The Shared Custody Child Support Adjustment: Not Worth the Candle

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49 Family Law Quarterly 409 (2015)

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Karen Czapanskiy
divorce; custody; child support; family income
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paper description
Child support guidelines in more than half of the states provide for an adjustment when a child is in shared physical custody. When compared with the outcome under the same guideline for a child in sole custody, the adjusted child support received by the primary household is generally lower, with an accompanying reduction in the standard of living in the child’s primary household. The question posed by this article is whether mandating a reduced standard of living for the child in the primary household is good policy. The answer is no; at least without significant change, the adjustment is not worth the candle. The author provides three arguments for a mandatory shared-custody child support adjustment. She concludes there is little reason to support a mandatory adjustment at least in its present form. Despite a legal history of at least three decades, studies have not demonstrated that the adjustment is worth the cost it imposes on children, whether in terms of offsetting improvements in children’s well-being or development, in terms of improved economic fairness between the parents, or in terms of enhanced parental incentives about spending time with children.