Late last month I received the official notification terminating my child support. I'm going to say up front, that I paid a pittance in child support for the last couple of years, and for the most part it's actually my ex-wife's fault. A couple of years after our divorce, both of our financial situations changed. My wages went down considerably, and hers went up slightly. I informed the ex that I'd be requesting a child support review. I also informed my then-new wife that I'd be requesting a child support review as well, and she somehow managed to talk me out of it. The ex must have taken my lack of action as an indication that I determined a child support review would not turn out in my favor, because after a couple of months, Child Support Recovery notified me that my ex was requesting a review. I was positively giddy at the aspect of her action coming back to bite her in the ass, and it did... in a big way. My child support dropped by over 50%. As a direct result of what I can only assume is my ex-wife's greed, I spent several thousand fewer dollars in child support.
This story kind of brings me to my next point. I think that the whole issue of child support and custody need to be completely revisited. Over the years, there has been significant progress in fathers' rights when it comes to custody and visitation. Unfortunately, however, we fathers are still seen as little more than walking wallets when it comes to supporting our children. WIth this in mind, I'd like to propose a radical departure from the status quo. I propose that parents be given joint legal custody, joint physical care, and no child support as the starting point. I know I'm going to piss a lot of people off with this crazy idea, but hear me out...
It's taken as common knowledge that it's in the best interest of children to have both parents actively involved in the upbringing. By starting off with 50/50 custody as the assumption, we're already looking out for the best interest of the kids. There should, of course, be wide latitude for variation to address parental preferences, geographical separation, and cases of abuse. But 50/50 should be the starting point.
Having no child support is a tremendous incentive for keeping reluctant parents involved in their kids' lives. You can choose to spend more time with the kids, or you can choose to spend more money on your kids. Is this an ideal motivation for uninvolved parents? No. But it's better than the status quo.
Here's my biggest point: Child support is a disincentive to work; and the larger the percentage sent to child support, the greater disincentive to work. Why would I work crazy amounts of overtime if half of what I make is going to child support... especially if I never see the kid(s)?!? Why would I try to get a higher paying job when I know that my ex-wife is just going to request a child support review and take away half of my raise? On the flip side of the coin, why would the recipient of child support want to go out and work more, or find a better paying job? Child support helps out plenty. And if the recipient goes out and finds a job, there's always a chance -- a high chance -- that child support payments will decrease. The state talks about the cycle of poverty, and how entitlements contribute to it... well here's something I never hear discussed. It must be some sort of taboo... kind of like the prospect of overhauling Social Security. By the way, children observe the results of this disincentive. How do you think it influences their work ethic?
I don't expect any changes overnight, but I would like you to consider and discuss my thoughts. What do I have right? What am I missing?