I find it necessary to argue this issue from two sides. One is that child support is one of the biggest evils in western society, and that it should be abolished. That is my honest opinion. The legal requirement of child support is akin to slavery, while the moral obligation to supporting you children is a whole different issue. The moral obligation to take care of the children you bring into the world is one of the most important ones any man has. Moral obligations and legal obligations are not congruent, nor should they be. If all moral obligations were codified into law, then we would all be slaves.
Child support is crippling. Many men with one or two children can make way with the rates that are imposed, but they do so with much less than they should have. Most men are not in poverty, but many of the arguments that are made revolve around the men that are in poverty. The sad part is they tend to do so in such a way as to cripple the men in poverty. I have four children and feel the impact of the child support in rather extreme ways. The idea that I am proposing is simply to limit the impact of child support. A big part of my reasoning is that men should be allowed to spend from their own reserves on their children. The children shouldn’t see mom buy them everything, and that dad doesn’t buy them anything, especially when the truth is often for those in the middle class and above, that the dad is paying the lion’s share of the expenses for the children. For poorer men, it is even harder. They often after child support, don’t have the resources to decide to forgo something else to spend extra on their child.
Child support’s purpose needs to be redefined. Currently it is defined to support not only the necessary expenses for the child, but also that it is to support the child’s lifestyle if the child still lived with both parents. The lifestyle right isn’t a real right. The parents have always have had the right to determine the lifestyle of their children. There is no good argument that because the parents don’t live together, that suddenly they have this new right. I don’t know how to define correctly yet, but the end result needs to define it as something that pays for the child’s needs, and the needs should be clearly identified. The rights of the paying parent need to be recognized in the process. Financially the paying parent should be allowed to earn a base amount that is untouched. The reality that the children don’t live with that parent is the reason they don’t have the benefit of the home that parent provides. There is no excuse for one parent being left without enough income to provide for themselves the basics of life.
Base Earnings Aren’t Subject to Child Support Obligations
At a minimum the every child support payer should be allowed to earn what is considered poverty level for them self and their dependents. The current system likes to pretend that someone isn’t going to have more children after the first relationship blows up. This idea needs to go away. Men and women should be allowed to pursue relationships fairly unhindered, especially by previous relationships. At least legally. What is more egregious, is the only one shackled by the current system is the one obligated to pay child support. The other parent can continue on as if they have no obligations at all, and legally they don’t. This should be based on each paycheck. Men and women who work odd jobs and other work that doesn’t have consistent incomes should only be held to account for child support when they earn enough to pay it. The argument against this is that the parent receiving child support should be able to rely on the payments coming in regularly. The truth is that if they were together, they wouldn’t be able to rely on that income any better, so why should they living apart have more confidence in getting paid than when together. The idea that divorce and family law can be neat and tidy, while so many people are not that stable, nor should they be required to by the court.
A Maximum Child Support Obligation Regardless Of Income
Child support should not be an endless well. The parties are not together, and the children should be allowed to benefit by the lifestyle both parents are able and willing to provide for the children. This does not mean that the paying parent should be required to pay that money to the other parent. That is certainly an option, but shouldn’t be court ordered in any way. I am not sure what that number should be. My initial thoughts are that it should be no more than $2000/month regardless of the number of children or income. There is no reason that one parent, even if they are able, should be required to fund the lifestyle of the other parent. This number is probably too large, but its a point to start at, and with the other limits I propose will not apply to most child support payers.
A Maximum Percentage of Net Income
As discussed above, net income is the amount of money left after taxes are paid and required benefits are funded, including health insurance. This number should be 25% regardless of the number of children. One quarter of net income is more than enough money to extract from a person without their consent. Each child should be worth no more than 5% of this net income. Again this is per pay cycle, not annually. If you reach a maximum in the pay cycle, you are not obligated to catch up. You don’t pay taxes on fictional income, neither should you pay court ordered child support based on fictional income. The current system requires that people pay a dollar amount regardless of actual income. The courts only discretion would be to lower the percentage, not raise it. Anything more than these numbers would be illegal to collect. The concept of arrears should go away.
A maximum amount should be assigned based on the time of separation or birth of the child, whichever came last. That maximum amount of support should be based on the last three years of taxable income. The maximum should be set to the rates that are mentioned above. Child support shall not go up based on the increases in income of the payer, unless they have not been meeting the threshold of being able to pay 5% per child because of low wages during this time frame. The amount should be calculated based on the lowest amount they could earn during that year, and still pay 5% of their income per child.
An order should be written for a percentage of income. The laws should limit was is taken in the following ways. It will not exceed $2000/month. It will not exceed 25% of their income. It will not reduce the net income to below poverty level based on the number of exemptions claimed. Tax returns are subject to the order as new income, since it was excluded in the net income child support was collected from during the year. When the maximum amount has been reached for the year based on all the criteria above, then no more support shall be required until the next calendar year.
Any expenses from medical, dental, or mental health are covered under these guidelines, unless the expenses exceed 75% of the child support paid during the year. In this case the bills that exceed the 75% mark are going to be split 50/50 between the parents.
If both parents choose to opt out, then this is a binding agreement and cannot be revisited. The parents will be required to pay 50% of the required expenses for the children. Each parent is obligated to provide the children with enough clothing for their home and to properly feed and care for them when they are in their care. Medical, dental, and mental health expenses will be split 50/50. Education expenses will be split 50/50. If there is a disagreement about schools and the court rules to place the child in a program that is more expensive than public schooling, the other parent is only required to reimburse to the level of 50% of the costs of sending the child to public school. If the child is pre-school aged, daycare expenses should be paid inverse proportionally to the amount of time that each parent has the child. All orders should be 50/50 time share with the kids unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise or the parents agree to something different.
The end result is that child support payers will know what their maximum required at any given point and time. The burden of child support is limited when income levels are low. If a person has income that is not W2 in nature, then of course they will need to be mechanisms to calculate 1099 income. In these cases it might be beset to treat child support like taxes. The paying parent would make child support payments quarterly when they pay their taxes. Though I am still against child support requirements because it is akin to slavery, this model would loosen the shackles.
I only mentioned it once above, but in general all custody orders should be 50/50 without a compelling reason to not do so or agreement of the parents. The results from this type of change would change how a child support payer views their jobs. There are many men who have lost their motivation to improve their wages, because they don’t see enough of the income increase. The children will typically benefit from the father’s income increase, even when he doesn’t pay additional child support. I know men who have not started their own businesses. In their marriage their wife was against them doing so, and as a good husband chose not to do so for their family. These men under current child support rules continue to choose to not start these businesses, because the risk of the penalties if they can’t meet their obligations are too high. If child support were based on actual earnings and not just a dollar amount, then these men would be given the freedom of choice that married men have. Married men have the right to choose to lower their income to spend more time with their families. They have the right to start businesses that won’t generate income for some time. It is wrong that men lose this freedom because they don’t live with the mother of their children.