The Law and Economics of Child Support Payments

The Law and Economics of Child Support Payments

Edited by William S. Comanor

To understand the issues involved, leading lawyers and economists examine various facets of the child support system from a law and economics perspective. They consider the incentives faced by both custodial and non-custodial parents, and search for policy actions that are more incentive-compatible for all participants. The assumptions underlying current child support guidelines are discussed, as are the ways in which child support payments affect family structure, teenage delinquency and income disparities between parents.

Chapter 8: Parental bonding and the design of child support obligations

Geoffrey P. Miller

Subjects: politics and public policy, public policy


Geoffrey P. Miller1 To what extent, in awarding child support, should courts take account of the level of the non-custodial parent’s visitation? Possible options range from taking no account of visitation in setting support obligations, to including visitation as part of the basic support calculation. If the latter option were chosen, non-custodial parents who commit to a strong and continuing interaction with their children, as measured by days of visitation, could receive a credit against their child support obligations. Non-custodial parents who were not willing to undertake to be actively present in their children’s lives could pay a surcharge over the support that would otherwise be awarded. California – long a leader in family law innovations – already requires courts to adjust child support awards based on the amount of time each parent spends with the children. This chapter analyses the pros and cons of the California approach. I. THE GROWING CRISIS OF PARENTAL ABSENCE Present parents – both mothers and fathers – are important for healthy child development.2 Yet missing parents – especially fathers – are ubiquitous in American society. Many children born out of wedlock never meet their biological fathers. These children may experience fatherhood as a series of emotionally distant men who become involved for a time with their mothers and disappear. Even when children are born to a married couple, divorce often separates fathers and children. Divorced fathers, who rarely obtain physical custody, are all too prone to drift away and, over time, to neglect the children of their former marriage....

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