a cell phone, X-Box, and car are basic needs. It is not one parents job to support the other parent while they raise the kids. If it were, then they would be married, so in divorce or cases where the parents were never married, it is the responsibility of both parents to have enough income to support their household. Now this child support could go to either parent. Lets just say that it is divided proportionally, and that the lower earning parent pays the higher earning parent. I know this is backwards from what we do now, but it makes sense. The parent with more money coming in is more likely to be able to pay these required fees, even if they exceed the estimates. The parents should be required to keep track of the real costs, and pay the other parent the difference one way or the other every quarter. This is a business relationship after all, or that is what I keep being told at least. Actual medical and dental expenses should be split by the parents, and for fairness sake, I guess it should be done by proportions of income. All other expenses for the kids are negotiable. If you don’t agree, then the parent who wants to spend money on them should pay for them.
If in divorce it is determined that choices that were made by the parents for one to sacrifice career to be the caretaker of the kids, then alimony should be used. It should be time limited, and then it is a transfer of wealth that has tax consequences as it should. So if the ex is required to support the other persons household, it is done in a way that he/she can support it with lower taxes. This is the real world that the rest of us live under when we pay someone or get paid by someone. Again, this should be time limited. It should not go on infinitum. You are divorced, and thus you should be required to find a way to support yourself adequately. I would put a cap of 5 years from the date of the alimony order on this. This gives you time to get a bachelors degree if you think that is the way to go, and you don’t have one.
Now lets talk time. Since both parents are responsible for their own households now, then time share should be negotiable with a lot less spite. There is not money to be had by having more time with the kids. I truly believe that most parents can have this discussion with a lot less friction and animosity than when money is also on the table. Its cute to talk about these issues like money shouldn’t matter and will be worked out based on the time after its figured out, but no one separates the issues. I earn just shy of $100K/yr and after child support, I am expected to maintain a home for me and my 3 or 4 kids on less than $30K/yr. I cannot provide near the lifestyle that I should be able to, and constantly have to choose whether I do something with them or I enjoy a little of the lifestyle I should be able to provide them without them, knowing their mother has the means because of child support to provide what I should be able to provide directly. If child support were more limited, then I could do these things with my kids. I could appear to be the provider that I am for them. Fundamentally it there is going to be an imbalance in the households. That is the nature of comparing two different people. This isn’t a bad thing. The bad thing is the government, not hard work is determining which way the imbalance goes. I would have to nearly double my income to have the same spending power that she has. This is because my CS goes up as my income goes up. Even in the current system, CS orders should not be something that can be adjusted upward. People should be allowed to work to improve their lives. If I earn an additional $1000/month, I should see close to $700 after taxes, but I won’t. CS will take a good chunk of that, and I will be lucky to see $350. I work too hard to see so little. It is assumed that I would spend a certain percentage on my kids. I wouldn’t, or if I did it would be to do something with me.
I have heard stories from people that their mothers saved all the child support, and gave it to the kids when they were grown. This sounds noble, but the truth is that this is still taking money from one person against their will and giving it to another. Should the father support their children? Yes, they should. Should the father be compelled with the same force that the IRS has to collect taxes to support their children at a level that government has decided is proper? No, this is immoral, and goes against what the USA stands for. This is a clear reminder that we are no longer operating under the constitution. That the constitution of our country is simply a historical document that people talk about, but has no real power anymore.
The problem is everyone wants to talk about fair solutions. There aren’t any. Someone always has the advantage. The problem is the government is deciding who the winners and losers are. They aren’t the referees though, making sure that the rules are followed. They are effectively making marriage till the kids are grown financially. You can marry again, but the kids make it so the government can force you to work at a certain level until your kids are grown. As bad as simple divorce is, this makes it evil. No one should be enslaved to another. Slavery is antithetical to the US way of life. We fought multiple wars including our own civil war on this premise, but here we are imposing slavery on men just for having children. The majority of children would be well taken care of by one or both parents without this. The very few who would not should not create a rule that affects everyone. Fairness is a pipedream. It will never be found. It is better to allow the natural progression happen.
The other point I want to drive home, is this. Custody should be 50/50, unless the parents agree to something else, or there is some criminal finding that prevents that. The criminal finding should require that charges are pressed, and the the parent is found guilty. If measures are taken during the trial process to protect the kids, they should be reversed if the the parent isn’t found guilty. The family court is essentially labeling fathers as potential abusers and stripping them of their rights. The courts need to be pressed into accepting that all parties have rights, and no ones trumps the others. As it sits right now the kids’ rights trump all other rights. One parent is made the keeper or steward of those rights, and thus gets all the goodies that go along with that. Divorce creates an imperfect family. Pretending we can make it better with the right court orders is sick. Both parents should be given equal opportunity to raise the kids. Disney Land Dads are a side effect of fathers not having authority in their kids lives. CS transfers most authority to one parent, usually the mother. Ultimately she gets to make the decision by paying or not paying for certain things. For most of us dads in the middle class and lower, we don’t have the funds left after CS to fund what we think is important on our own, so the mother gets to decide. This means that mom is in charge, literally. This is the message that the kids get. This is profoundly unhealthy.