Forthcoming in the Journal of Juvenile Law & Policy, Vol. 13, No. 1, 2009
Currently enacted child support guidelines primarily focus on maintaining children’s economic well-being when a single household is split into two. This article argues that this focus discounts another consideration which, when combined with the current analysis, could further advance children’s well-being: the ability of parents to pay. An analysis of payment characteristics demonstrates that lower child support obligations may increase the amount of child support paid on average. Lowering presumptive obligations will make lower-income parents better able and more likely to pay their obligations, thereby increasing the amount of child support paid to lower-income children, while at most only marginally decreasing the amount of support paid by middle and upper income parents, which, when paid at all, usually exceeds the minimum obligations established by guidelines. The Cost Shares model of child support guidelines implicitly incorporates payment ability into the existing analysis, yielding slightly lower obligations, and thereby making it a better and easily implemented alternative to current guidelines.