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2015-11-10
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State Dictated Child Support Is A Farce

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Most of the time when people hear about child support in a negative light, it’s cast as mothers that are struggling to get by while dead-beat dads fail to provide child support. It’s unfortunate that society seems to allow the opposite side of that spectrum basically get away with being dead-beat moms.

Walk with me through a quick scenario. A family of three on a median annual income of $50,000 in the United States is neither wealthy nor poor. But as a national median, nobody could argue the child does not have the opportunity to be provided for (given frugal budgeting and appropriate spending). If the same salary existed for a single parent – $50,000 – there would be no argument to the general public or the court that they deserved a handout.

Now assume for a second you had a family of three where both parties work bringing in separate $100,000 and $50,000 salaries. In a divorce with no alimony, each party walks away with their salary. Why does the one parent earning $50,000 that makes a nationally accepted (by supply and demand) salary deserve extra money from the other?

Now one could say, well, it’s for the well being of the child. As you make that argument, are you aware of how much money the state (and it varies by state) forces the higher earner to pay? Let’s use Maryland as an example. And if you didn’t know, it’s not a negotiable amount, it’s determined simply with a formula.

  • For the salaries mentioned above with a 50/50 custody split, the high earner pays $401 a month that is tax free to the low earner. That’s essentially $4800 tax free a year.
  • For the salaries mentioned above with a primary custody to the mother, the high earner pays $1078 a month that is tax free to the low earner. That’s essentially $13,000 tax free a year.

Now don’t let those numbers fool you into saying, “but it’s $4800 or $13,000 the child wouldn’t have.” After all, its already a nationally established precedent that a family of two (single parent) or three (whole family) can live without handouts at $50,000 a year. This means, its fully expected the low earner can provide for themselves and their child at that salary.

It begs the question, what are those low earners doing with an extra $13,000 above their standard of living? It’s not like a child runs up that much more electricity or water. The utilities and lodging are already provided for by the existing parent. You’re left with food and clothing – coincidentally both things the aforementioned single-parent on the same salary seems just fine at providing.

The next foolish argument that is made is that the high earner needs to make those payments so the child can have an education, daycare, or better clothes. Why does the high earner need to give $13,000 to the low earner for education. Why can’t the high earner just pay it directly either to the school or into a college fund? If the low earner can’t seem to provide and cover daycare, but the high earner can, why can’t the high earner have custody in the first place and therefore pay daycare directly? And why can’t the high earner just buy the clothes direct.

There really isn’t any legitimate argument for that much money to be given to the low earner. If its punitive, that’s alimony and already decided by the courts. It’s not a question of the courts determining responsibility or fit of the parent either (at least not in Maryland).

So all of that said, Maryland implemented a system for automatic wage liens via a state run automated dispersal system. This, once again given the stereotype that men earn more, was designed to counter the dead-beat dad scenario of non-payment. But what about the wasteful spending of a dead-beat mom scenario (e.g. they go out to eat all the time, take many vacations, etc. all on dad’s dime)? Why is there no requirement for the low earner to provide receipts or some affirmation showing the money was directly attributed towards the child?

To close with an extreme example, these automatic calculators can put a solid, working man into the poorhouse. One fellow with three kids endured his wife cheating on him. Upon their divorce, the state awarded custody to her which put him on the hook as the high earner for paying out an approximate 80/20 split multiplied by three children. His payments were in excess of $2400 and ultimately exceeded his own ability to afford rent so he became a permanent volunteer firefighter so that he could live at the station between shifts at his day job. Does that sound fair to you?


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