Social Question

DigitalBlue's avatar

Why are custodial parents not legally required to provide financially for their children?

Asked by DigitalBlue (6656 points ) August 29th, 2012

I know three women who have primary custody of their children, where the fathers have visitation or modified visitation and pay child support. The fathers are, by law, required to have a job and pay for their children. Or, legally required to pay a certain amount even if they don’t have a job, which often becomes a catch-22. The mothers are not. None of these women that I know work, they are stay at home moms, and are supported by their current husbands. From a legal (and literal) perspective, they pay 0% of their childrens’ financial support.

If the courts do not factor any income outside of the custodial and non-custodial parents into financial support for the children, why is the custodial parent not legally required to pay anything at all?

I’m not talking about the moral aspect, I’m asking about the legal side. If a custodial parent’s parents or new spouse or random stranger off the streets gives them $1 million a month, and the courts do not factor that in as income for the children when determining how much support a n/c parent will pay – does it count as a contribution from the custodial parent? Should it?

From a different perspective: should household income be factored in (and adjusted as necessary) when calculating financial support for children? If dad has primary custody and lives in a mansion with his fabulously successful new wife who supports him, and mom has visitation while working as a waitress, should she have to pay him 40% of her income in child support, or should household living conditions factor in at some point?

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21 Answers

trailsillustrated's avatar

It will never be fair, in the eyes of the payee. I just paid a huge amount, so I know. and if you ask what it was based on, I am a doctor. I no longer practice. This amount followed me for years, even when I had no income at all. A new spouse does not factor at all. It will never, ever matter. My advice to you is just to pay it.

Shippy's avatar

For what it is worth, as each country is different. I feel both parents should be responsible to pay for their children. Within the correct percentage of their earning. Any new spouse needs to consider this when they meet a man or woman with children. Women keep marrying my ex husband and wanting his six kids to vanish and go away. It doesn’t happen.

DigitalBlue's avatar

I’m not trying to weasel out of some type of payment, for the record. Just a discussion. :)

Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t know how child support works in the US but here the amount the non-custodial parent pays is based on their income. It has nothing to do with the other party’s income or lack of income. I think it’s fair that the amount a parent pays should be based on their current income. I don’t think the other party’s personal relationship’s or their income should come into it.

I also don’t think it’s fair to gauge your child care percentage on your previous earning power unless you are deliberately avoiding earning that income. If there are genuine reasons why you aren’t earning that previous income, then your new earning ability should be the figure the percentage is calculated on. I know the child support agency here can use an earning potential figure when they have evidence the person is avoiding paying child support by presenting very low income figures. Say a business man who on paper earns peanuts but in reality is earning much more.

DigitalBlue's avatar

@Bellatrix ah, hadn’t thought of that. It’s done differently in the US, they take the income of both parents and average it out. If the custodial parent makes less, the non-custodial parent typically pays more support and vice versa.

zenvelo's avatar

I am in California with two children, they have visitation with their mother, and spend two nights a month with her. The rest of the time they are with me. Their mother is on disability, and has limited income.

The child support was calculated by taking her income and mine, figuring out a level appropriate for the children, and based on the percentage of time each parent has them. From that, the judge calculated an amount based on custodial time.

When one parent has them 100% of the time, the other parent gets hit with a much greater percentage, especially if the custodial parent has no income. But the custodial parent is considered to be “paying” themselves their portion of the total support. The problem is proving if the child is receiving it. As long as the child is fed and clothed, it’s pretty hard to prove the child is deprived.

DigitalBlue's avatar

@zenvelo what do you mean “paying themselves their portion of the support?”

SuperMouse's avatar

@DigitalBlue i wonder if it is figured differently depending on the state where child support is awarded. I know the child support I receive was based on my husband’s income at the time of our divorce. He recently lost his job and took a new one making considerably less, as a result he is in the process of trying to have the support he pays reduced by over two thirds, my income has not changed at all. I agree with @Bellatrix that a new spouse’s income should not be considered when figuring child support. It should though for any kind of alimony.

DigitalBlue's avatar

@SuperMouse I didn’t know that, I thought it was standard in the US. Wikipedia says there are 3 models, but it appears that averaging the parents’ incomes is most common. I didn’t know they did it any other way, that’s interesting.

SuperMouse's avatar

@DigitalBlue when I look at the initial decree and the figures they used, my income wasn’t even part of the calculation (not that I had much income to consider). Now that he is trying to modify it, no one has said a word about my income or my husband’s income – but neither of us has much income to add to equation.

SuperMouse's avatar

@DigitalBlue the other thing that strikes me about my original decree and property settlement is that there is no provision in there discussing changes in my income. I think that if I was the non-custodial parent I would want there to be something in there discussing an amendment of child support should the custodial parent win the lottery or land a killer job. I still don’t think though that a new spouse’s income should figure into the equation.

DigitalBlue's avatar

@SuperMouse oh no, I believe you, I just didn’t know that. I thought that all states did the “shared incomes” model. I have just never heard of it being done another way in the US, but I believe you that yours was calculated that way.
So, is there then a flat rate percentage of his income that he pays based solely on how much he makes? His request to modify, would that just reflect the same percentage, just on a smaller income?

SuperMouse's avatar

His request to modify is based on his new income, but I am not sure how his attorney came up with the number he is offering. He just filed the request to amend the payments and my attorney is asking for check stubs to support his claim that he has taken a two thirds cut in pay. I am thinking the new payment will be figured based on a percentage of his new income.

Also, when we first broke up he didn’t have the best attorney in the world so maybe there was some kind of snafu and he screwed up the initial settlement by not considering my current (like I said, it was next to nothing at that time) or future income in the calculation. Another interesting thing is that a couple of months ago I received a notice from the county informing me that each parent has the right to have child support amounts reviewed by the court every three years. That might be the opportunity for the non-custodial parent to address changes in the custodial parent’s income, honestly just because I was mostly a stay-at-home parent during our marriage doesn’t mean I won’t ever have income. I can see both sides of the equation and I think both sides should contribute to the financial well-being of the children. The whole thing is really quite interesting, I just wish I was an uninvolved observer rather than living it…

KNOWITALL's avatar

In my opinion based on all my life experiences with friends and family, if the blood test shows that the child has a living mother and father, whether they choose to be in the childs life or not, they should be forced to support the child 50/50 until 18 or college is completed. In case of death of one parent, the other parent should pay 100%, or the child has a job then that should be factored in.

That being said, I know lots of mothers and fathers both who live with other people and simply don’t get married so they are able to recieve the full amount of support from the other parent, which is unfair to that parent, who usually knows the situation and is powerless to do anything unless they make a big stink and contact their attorneys.

When I was a child, I knew my father was rich and my mother poor, so I personally feel like household income should be factored in. My mother never remarried and he did, so they proceeded to have 3 more children without factoring in any child support for me, which is morally offensive and legally irresponsible imo.

Pandora's avatar

I think it does factor in. My brother had to pay court mandated child support to his ex wife for their daughter till she was 18. His amount of payment was based on how much he earned. He only payed 200 dollars every two weeks. I don’t see how 400 bucks was going to make her rich when in the end she still had to provide a roof over her head and put food on the table and pay for child care (because she did work). So I look at it this way. With all the stuff she had to pay,I don’t see how her income would suddenly make it so the non custodial would have little to no financial responsibility. I like to think of it this way. If the person who is paying child support had to raise this kid, than the following would apply.
1.extra room for said child
2. have to make arrangements for babysitting
3. have to take them to practices or pay someone else to do it
4 have to provide food for them and make dinner every night or buy dinner
5 have to still buy clothes
6. utility bills goes up
7. driving lessons
8. stay up late nights before work with a sick kid and still go to work
9. clean up after the kid when they are too small
10 deal with their little mini dramas when they are teens and rebellion (The custodial parent is often thought as the hard ass and rarely is given appreciation)
11. buy school supplies
12 buy clothing
(and that is the easy going kid)
The trouble maker adds a bunch of more work, or the kid with some learning disability or mental instability.
Needless to say by the time you finish paying all of that and dealing with all of that, I often find the non custodial parent has it easy and probably a cheaper deal.
I also think your description is wrong. Staying at home and raising children is work. If they had both agreed when together that one of them should stay home to raise the children when they had children than I have no problem with it staying that way. Someone has to provide money to at least feed them and clothe them and give them a roof over their head.
People who usually don’t only means it comes down to the welfare system to take care of that. The way I look at it. If you made the kid than pay for their care or use protection or don’t have sex. But you break it you bought it works for me.

Bellatrix's avatar

@SuperMouse, I’m not a lawyer so I can’t be certain on this but in Australia I don’t think alimony is common. Until a divorce settlement is reached, yes, but after that I think most spouses would be paid a settlement (or not) and would then be on their own. Child support would continue. I could be wrong of course. I don’t know any woman who has continued to be paid alimony here. That could just be my experience though.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Bellatrix when I was divorcing my attorney said that because we were married for so long and I stayed home with the kids for eight years I would have been eligible for alimony. Alimony goes away after one is remarried. I didn’t bother to ask for alimony, just the child support.

Bellatrix's avatar

When I was separated from my first husband, I didn’t get any alimony. I did get child support (when he paid it). I was entitled to a single parent pension and this allowed me to finish my degree. We seem to have a very different system to the US.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Bellatrix a single parent pension sounds awesome! At this point I am entitled to exactly zero public benefits.

Bellatrix's avatar

It was an absolute lifesaver for me. I was two thirds of the way through my degree and as apparently often happens when women return to or start to study, my marriage broke down. The single parent pension gets a lot of criticism here because of the assumption the majority of people receiving it are young women who have babies to get state funding, in reality many of those receiving the funding are in my situation back then. People who have been married for years and find themselves separated, with children and no income.

I have more than paid back anything I ever received from the government during that time in taxes. I think it’s an investment in people’s futures. Helping people get back on their feet and start again. You don’t get a lot of money but it’s a safety net and it gave me the financial security to be able to move on. I think it also helps men because they (at least as far as I know in most cases) don’t have to support their former partners, just their children. Here is a fact sheet about it if you’re interested.

augustlan's avatar

In Maryland, they consider both parents’ incomes to determine child support. I really do think it ought to be based solely on the non-custodial parent’s income, though that may have worked against me, in my case.

One way to look at a stay at home primary custody parent is that they are ‘paying’ in the form of child care. If they were working, there would be an expense incurred for day care. On the flip side, for instance, even though I was initially supposed to go to work and pay child support, my ex and I agreed that it would be better for the kids if I continued to look after them every day after school, instead. Since my ex then didn’t have to pay for day care, I didn’t pay money for child support… I paid in ‘care’.

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