Friday, April 2, 2010

What Divorce Law is Doing to Marriage Part 40

More from the words of Jed Abraham

When the range was averaged, there was disappointment with the result.. There wasn’t enough to support the children without the custodial mother going to work. She would have to park the children somewhere while she was at work. She needed day care. Day care was a big expense. It didn’t seem right she should have to pay for day care out of her child support receipts so she could go to work to supplement her child support receipts.

And another problem emerged. If the father’s total legal support obligation were limited to guideline child support, the mother would have to pay for children’s medical insurance out of her child support receipts. The children could not do without medical insurance. Medical insurance was a big expense. It seemed only right that the father should pay his children’s medical insurance in addition to whatever child support he was paying.

It did not matter that the studies on which the guidelines were based had already taken expenses for day care and medical insurance into account. It did not matter that these items were already figured into the guidelines. Day care and medical insurance were budget busters for the mother. So allowances were made for the courts to make day care and medical insurance add-on charges to the basic guideline amounts. It did not matter that this was double-dipping. It did not matter that daycare and medical insurance were budget busters for the father too. This was child support, the children come first.

Ignored and forgotten in this grand effort was the core socioeconomic problem of child support. In an intact family, children born to parents who choose to have them enhance the parents sense of well-being. Married parents manage to hang on to most of this well-being even after they tote up what the kids cost them. In the case of divorced parents, however, the court yanks the children away from the father and with them the sense of well being that they had brought him. All the father gets to keep are the costs. In retrospect, his decision to have children lowered his sense of well-being considerably.

Ignored and forgotten, too, was the fact that statistical studies of household expenditures produce only abstract, mathematical averages of the widely divergent household expenditures of the sample they survey. Even when the averages are accurate, they cannot, by definition, be identical to the expenditures of the many households which diverge from the averages. Guidelines derived from averages are a one-size-fits-all product. When applied to large numbers of families, they produce large numbers of incorrect results, by definition.

Ignored but not forgotten was the core financial problem of child support. Two people who share a household can live more cheaply than two who live apart. This effect is known as “economy of scale.” When parents divorce, they lose economy of scale. With no increase in their joint income, they now have to pay for an additional household. This leaves less to spend on the children. When the guidelines were derived from studies of intact families and applied to divorced families, they were not fully adjusted to account for the loss of economy of scale. As a result, the guidelines produced child support numbers that were too high.