How Child Support Can Improve and What My Child Is Worth
Child support here in America is just one more of the systems we have in place that are meant to help and often don't. I first filed for child support when my oldest was 3 and my youngest was 18 months old. It was pretty easy, as the county system will do all the legal paperwork in court for you. Then if your child's other parent won't pay voluntarily, they will garnish their wages for you. This is of course assuming that the other parent works for an employer, and/or keeps a job long enough to collect anything. After the legal and financial paperwork came back, I was told that my children were only worth a whopping $130.00 a month. That's funny considering it cost me more than that in food alone for them a month. I was shocked. I have a close friend who has three girls by the same dad, and gets $700 a month for them! How are my children worth so much less than her three girls?
Well, what I didn't realize is this. It doesn't matter the "actual" cost of raising children, or the cost of living in the area you live with the children. It only matters how much the other parent makes, minus if they have any other new children, minus them being the sole supporter of their new family. After all that, your children get the crumbs that are left. It doesn't matter if your children are the first fruits of your ex's loins, he can go on having more kids and it just takes away from the children he left you with. And God forbid he tries to beat the system by becoming solely self-employed, becoming a full-time student, or changing jobs so frequently that they can't catch up to him fast enough to take your child support. In those cases, you are left with getting a check once a year if they can intercept a tax refund on your behalf. And that's if he actually does his taxes and doesn't owe the IRS instead.
How I Think the Child Support System Can Improve
Needless to say, the way they calculate how much child support each non-custodial parent should pay needs an overhaul. How is it fair to suggest that some children are more valuable than others? Is there anywhere in the U.S. that $130/month is exactly half of what it really costs to raise two small boys? I think not. The truth here is that the class system is alive and well and does infect our government systems. I have a few suggestions for the system and here they are.
1. Start with a flat rate (based on current inflation) of how much it costs to raise a single child based on age. We all know that small children cost more so I'm fine with a tiered rate by age. Include factors like, a mom with 1-2 kids will need 2 bedrooms, a mom with 3-4 kids will need a three bedroom place and so on. Rent does go up based on the amount of space needed to live.
2. Support for the first or any other child should not be reduced by the parent having more children. How does having more children and starting more families reduce the amount it costs to raise a child? It doesn't. Each successive child will add to the costs of raising a family, and the parent who insist on having more children should be prepared to pay for it. Maybe more people would not have as many children spread all over the country if they knew they would actually have to pay for them, instead of leaving their family to live off of welfare programs.
3. If the non-custodial parent is not able to pay the full amount of child support that has been determined they owe, garnish a partial amount and let the rest mount up in back pay owed with interest. For instance, Parent owes $500/month for two children from first family (this makes $250 for each child). He has 2 children in his next family that he still lives with and his financials show that he can only pay $300/month. The state should garnish the $300/month and $200/month would add up as back pay due, with interest. There are some major benefits to this kind of system. The first two children are worth the same amount of money regardless if daddy chooses not to get a job, or fails to get a decent job, or whatever other excuses make some people's children worth more than others. Secondly, don't you think this guy is going to start thinking, "wow, if I leave this next family, I'll have to pay $500/month for those next two kids too." That will be $1000/month just paying for his kids, whether he has a good job or not. The back pay will add up and up and someday his kids will have a college fund, cause this guy will be paying on his child support long after the kids are 18, unless he is smart enough to get a really good job and pay his child support. This system makes all the kids equal recipients to daddy's money. Plus it will motivate dead-beat dads to be responsible to working, and maybe stick with one of the families they create instead of spreading seed with no consequences.
The current system does add up back pay on unpaid child support with interest. But it puts no official value on the child itself other than through the lens of the status of the parent that owes. So, like me, my children are worth only $130/month because my ex has a new family and only works a minimum wage job. It doesn't matter that I work my butt off at a job that pays about $20/hr. (which I have to do to support us properly) because the child support isn't set at the level that the children deserve to be safe, fed, and clothed. It is set at whatever the other parent can afford after all their expenses and new family are taken care of, no matter how small the amount is. If I chose to work a minimum wage job, we would have to live on welfare of some sort, because $130/month sure isn't gonna make a drop in our expenses. How is this fair? How is this considered support? Does this make sense to you?
4. Do not allow a ratio of 50/50. This is another problem created by the current system, the idea of credit for visitation. If you can split the time spent with the child 50/50, then technically neither parent can be held responsible for support because they are sharing expenses by having the child in their home half the time. This creates wars within families. Fights for tax credits, fights over visiting times, fights to get public benefits like Medical or Healthy Families. Not to mention interesting situations with the kids' school and lessened accountability between school and home when the school doesn't know which parent to call that will get things done. The child can start to feel like a pawn, especially as they get older and become aware of the issues surrounding their care. Some kids start using their split families to their advantage. Miscommunication between two homes can make some significant loopholes for kids looking for excuses. Stealing, sneaking out, not completing homework, and cutting school are common behaviors in kids with split families, mostly due to lack of accountability and communication between the two original parents.
One parent usually is more in charge of a child naturally anyway. One parent usually has more room in their home for the child, and one usually has more time. Assigning a ratio that allows one parent to really care for the child and the other to "support" the child makes more sense. It will also curtail many of the situations I described above, and give the child a sense of belonging to one home or the other. It will also stop arguments about how to claim the kid for benefits and taxes. We all know that some visitation does happen, or its completely absent. Give the non-custodial parent 25% credit toward the standard amount set if they have a visitation schedule. If no schedule at all is set or they live to far away to have regular visits, then they get no credit. If they really want to be involved with theirchild, they should just do it, and stop worrying about how much their visitation with your kid will cut down their support payments and just be the best parent they can be.
Now doesn't that sound ideal! Custodial parents unite for a fair child support system!! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray!
Oh sorry, I drifted off to my dream world again. Hehehe.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.