Multiple Families, Multiple Goals, Multiple Failures
84 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2008 Last revised: 31 Jul 2009
Date Written: September 16, 2008
Current child support laws are based on false assumptions about families that fail to reflect family complexity and the realities of parenting. As a result, the federal goals of child support laws are not met. New federal child support goals should be centered on the needs of poor families and multiple families and should consider more of the resources available to the families.
Multiple families are families where at least one existing parent has a child with a different partner. Federal child support laws ignore the way that children in multiple families compete for the limited resources of their parents. States lack guidance about how to choose between the two policy ways to allocate child support among families, "first family first" or "equalization."
This Article argues that the federal government should provide guidance to the states in answering the question of who bears the cost of subsequent families; this article proposes a new theory of child support, "limited equalization," which makes an explicit policy choice in favor of existing families.
Limited equalization includes five new child support goals: (1) an explicit policy choice about supporting multiple families giving a preference to existing families; (2) attention to the demographics of the families that need child support; (3) an expanded definition of parenting and the duty of support; (4) attention to poverty prevention; and (5) attention to gender equality. Limited equalization re-envisions the goals of child support and provides a mechanism to examine all of the circumstances and realities of the families in calculating child support awards. This major structural change attempts to address the complexities of child support, particularly in multiple families, while giving preference to existing families.
Keywords: Child Support, Gender, Family Law
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation