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.
by James R. Johnston


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Introduction

Part 1 presents an overview of Dr. Robert Williams influence over the development of the child support system across the United States, and his concurrent start up and operation of a company while a key consultant with the government working exclusively in the creation of public policy. A chronology of activity during this time (1983-1990) is included. Williams has been and continues to consult with several states regarding child support policy and enforcement. (Robert Williams did not respond when asked to comment on this article.)

Part 2 focuses on the Income Shares model originated by Williams in the 1980s, and the underlying national economic data sources that he uses to feed it. As of this writing at least 31 states use this model and the underlying economics. Many of the presumptions used in states using other models come philosophically from the same thinking advocated by him. This section will discuss the fundamental flaws of the model, as well as the failure of the underlying economics that ultimately led to support obligation numbers.

As you will see, Williams clearly drove the elements of today’s child support system, concurrently creating a company that could exploit the very programs he was helping to establish. The company, Policy Studies, Inc. of Denver, essentially brags about this in their company promotional material. His model and the underlying economics fall far short in trying to result in equitable and reasonable child support for our nation’s children. Financial considerations are given total weight based on a flawed process, while emotional child support is ignored. The latter is not a free good, and by ignoring the reality that there are two parents now in two households, our children suffer.

I want to thank Roger Gay and Greg Palumbo for their contributions and advice on the content of this paper.

*Jim Johnston is a joint custodial parent of two children in Wichita, Kansas. He’s the Chair of a local group called KIDSVIEW, working to maximize dual parent involvement in their children’s lives outside the intact family. They are working hard at changing legislation in Kansas regarding custody and support, and nationally by lobbying their Congressional delegation on the need for gender neutrality in legislation dealing with children. Johnston was appointed by the Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court to serve on the Child Support Guidelines Advisory Committee.