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Home > Child Support > Article

Child Support Policy
and Robert Williams

The father of today's child support public policy, his personal exploitation of the system, and the fallacy of his "income shares" model in use in Kansas.
by James R. Johnston

page five

The Flawed Income Shares Model

The "Income Shares" model is currently used for child support guidelines development in at least 31 states as of this writing. Additionally, most of the other states utilize the same underlying economics used in this model for their particular state guidelines. This model was developed in 1987 by Williams, and was introduced in his report, "Development of Guidelines for Child Support Orders: Advisory Panel Recommendations and Final Report." for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement, where as noted previously, he was a paid consultant driving the development of uniform guidelines throughout the country. The next year, Congress passed The Family Support Act of 1988 (Pub. L. No. 100-485) which mandated that states implement presumptive, rather than advisory, child support guidelines, giving the states only one year to do so. Virtually all states met the congressional deadline with such guidelines in place by October 1989. It appears obvious that due to the short deadline required of the states to comply with this new law, most conveniently opted for the very model being espoused by the agency overlooking the whole program, the Income Shares model.

Williams describes his model in the Health and Human Services publication, "Child Support Guidelines: The Next Generation," published in April 1994:
"The Income Shares model is based on the concept that the child should receive the same proportion of parental income that he or she would have received if the parents lived together. A basic child support obligation is computed based on the combined income of the parents (REPLICATING TOTAL INCOME IN AN INTACT HOUSEHOLD) {emphasis added}. This basic obligation comes from a table which is derived from economic estimates of child-rearing expenditures, minus average amounts for health insurance, child care, and child's extraordinary medical expenses. The basic child support obligation is divided between the parents in proportion to their relative incomes. Pro-rated shares of child care and extraordinary medical expenses are added to each parents basic obligation. IF ONE PARENT HAS CUSTODY, THE AMOUNT CALCULATED FOR THAT PARENT IS PRESUMED TO BE SPENT DIRECTLY ON THE CHILD. FOR THE NONCUSTODIAL PARENT, THE CALCULATED AMOUNT ESTABLISHES THE LEVEL OF CHILD SUPPORT {emphasis added}."

He continues, "The Income Shares model was developed by the staff of the Child Support Guidelines Project, which was funded by the U.S. Office of Child Support Enforcement and administered by the National Center for State Courts. It utilizes several concepts from the earlier Washington (State) Uniform Child Support Guidelines, but diverges in basing its numerical parameters explicitly on a different and more recent body of economic analysis."

The reader is urged to keep in mind a few key points from Williams description of his Income Shares model as they will be addressed in the balance of this paper.
1.The "model is based on the concept that the child should receive the same proportion of parental income that he or she would have "theoretically" received if the parents lived together. It is designed to "theoretically replicate total income in an intact household."
2.No consideration is provided for the reality of additional expenses that occurs in an involved second parents household, which is necessitated by the simple and obvious fact that the parents no longer live together. Only one household matters.
3.Health insurance, child care, and extraordinary medical expenses are typically added on to the obligation after the basic amount is calculated.
4.The one parent with sole custody, or the one parent with primary residency in states with joint custody, receives the child support payment, and it is "presumed" that the money is spent directly on the child. No accountability, something that occurs in virtually all other financial "trust" situations which child support certainly is, is required of the receiving parent. The full weight of local, state, and federal law however, ensures the accountability of the obligor to pay the recipient.

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