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  Contents
  § 101 & 102
  § 103
  § 104 & 105
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§ 1.03 The State Response to the Federal Mandate

Each state, in response to the federal mandate, enacted child support guidelines. These guidelines may be accessed from this web site by going to the Links Page.

The federal mandate requiring states to establish presumptive guidelines provides that the guidelines may be adopted by statute, administrative rule, or judicial rule.31 The guidelines were enacted by legislative statute in: California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The guidelines were enacted by administrative regulation in: Connecticut, Maine,* Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. The guidelines were enacted by court rule or decision in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

     [a] Overview of the Models

The states, in adopting their guidelines, echoed the goals of the federal mandate, by stating that the goals and purpose of state child support guidelines are (1) increased compliance through perceived fairness of a child support award; (2) consistency and predictability of child support awards; (3) ease of administration of child support cases; and (4) and increased adequacy of awards.32 The various states have stated these goals in various ways. For example, the preface to the Indiana Child Support Guidelines states:

The Guidelines have three objectives: (1) to establish as state policy an adequate standard of support for children, subject to the ability of the parents to pay; (2) to make awards more equitable by ensuring more consistent treatment of persons in similar circumstances; (3) to improve the efficiency of the court process by promoting settlements and giving courts and the parties guidelines in settling the level of awards.

The New Mexico Child Support Guidelines states:

The purpose of the child support guidelines are to: (1) establish as state policy an adequate standard of support for children, subject to the ability of the parents to pay; (2) make awards more equitable by ensuring more consistent treatment of persons in similar circumstances; (3) improve the efficiency of the court process by promoting settlements and giving courts and the parties guidance specified in this section.

The Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines states:

Using the guidelines promotes (1) similar treatment of purposes similarly situated, (2) a more equitable distribution of the financial responsibility for raising children, (3) settlement of support matters without court involvement, and (4) more efficient hearings where they are necessary.

The Tennessee Child Support Guidelines states:

The major goals in the development of these guidelines are: (a) To decrease the number of impoverished children living in single parent families. (b) To make child support awards more equitable by ensuring more consistent treatment of persons in similar circumstances. (c) To improve efficiency of the court process by promoting settlements and by giving courts and parties guidance in establishing level of support awards. (d) To encourage parents paying support to maintain contact with their child(ren). (e) To ensure that when parents live separately, the economic impact on the child(ren) is minimized and to the extent that either parent enjoys a higher standard of living, the child(ren) share(s) in that higher standard. (f) To ensure that a minimum amount of child support is set for parents with a low income in order to maintain a bond between the parent and the child, to establish patterns of regular payment, and to enable the enforcement agency and party receiving support to maintain contact with the parent paying support.

The Washington Child Support Guidelines state:

Use of a state-wide schedule will benefit children and their parents by: (1) Increasing the adequacy of child support orders through the use of economic data as the basis for establishing the child support schedule; (2) Increasing the equity of child support orders by providing for comparable orders in cases with similar circumstances; (3) Reducing the adversarial nature of the proceedings by increasing voluntary settlements as a result of the greater predictability achieved by a uniform state-wide child support schedule.

In order to meet these goals, the states have implemented three basic child support calculation models: the "Income Shares" model, the "Percentage of Income" model (either flat percentage (F) or varying percentage (V)), and the "Melson Formula" model.33

Although there are three models, all of the guideline models have certain aspects in common. First, most of the guidelines incorporate a "self-support reserve" for the obligor. That is, the obligor is allowed to retain a certain amount of income below which more than minimal support is not calculated. For example, under the Washington state34 income shares model, the formula is not applied for obligors with net earnings of less than $500 per month. Under the Minnesota35 percentage of income model, the guideline is not applied below $500 monthly net income, and the percentages are phased in above that level. Under the Delaware36 Melson Formula model, a primary support allowance is established through the primary support level for the obligor, which is decreased if the obligor is living with another working adult.

Second, all the guidelines have a provision relating to imputed income.37

Third, by federal regulation,38 all the guidelines take into consideration the health care expenses for the children, by insurance or other means. The method by which the guidelines consider this expense varies, however.39

Finally, in the past seven years since the enactment of the Family Support Act of 1988, most of the guidelines have incorporated into the formula by which the presumptive child support is determined special additions for child care expenses,40 special formulas for shared custody,41 split custody,42 extraordinary visitation,43 and special deductions for the support for previous and subsequent children.44 Specific consideration of the needs of the older child has also been incorporated into the guideline calculation in many states.45 Because the child support guidelines have sought to incorporate these specific expenses into the guideline calculation itself, these expenses are referred to as "mandatory add-ons and deductions" rather than deviation factors.

          [3] The Income Shares Model
               [i] Calculation of Support Under the Income Shares Model

The foundation of the income shares model46 is the tenet that a child should receive the same proportion of parental income that would have been received by the child if the parents had not divorced.

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. In an intact household, the income of both parents is generally pooled and spent for the benefit of all household members, including any children.47

Thus, the income shares model calculates support as the share of each parent's income estimated to have been allocated to the child if the parents and child were living in an intact household.48 This principle is consistent with the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, enacted in many states.49

Using the Income Shares model, computation of child support is basically a four-step process:

1. The income of the parents (gross or net) is determined and added together.
2. A "basic child support obligation" is computed based on the combined income of the parents, using a table or grid in the guidelines.50 The amounts in the table are derived from economic data on household expenditures on children.51
3. A "presumptive child support obligation" is then computed by adding expenditures for work-related child care expenses and extraordinary medical expenses to the basic child support obligation. Other add-ons and deductions may also be calculated.52
4. The presumptive child support obligation is prorated between each parent based on his or her proportionate share of total income. The obligor's obligation is payable as child support, while the obligee's obligation is retained and presumed to be spent directly on the child.

For example, suppose child support must be determined for one child whose custodial parent has a gross income of $1,000 per month and whose noncustodial parent has a gross income of $2,000 per month. Child care expenses are $50 per month, and extraordinary medical expenses are $15 per month. (For ease in calculation, assume that health insurance is paid by the father's employer, and there are no pre-existing support orders for child support or alimony.)

Using the Alabama child support guideline,53 the calculation of child support would be as follows:

(1) First, add the two parents' incomes to reach a combined income of $3,000.
(2) Second, using the specified formula provided in the statute, determine the basic child support obligation for combined income of $3,000. In this case, it is $437.
(3) Third, add to the $437 per month the $50 per month for child care; the total child support obligation is $487.
(4) Finally, prorate the obligation between the mother and father based on their respective shares of total income. The father's presumptive child support obligation is thus 66.6% x $487, or $324.66. An additional award for extraordinary medical expenses may be made in the discretion of the court as a deviation factor.

Using the Colorado child support guideline,54 the calculation of child support would be as follows:

(1) First, add the two parents' incomes to reach a combined income of $3,000.
(2) Second, using the chart provided in the statute, determine the basic child support obligation. In this case, it is $434.
(3) Third, add to the $434 per month the $50 per month for child care, and the $15 per month for extraordinary medical expenses; the total child support obligation is $499.
(4) Finally, prorate the obligation between the mother and father based on their respective shares of total income. The father's presumptive child support obligation is thus 66.6% x $499, or $332.66.

Using the Virginia child support guideline,55 the calculation of child support would be as follows:

(1) First, add the two parents' incomes to reach a combined income of $3,000.
(2) Second, using the chart provided in the statute, determine the basic child support obligation. In this case, it is $445.
(3) Third, add to the $445 per month the $50 per month for child care, and the $15 per month for extraordinary medical expenses; the total child support obligation is $510.
(4) finally, prorate the obligation between the mother and father based on their respective shares of total income. The father's presumptive child support obligation is thus 66.6% x $510, or $339.99.

               [ii] Strengths and Weaknesses of the Income Shares Model

The main distinguishing feature of the income shares model is that it embodies the underlying economic assumption that as income increases, the proportion of income spent on child support decreases.

For example, one study found that in an intact family, the percentage of net income spent on children by income level and by number of children decreased as demonstrated in the following Table.

Critics have charged that the income shares model is based on faulty underlying economic research. One study has suggested that the underlying economic data failed to reflect true child-related expenditures in upper income families including such non-consumer expenditures as principal on home, savings, and trusts for the benefit of children. Thus, the income shares model does not accomplish the goal of ensuring that parents, after they break up, continue to spend on their children the same percentage of income that they would have spent if they were together.56

Another distinguishing feature of the income shares model is that it illustrates graphically that both parents are sharing in the support of the child.57 Where the perception of fairness is as important as fairness itself, this feature is its greatest asset.

A final distinguishing feature of the income shares model is that it can more easily than the flat percentage model take into consideration adjustments for shared and split custody, health care needs, child care expenses, serial family development, and children's ages by the manipulation of income, add-ons and deductions and by then allocating these costs between the parents. Because these factors can be built into the income shares formula, there is less reason for deviation from the guideline's presumptive award. Limiting deviation meets the ideal of perceived fairness, as well as the federal requirement that the number of cases in which deviation is granted be limited. Limited deviation also meets the goals of consistency and predictability. Given that the ultimate goal of child support guidelines is increased compliance through perceived fairness, the income shares model meets this goal.

               [iii] Tables 1-4 and 1-5: Percentage of Income Devoted to Child Support

TABLE 1-4
PERCENTAGE OF INCOME DEVOTED TO SUPPORT OF CHILDREN IN INTACT FAMILIES58
Income Level 0-
$10,650
$10,651-
$12,150
$12,151-
$21,700
$21,701-
$28,200
$28,201-
$39,975
$39,796-
$51,875
Over
$51,875
No.  
1 26.0% 25.6% 24.7% 23.7% 22.9% 21.8% 19.2%
2 40.4% 39.8% 38.3% 36.8% 35.5% 33.9% 29.7%
3 50.6% 49.8% 47.9% 46.1% 44.4% 42.4% 37.2%

Under the income shares model, child support as a percentage of net income is as follows:59

TABLE 1-5
PERCENTAGE OF INCOME DEVOTED TO SUPPORT UNDER INCOME SHARES MODEL
Income Level 0-
$5,000
$5,601-
$10,650
$10,651-
$16,725
$16,726-
$28,200
$28,201-
$39,975
$39,796-
$51,875
Over
$51,875
No.  
1 23.8% 23.7% 23.3% 21.6% 21.0% 20.1% 17.8%
2 37.0% 36.7% 36.1% 33.5% 32.7% 31.2% 27.7%
3 46.3% 46.0% 45.2% 42.0% 40.9% 39.0% 34.7%
4 52.2% 51.8% 51.0% 47.3% 46.1% 44.0% 39.1%
5 57.0% 56.5% 55.6% 51.6% 50.3% 48.0% 42.6%
6 60.9% 60.4% 59.5% 55.2% 53.8% 51.3% 45.6%

          [4] The Percentage of Income Model
               [i] Calculation of Support Under the Percentage of Income Model

The percentage of income model sets support as a percentage of only the noncustodial parent's income, either gross or net.60 A percentage of income guidelines does not consider the custodial parent's income; the standard assumes that each parent will expend the designated proportion of income on the child, with the custodial parent's proportion spent directly.

There are two main variations on the percentage of income model: the flat percentage model, and the varying percentage model. Under the flat percentage model, the percentage of income devoted to child support remains constant at all income levels.61 Under the varying percentage model, however, the percentage of income devoted to child support varies according to the level of income. Like the income shares model, the support award decreases as a percentage of income as income increases. Under either variation, the percentage to be applied is determined by the number of children and, in some states, by the ages of the children.62

The calculation of child support under a percentage of income approach is basically a three-step process:

1. The noncustodial parent's income (gross or net) is determined.

2. The basic child support order is determined by applying a percentage to that income.

3. Adjustments are made for add-ons and deductions to reach a final presumptive order.

For example, suppose child support must be determined for one child whose custodial parent has a gross income of $1,000 per month and whose noncustodial parent has a gross income of $2,000 per month. Child care expenses are $50 per month, and extraordinary medical expenses are $15 per month. (For ease in calculation, assume that health insurance is paid by the father's employer, and there are no pre-existing support orders for child support or alimony.)

In this case, all that must be done is apply a percentage contained in the statute to the noncustodial parent's income, and then include the add-ons and deductions.

Using the Wisconsin child support guideline,63 the calculation of child support would be as follows:

(1) First, determine the noncustodial parent's income. In this case, it is $2,000.

(2) Determine the appropriate percentage. For one child, it is 17%. Thus, the basic child support obligation is 17% x $2,000, or $340.

               [ii] Strengths and Weaknesses of the Percentage of Income Model

The flat percentage of income model does not incorporate the principle that as income increases, the percentage of income devoted to child care decreases. Rather, the flat percentage of income model applies the same percentage to all income.64 The varying percentage model, however, does incorporate the principle that as income increases, the percentage of income devoted to child care decreases. The strength or weakness of each variation of this model, therefore, will depend on the correctness of the underlying economic assumption that the percentage of income devoted to child support remains or does not remain constant throughout all levels of income.

Additionally, some flat percentage of income states have chosen to set a cap on child support at the highest income levels. Under this cap, there is a point of income for the noncustodial parent beyond which child support will not presumptively continue to rise.65 Thus, even under the flat percentage of income model, at the highest levels of income, the percentage of income devoted to child support is lower than at the lowest levels of income. Thus, the percentage of income model mimicks the income shares model in its most distinguishing feature.

Proponents of the percentage of income model argue that both parents are assumed to contribute to the child's upbringing in the same proportion as the obligor.66 The custodial parent is making the contribution in the manner he or she would have made had the parties not divorced. Thus, there is no need to adopt a more complex formula.

Proponents of the percentage of income model also argue that the percentage of income model is simpler. It is easier to learn, easier to explain, easier to computerize, and less prone to error.67 Because one of the goals in adopting guidelines is ease of use, this argument is not without merit.

Many have argued, however, that it is inherently unfair for the custodial parent's income not to affect the presumptive amount. Under the percentage of income model, only a large disparity between the custodial parent's income and the non-custodial parent's income will serve as a statutory factor upon which to base a deviation.68 The failure of the percentage of income model to consider the custodial parent's income, however, may be balanced out by the model's failure to ever impute income to the custodial parent as well.69

Opponents of the percentage of income model also argue that states that have adopted the percentage of income model generally do not take into consideration adjustments for child care, extraordinary medical expenses, shared or split custody, serial family development, or, most significantly, extremely high or low custodial parent income. Thus, while the percentage of income model has the advantage of ease of administration, where such commonly occurring factors need to be dealt with as deviations rather than part of the formula, the goal of consistency and predictability is lost. Further, where deviation becomes the norm, the goal of perceived fairness is lost as well.

          [5] The Melson Formula Model
               [i] Calculation of Support Under the Melson Formula Model

The Melson formula was named after Judge Elwood F. Melson of the Delaware Family Court and was fully explained and adopted in Dalton v. Clanton.70 The formula, a more complicated version of the income shares model, reflects several public policy judgments. First, the Melson Formula explicitly recognizes that support of others is impossible until one's own basic support needs are met. Second, the Melson Formula model reflects the public policy that further enhancement of the parents' own economic status should not be allowed until the parents jointly, in proportion to their incomes, meet the basic poverty level needs of their children. Finally, the Melson Formula model, by incorporating a Standard of Living Adjustment (SOLA), reflects the policy judgment that parents should share their additional incomes with their children, improving their children's standard of living as their own standard of living improves.

The formula allocates to each parent a poverty self-support reserve. The formula then determines the total remaining combined parental income, the noncustodial parent's percentage thereof, and applies the noncustodial parent's percentage to a standard "primary support obligation" based on the number of children. Finally, after the primary support obligation is subtracted, the formula assesses the noncustodial parent an additional percentage of his or her remaining income.

The Melson Formula model is thus basically a six step process:

1. Provide for each parent's minimal self-support needs.

2. Provide for the children's primary support needs.

3. Determine work-related child care expenses and extraordinary medical expenses.

4. Determine the Standard of Living Allowance.

5. Add together the amounts determined in steps 2, 3, and 4.

6. Allocate the support between the parents according to each parent's percentage of total net income.

For example, suppose child support must be determined for one child whose custodial parent has a gross income of $1,000 per month and whose noncustodial parent has a gross income of $2,000 per month. Child care expenses are $50 per month, and extraordinary medical expenses are $15 per month. (For ease in calculation, assume that health insurance is paid by the father's employer, and there are no pre-existing support orders for child support or alimony.)

Using the Delaware71 child support guidelines, the calculation of child support would be as follows:

(1) First, subtract federal and state taxes, and subtract a self-support reserve of $550 for each parent to yield a "net" income of $950 for the noncustodial parent, and $230 for the custodial parent.

(2) Second, add the two net incomes of the parents to reach a combined net available income of $1180. Thus, the custodial parent's proportional obligation is 80%, or $950 = $1180.

(3) Third, the basic support obligation is determined. Using the chart provided, it is $220 for one child.

(4) Fourth, added to the $220 is child care expenses of $50 per month, to yield a primary support obligation of $270.

(5) Fifth, determine the amount of SOLA available. The SOLA amount is the amount determined in (2), $1180, minus the amount determined in (4), $270. The available SOLA is $910. The SOLA percentage, as determined from the chart provided, is 18%; thus, the SOLA is $163.80.

(6) Sixth, add together the primary support obligation, $270, plus the SOLA obligation, $163.80. The total support obligation is thus $433.80.

(7) Finally, multiply the total support obligation by the appropriate noncustodial parent percentage to yield the noncustodial parent's obligation. In this case, it is $347.04.

               [ii] Strengths and Weaknesses of the Melson Formula Model

The proponents of the Melson Formula model argue its internal logic makes it the fairest of the models.72 Even though the Melson Formula model seems to be the most complicated of the models, its proponents contend that its seeming complexity is superficial; once a practitioner has used the Melson Formula model, its subsequent application is simple.73

The Melson Formula model is, indeed, the most internally consistent. It takes into consideration not only special custody arrangements and health care needs, it also takes into consideration each parent's needs. It is thus, on its face, the fairest as perceived by the parent. Where perceived fairness is the most important factor, then the Melson Formula model is the clear winner. Moreover, one expert has found that the Melson Formula model tends to produce less extreme differences in living standards where one parent has a very low income and the other parent has significantly higher income.74 This again contributes to the perceived fairness of the Melson Formula model. Moreover, because the Melson Formula model takes into consideration commonly occurring expenses, it is consistent and predictable. Its only fault is in its facial complexity.

          [6] A Comparison of the Models

As noted in the preceding discussion, the models implemented by the states have different conceptual frameworks. Despite these differences, where the parents' combined income is in the middle range, the resulting support order is the same regardless of the model used.75 At the highest and lowest income levels, however, the income shares model (including the Melson Formula model as a type of income shares model) and the percentage of income model will not produce the same results.76

Although the percentage of income model has fewer steps than the income shares model, the method in effect duplicates the income shares model where the parties have incomes that are not widely divergent, and where the parties do not have extremely low or high incomes. The reason the result is the same can be found using algebraic notation,77 where the following values are represented:

C = custodial parent's income

N = noncustodial parent's income

P = percentage used to determine support

S = support amount

Using these values, the income shares formula may be represented as follows:

(C + N)P x      N      = S
                    (C + N)

The formula may be simplified as follows:

(C + N)P x      N      = S
     1             (C + N)

P x N = S
 1   1

P x N = S
    1

P x N = S

The last equation, P x N = S, is merely another way of stating the percentage of income formula. This formula only works, however, where the P, the percentage of income used to determine support, is the same in both the percentage of income model and the income shares model; P is the same in both these models only in the middle ranges of income.

As already noted, however, many states have chosen the income shares model because it takes into account the economic presumption that as income increases, the percentage of income devoted to child care decreases, and because it graphically illustrates that both parents are contributing to the support of the child. Some economic evidence suggests, however, that the percentage of income devoted to child support remains constant as income increases. Further economic studies may be needed to prove the superiority of one model over the other.

There is no evidence that any one model is superior to any other model in terms of achieving the goals of increased compliance, consistency and predictability, and ease of administration.78

There is some evidence concerning adequacy of awards. One study indicates that the income shares model produces the highest awards for low-income families, the Melson Formula model produces the highest award for middle-income families, and the percentage of income model produces the highest awards in upper-income families.79

There is also evidence that adoption of child support guidelines by a state, as opposed to no guidelines, reduced variation in awards,80 increased the adequacy of the awards,81 and increased the efficiency of the court processes, by increasing the number of voluntary settlements.82 A recent report also indicates that compliance is greatest among noncustodial parents who have joint custody or extended visitation.83 If it can be shown that the adoption of child support guidelines has increased the incidence of joint custody and extended visitation, then there may be a direct link between child support guidelines and compliance.

Adoption of the guidelines has, therefore, achieved at least three of the four stated goals: consistency and predictability, ease of administration, and increased adequacy of awards.

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31 42 U.S.C. § 667(a) provides in pertinent part:

The guidelines may be established by law or by judicial or administrative action, and shall be reviewed at least once every 4 years to ensure that their application results in the determination of appropriate child support award amounts.

(back)

*Maine enacted the substance of the guidelines by legislative action, but left it to administrative regulation to determine the amount in the charts.

32 See § 1.02[d]. E.g., In re Bruce R., 234 Conn. 194, 662 A.2d 107 (1995) (child support guidelines were enacted with the goal of providing adequate support); Martinez v. Martinez, 282 N.J. Super. 332, 660 A.2d 13 (Ch. Div. 1995) (Congress clearly intended that within each jurisdiction there would be uniform application of like income and other relevant economic information used by all judges in establishment or modification of child support orders, and orders would not be subject to wide variations and uncertainty of result that was inherent in past decision making); Cassano v. Cassano, 85 N.Y.2d 649, 628 N.Y.S.2d 10 (1995) (purpose of guidelines is to create greater uniformity, predictability and equity in fixing awards while at the same time maintaining judicial discretion necessary to address unique situations); Grimes v. Grimes, 159 Vt. 399, 621 A.2d 211 (1992) (the purpose of the guidelines is to ensure adequacy of awards and increase administrative efficiency). See generally J. Thomas Oldham, Lessons from the New English and Australian Child Support System, 29 Vand. J. Transnat'l L. 791 (1996). (back)

33 An additional guideline model, the "Income Equalization" model, developed by Dr. Judith Cassetty, has not been adopted by any state. Briefly, the income equalization model is intended to provide equivalent living standards for each parent's household.

The formula for support is as follows:

A = (CP x NI) - (NP x CI)
           NP + CP

where A = award; CP = custodial parent's cost of living under any standardized, cost-based measure, such as the federal poverty guidelines; NP = noncustodial parent's cost of living; CI = custodial parent's household income or imputed income; NI = noncustodial parent's household income or imputed income. There is no separate treatment for child care or extraordinary medical expenses.

In applying this model, a poverty level of support is exempted from each parent's income, and the remaining income is distributed between the two households in proportion to the number of persons in each family unit. Because total net income is distributed, rather than just the income of the parents, a current spouse of either parent is counted in the model for purposes of applying the poverty level exclusion, and the income of that spouse is included in the total income of that unit. Similarly, all dependents, not just the children of the marriage under consideration, are included in the total unit. Judith Cassetty & Fran Douthitt, The Economics of Setting Adequate and Equitable Child Support Payments, 12 Tex. St. Bar Sec. Rep., Fam. L., Special Support and Visitation Issue (1984); see also Robert Williams, Development of Guidelines for Child Support Orders: Advisory Panel Recommendations and Final Report, at II-88 (U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement, 1987); Robert Williams, Guidelines for Setting Levels of Child Support Orders, 21 Fam. L.Q. 281, 302 (1987).

Child support laws of all states, however, generally do not impose a duty to support step-children. This guideline type is therefore inconsistent with this general principle. See § 3.04. See generally Margaret Mahoney, Stepfamilies and the Law (U. Mich. Press, 1994); Annotation, Stepparent's Post Divorce Duty to Support Stepchildren, 44 A.L.R.4th 520 (1985). Moreover, income equalization is a form of alimony in that the income is distributed to households, not children. This model is thus inconsistent with the move away from permanent alimony and toward rehabilitative alimony only. See generally Brett R. Turner, Redefining Alimony in a Time of Transition, 4 Div. Litig. 221 (Nov. 1992). (back)

34 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 26.19.001. (back)

35 Minn. Stat. Ann. § 518.551. (back)

36 Del. Child Support Formula, Civ. R. 52(c). (back)

37 See § 2.04. (back)

38 45 C.F.R. § 302.56(c)(8). (back)

39 See § 3.01. (back)

40 See § 3.02. (back)

41 See § 3.03[a]. (back)

42 See § 3.03[b]. (back)

43 See § 3.03[c, d]. (back)

44 See § 3.04. (back)

45 See § 3.05. (back)

46 The income shares model was developed by the Institute for Court Management of the National Center for State Courts under the Child Support Guidelines Project of the Office of Child Support Enforcement of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

The Final Report is embodied in R. Williams, Development of Guidelines for Child Support Orders: Advisory Panel Recommendations and Final Report (U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement, 1987), and summarized in R. Williams, Guidelines for Setting Level of Child Support Orders, 21 Fam. L. Q. 281 (1987). (back)

47 R. Williams, Development of Guidelines for Child Support Orders: Advisory Panel Recommendations and Final Report, at II-67 (U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement, 1987). (back)

48 Estimates of the share the child would have received as embodied in the support guidelines are based on economic evidence. This economic evidence is discussed in § 4.02. (back)

49 Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act § 309, 9A U.L.A. 400 (1987), requires that child support be based in part on the financial resources of both parents and in part on the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved. (back)

50Appendix B provides a summary of each state's guidelines, and Appendix C provides each state's worksheets. A complete copy of a state's child support guidelines, including tables and grids, can be found at the citation noted in Table 1.03[a]-1. If the child support guideline is not in a statute, it may be obtained from the state's child support enforcement agency. See Appendix D.

It was simply not possible to provide each state's grids in this work, as most states' grids ran 20 pages, and some ran more. Indeed, the National Center for State Courts put out a two-volume set of just the states' guidelines and worksheets, and this set ran thousands of pages. (back)

51 See § 4.02 concerning economic data. (back)

52 See Chapter 3 for mandatory add-ons and deductions. (back)

53 Ala. R. Jud. Admin. 32. (back)

54 Colo. Stat. Ann. § 14-10-115. (back)

55 Va. Code Ann. § 20-108.2. (back)

56 See N. Polikoff, "Looking for Policy Choices Within an Economic Methodology: A Critique of the Income Shares Model," Essentials of Child Support Guidelines Development: Economic Issues and Policy Considerations (Women's Legal Defense Fund, 1987); see also M. Takas, Improving the Income Shares Guideline, 7 Amer. J. Fam. Law 117 (1993). (back)

57 Although the name "income shares" connotes a sharing of the support obligation between the father and mother, the term "shares" is intended to connote a child's rightful claim on parental income, as in shares of stock, or shares of ownership in an income-producing real estate unit. R. Williams, Development of Guidelines for Child Support Orders: Advisory Panel Recommendations and Final Report, at II-67, n.77 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement, 1987). (back)

58 R. Williams, Guidelines for Setting Levels of Child Support Orders, 21 Fam. L. Q. 281, 289 (1987). Williams has since updated his economic tables based on the work of David Betson. See D. Betson, Alternative Estimates of the Cost of Children from 1980-1986 Consumer Expenditure Survey (U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Services, Office of Assistant Secretary for Strategic Planning, 1990). See also B. Barnow, "Economic Studies of Expenditures on Children and Their Relationship to Child Support Guidelines," Child Support Guidelines: The Next Generation (U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement, 1994). For a more complete discussion of economic data, see § 4.02. (back)

59R. Williams, Guidelines for Setting Levels of Child Support Orders, 21 Fam. L.Q. 281, 293 (1987). (back)

60See § 2.03[c]. (back)

61For example, Alaska Civ. R. 90.3, Committee Commentary, Sec. II, states, "Rule 90.3. employs the percentage of income approach. This approach is based on economic analyses which show the proportion of income parents devote to their children in intact families is relatively constant across income levels up to a certain upper limit." (back)

62 See § 3.05[a]. (back)

63 Wis. Admin. Code (HHS) § 80.01 to 80.05. (back)

64 The flat percentage of income model is based on economic data at odds with that of Thomas Espenshade that suggests that the percentage of family income devoted to child expenditures is fairly constant. See D. Dodson, A Guide to the Guidelines, 10 Fam. Advoc. 4, 7 at fn. 2 (1988). (back)

65 See, e.g., Alaska Civ. R. 90.3. (back)

66 R. Williams, "An Overview of Child Support Guidelines," Child Support Guidelines: The Next Generation, at 7 (U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement, 1994). (back)

67 I. Garfinkel & M. Melli, The Use of Normative Standards in Family Law Decisions: Developing Mathematical Standards for Child Support, 24 Fam. L.Q. 157 (1990). See Eklund v. Eklund, 538 N.W.2d 182, 187 (N.D. 1995) (discussion of advantages of percentage of income model). (back)

68 The federal regulations concerning child support guidelines do not require factoring in the custodial parent's income to compute a presumptive child support award. The federal rules merely require the state guidelines to take into consideration all earnings and income of the noncustodial parent. 45 C.F.R. § 302.56(c)(1). See § 4.07[d] concerning disparity in income as a deviation factor. (back)

69 N. Erickson, Child Support Manual for Attorneys and Advocates, at 192 (1992). (back)

70 559 A.2d 1197 (Del. 1989). (back)

71 Del. Child Support Formula, Civ. R. 52(c). (back)

72 R. Williams, "An Overview of Child Support Guidelines," Child Support Guidelines: The Next Generation, at 7 (U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement, 1994). (back)

73 As stated by one author, the perception of comparative complexity of the Melson Formula model may be due more to lack of familiarity than to fact, and may be outweighed by other factors. M. Takas, Improving Child Support Guidelines: Can Simple Formulas Address Complex Families?, 26 Fam. L. Q. 171 (1992). (back)

74 N. Erickson, Child Support Guidelines: A Primer, 26 Clearinghouse Rev. 734, 739 (1993), citing letter from M. Takas. (back)

75 In the examples above, the income share model yielded an average support order of $332.44, the percentage of income model yielded a support order of $340, and the Melson Formula model yielded a support order of $347.04. The difference between the support orders is only 4.2%. (back)

76 See I. Garfinkel & M. Melli, The Use of Normative Standards in Family Law Decisions: Developing Mathematical Standards for Child Support, 24 Fam. L. Q. 157 (1990). (back)

77 M. Takas, The Treatment of Multiple Family Cases Under State Child Support Guidelines, at endnote 20 (U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement, 1991). (back)

78 As stated in one article, "Based on our research, not one guideline appears to produce consistently higher or lower awards." N. Thoennes, P. Tjaden, & J. Pearson, The Impact of Child Support Guidelines on Award Adequacy, Award Variability, and Case Processing Efficiency, 25 Fam. L. Q. 325, 344 (1991). See also R. Williams, "An Overview of Child Support Guidelines in the United States," Child Support Guidelines: The Next Generation, at 9 (U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement, 1994) (there is limited and somewhat mixed evidence on the effects of child support guidelines on levels and consistency of child support orders); N. Erickson, Child Support Guidelines: A Primer, 27 Clearinghouse Rev. 734 (1993) (same).

The Family Economic Security Program of the Women's Legal Defense Fund, however, issued a "Report Card on State Child Support Guidelines" in 1990, and concluded that Massachusetts and the District of Columbia performed the best on adequacy of awards. D. Dodson, "Children's Standards of Living Under Child Support Guidelines: Women's Legal Defense Fund Report Care on STate Child Support Guidelines Executive Summary," Child Support Guidelines: The Next Generation, at 98 (U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement, 1994). (back)

79 N. Thoennes, P. Tjaden, & J. Pearson, The Impact of Child Support Guidelines on Award Adequacy, Award Variability, and Case Processing Efficiency, 25 Fam. L.Q. 325, 344 (1991). In 1993, Craig Candelore writing in Joint Custodian (San Diego, CA) found that California produced the highest awards. (back)

80 N. Thoennes, P. Tjaden, & J. Pearson, The Impact of Child Support Guidelines on Award Adequacy, Award Variability, and Case Processing Efficiency, 25 Fam. L. Q. 325, 339 (1991); R. Williams, Guidelines for Settling Levels of Child Support Orders, 21 Fam. L. Q. 281, 284 (1987). (back)

81 N. Thoennes, P. Tjaden, & J. Pearson, The Impact of Child Support Guidelines on Award Adequacy, Award Variability, and Case Processing Efficiency, 25 Fam. L. Q. 325, 332 (1991); I. Garfinkel, D. Oellerich, & P. Robins, Child Support Guidelines: Will They Make a Difference?, 12 J. Fam. Issues 404 (1991); R. Williams, Guidelines for Settling Levels of Child Support Orders, 21 Fam. L. Q. 281, 283 (1987). (back)

82 N. Thoennes, P. Tjaden, & J. Pearson, The Impact of Child Support Guidelines on Award Adequacy, Award Variability, and Case Processing Efficiency, 25 Fam. L. Q. 325, 341 (1991); R. Williams, Guidelines for Settling Levels of Child Support Orders, 21 Fam. L. Q. 281, 286 (1987). (back)

83 U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Dep't of Commerce, and Office of Child Support Enforcement, U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Services, Child Support for Custodial Mothers and Fathers: 1991 (Series P-60, No. 187, 1995). The data collected in this study, from the year 1991, show that approximately 79% of noncustodial parents with joint custody and/or visitation privileges who owe child support paid some or all of the support due in 1991, compared with 56% of noncustodial parents who owed support but did not have joint custody or visitation. (back)

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