Research Handbooks in Law and Economics series
Edited by Lloyd R. Cohen and Joshua D. Wright
Chapter 7: The Anatomy of Canada’s Child Support Guidelines: The Effects, Details, and History of a Feminist Family Policy
Douglas W. Allen* That a purely feminist ideological theory on economic relations between men and women should be constructed into regulations under the Divorce Act, under the guise and title of child support, is a serious matter and deserves study. (Senator Anne Cools 2000, p. 1030) 1. INTRODUCTION Although a recent phenomenon, both the United States and Canada now have formulabased rules for assigning child support to divorced couples. Although some U.S. states began using guidelines in the late 1970s, most were enacted in 1988 from federal government pressure. In the U.S., two systems are generally used. The first is called an “obligor” or “Wisconsin” model in which child support depends only on the number of children in the custodial home and the non-custodial income.1 The second is called an “income shares” model, where net-payments are based on the relative incomes of the former spouses. Many court challenges have been made against the Wisconsin model, and in recent years some states have switched from it to the income shares model.2 Canada was slower than the U.S. in developing a guideline system.3 Work began in the late 1980s, and the federal guidelines were only adopted in 1997. Although there are few references in the Canadian federal documents related to the U.S. systems, Canada’s child support guidelines (Guidelines) follow the basic principles of the early Wisconsin model: they depend only on the number of children and the non-custodial income.4 Prior to 1997 child support arising from family breakdown, in Canada, was determined...