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Author Topic: Child Support Guideline Changes in Minnesota and Australia  (Read 1077 times)

POC

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Child Support Guideline Changes in Minnesota and Australia

June 17, 2005


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by Roger F. Gay

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The Australian government recently announced a new proposal for their child support guidelines. The design, presented by Patrick Parkinson, has been dubbed the Parkinson formula. But the basics of the formula are not new. They are in fact quite similar to guidelines fathers' rights advocates in the states have been complaining about since their introduction in late 1989.

Australia, like several states in the U.S., has been using a percent formula in which basic child support is assessed simply as a percent of a payer's income adjusted for the number of children being supported. Several states, including Minnesota have considered switching to the more popular variation based on what is known as the Income Shares model.

The Income Shares approach was proposed by child support collection entrepreneur Robert Williams (Policy Studies, Inc.) at the request of the federal collection agency in the U.S. (Office of Child Support Enforcement within the Department of Health and Human Services). Government enforcement agencies receive bonuses from federal funds based on the amount of child support paid through their system. Pseudo private collection agencies, such as Williams', retain a percent of the amount paid as commission for their services. Both groups favor formulae that arbitrarily increase support orders because of the increased income their agencies receive as a result.

Introducing the proposed change, John Hirst of The Australian reports that "It is hard to estimate the proportions of winners and losers in this scheme." Not really. Professors Sanford Braver at Arizona State University and David Stockburger at Southwest Missouri State University have already done a great deal of work on analyzing the differences between the two models. When looking at "new" proposals, the public should have greater awareness that child support issues are far from new.

The effort to replace judicial child support decisions with child support formulae began two decades ago. The use of presumptively correct child support formula began in the U.S. and Australia in 1989. Prior to that, state courts, local bar, and other professional associations worked on child support guidelines. More than one effort and some scientific analysis appeared in publications.

Aside from that, state courts in the U.S. had more than two centuries and Australia more than one to perfect child support decision theory. Even those efforts had a starting point in British common law that had evolved over hundreds of previous years. The effort to codify issues related to divorce presented in a commonly familiar written record goes back literally to the time of Moses, and there is archeological evidence that divorce issues and their settlements predate even that in a variety of cultures.

Despite the fact that the problem of making appropriate child support decisions has such a long history, it is widely agreed that child support formulae in use today do not do a proper job. In preparing new proposals for governments, serious work on developing a valid mathematical decision model is ignored.

Australians and Minnesotans are being told that the Income Shares model takes a step toward fairness compared to the percent formula. While there may be some slight truth to this view, for the most part the switch is from one formula that produces arbitrarily high results to one that produces a different set of arbitrarily high results. Neither model has been developed from the principles that emerged from hundreds of years of experience in adjudication of child support on several continents. Both were created to arbitrary increase the size of payments.

The recent history of child support reform in both the U.S. and Australia hinges on a single fundamental change. Child support (as well as other family issues) has been transformed as a matter of law from the private domain to the public. Decisions are now taken en masse and entirely open to political manipulation. The connection to principles of purpose and fairness were lost in the transition.

John Hirst puts the task of altering child support guidelines in the current context; "can the burden on fathers be lifted without harming children and outraging their mothers, supported by a strong feminist lobby?"

Not long ago, such a question would have been treated with contempt. Courts were, until recently, required to make independent and objective decisions. The suggestion that special interest groups may influence such decisions would have immediately been labeled for what it is: corruption. Any judge known to bow to such pressure may have been dismissed for bad behavior. When legislators bowed to such pressure, it would have been seen as a scandal at the very least.

Roger F. Gay

http://www.mensnewsdaily.com/archive/g/gay/2005/gay061705.htm


wendl

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RE: Child Support Guideline Changes in Minnesota and Australia
« Reply #1 on: Jun 17, 2005, 09:10:18 PM »
We just move to Montana and reading their cs guidelines Montana is very very fair, they even give the ncp a credit if they have another child so they can actually have a child with their current spouse AND they set a max amount of cs to be paid yearly.

**These are my opinions, they are not legal advice**

POC

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RE: Child Support Guideline Changes in Minnesota and Australia
« Reply #2 on: Jun 18, 2005, 06:13:28 AM »
wen,

I checked out the Montana guidelines and it has some very good parts about it. But, it like many other states has an arbitrary theshold to  provide for children's needs at 110 days. At 110 days or more with each parent, both parents share financial responsibility for the child 365 days per year. When the child spends less than 110 days at one parent's home, then both parents share financial responsibility for the child only at one home. The guidelines leave the child in the lurch the rest of the time. There is no logical reason to provide for a child's needs at 110 days, but not 105 days. The line does not need to be drawn at any arbitray threshold.

Child support guidelines should seamlessly apportion an equitable amount of money between the parents for the needs of their children across the various time sharing and income distributions that are reality in today's society. Montana's guidelines do not.

 

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