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Child Support Guidelines and Divorce Rates

Margaret F. Brinig

Notre Dame Law School

Douglas W. Allen

Simon Fraser University

July 9, 2010

Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 10-19

A child support guideline is a formula used to calculate support payments based on a few family characteristics. Guidelines began replacing court awarded support payments in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and were later mandated by the federal government in 1988. Two fundamentally different types of guidelines are used: percentage of obligor income, and income shares models. This paper explores the incentives to divorce under the two schemes, and uses the NLSY data set to test the key predictions. We find that percentage of obligor income models are destabilizing for families with high incomes. This may explain why several states have converted from obligor to income share models, and it provides a subtle lesson to the no-fault divorce debate.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 32

Keywords: child support, guidelines, divorce, causes of divorce, noncustodial parent

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Date posted: July 11, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Brinig, Margaret F. and Allen, Douglas W., Child Support Guidelines and Divorce Rates (July 9, 2010). Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 10-19. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1638133 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1638133

Contact Information

Margaret Friedlander Brinig (Contact Author)
Notre Dame Law School ( email )
P.O. Box 780
3157 Eck Hall of Law
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0780
United States
574-631-2303 (Phone)
574-631=8078 (Fax)

Douglas W. Allen
Simon Fraser University ( email )
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6
604-291-3445 (Phone)
604-291-5944 (Fax)
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