The Alimony Hidden in Child Support

Scientific proof exists that many child support awards are too high

by Roger F. Gay

A competent decision in a child support case involves the complex consideration of a wide variety of factors. In order to make such a decision, attorneys and judges must apply their skills to extract essential and sufficient information from litigants and understand the proper application of the information they collect. That will be true regardless of the technology used to calculate an award. Modern attempts to change the decision process using crude statistical models have reduced complexity for the sake of an odd sort of consistency. Although child support guidelines themselves show an impressive self-consistency, there is no longer any concrete relationship between an award and the wide variety of factors that are important in making a reasonable decision.

The Project for the Improvement of Child Support Litigation Technology has demonstrated that the logic of traditional child support decision-making can, to a large extent, be transformed into a concrete science. The application of such a science in the training of judges and attorneys can result in a more desirable sort of consistency. Each award should be just and appropriate, given consideration of the individual circumstances in each case. Just and appropriate results require an understanding of the detailed logic used in reaching a competent child support award decision. With that understanding, it should be possible to produce a similar award in different courts on different days in consideration of a similar set of facts.

In this article, I would like to summarize the work of Project for the Improvement of Child Support Litigation Technology (PICSLT) toward developing better child support guidelines, and provide an overview of the PICSLT model. Detailed theoretical development in the PICSLT work has led to a solid definition for the boundary between child support and alimony. This development provides scientific proof that many child support awards contain a hidden margin of alimony, and are thus too high in a common, legal sense.

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Copyright © 1995, 1999 Roger F. Gay

All rights reserved.

The Hidden Alimony in Child Support Payments was first published in The Children’s Advocate, Newsletter of the New Jersey Council for Children’s Rights, January, 1995
The Children’s Rights Council