Family Law Quarterly
Volume 45, No. 2 (Summer 2011)

Current Issues in Child Support & Spousal Support

Table of Contents

Please note that pursuant to the ABA's copyright and reprint policies, these articles may not be disseminated without written permission.

Editor's Note
Linda D. Elrod


J. Thomas Oldham, Issue Editor

This article introduces and summarizes the seven articles in this special issue on child support and spousal support.

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Child Support Guidelines: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Douglas W. Allen & Margaret F. Brinig

Child-support-guideline systems do more than simply determine the amount of income to be transferred from the noncustodial to the custodial household. They create incentives, one way or another, for spouses to divorce and seek custody and support payments. We examine three cases found in North America, and find that the common method of income shares provides a decent guideline that does not create any perverse incentives for divorce.  Percentage-of-obligor-income methods do worse than other systems and can cause increases in divorce rates for families in which one spouse earns a high income. Finally, the Canadian system, which is designed to transfer large amounts of net wealth, creates very large incentives for marriage instability.

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Questioning Child Support Enforcement Policy for Poor Families
Leslie Joan Harris

This article examines current child support enforcement policies and practices as they relate to poor families and assesses how effectively they collect support, what happens to voluntary in-kind contributions, and also how they affect the long-term parental involvement of both parents in the lives of their children. The article concludes that given the perverse and harmful effects, current child support enforcement policy and practices as applied to families in which the parents are unmarried and poor, should be rethought and reformed.

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Homeless Veterans and Child Support
Steven Berenson

A disproportionate share of veterans is among the American homeless. While the causes of homelessness among veterans are numerous and complex, research demonstrates that child support obligations play a major role in impeding the ability of homeless veterans to leave the streets and return to productive society. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the American Bar Association, and the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child Support Enforcement have launched experimental models in three pilot cities to improve the payment of child support and family communications and improve the reintegration of veterans into society as shown through increased employment and housing. The author examines the progress being made in San Diego, Boston, and Seattle and makes recommendations as to what works and what doesn’t.

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High-Income Child Support
Lori W. Nelson

The Family Support Act of 1988 required each state to enact presumptive child-support guidelines to resolve child support in the average case. Since then, nearly every state has added a specific statute dealing with income over the guidelines or high-income child support. The result, however, is that each state has created its own methods and, even within any particular state, those methods may not be set forth with sufficient clarity to provide consistent results. The author surveys the varying state approaches and discusses both valid deviations from the guidelines and the use of judicial discretion. The author concludes that currently there are many ways to handle high-income cases.

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Marriage, Parentage, and Child Support
June Carbone & Naomi Cahn

This article illuminates the tensions between the law’s presumptions concerning biological paternity and the biological certainty available through genetic testing.  It surveys the current status of the marital presumption. Ultimately, it concludes that, while biological parenthood need not and should not be equivalent to legal parenthood, genetic testing to establish parental identity should be a routine part of the birth process.

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The Canadian Experiment with Spousal Support Guidelines
Carol Rogerson & Rollie Thompson

Canadian spouses, lawyers, mediators, and judges have been using spousal support advisory guidelines to assist in determining the amount and duration of spousal support since the release of the draft guidelines in 2005 and the final version in 2008. In this article, the authors explain how they developed the advisory guidelines, summarize the guidelines, and offer an early assessment of their use and impact to date.

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Alimony Theory

Cynthia Lee Starnes

This article explores some of the rationales for alimony offered by commentators over the last thirty years, searching for common ground in identification of the problems alimony should address, visions of contemporary marriage, theories of alimony, and quantification models that transform concept into practice.  Each theory is categorized according to its primary focus on  a claimant’s expectation interest (gain theory); a claimant’s loss linked to divorce (loss theory); or a claimant’s contributions to the other spouse (contribution theory).

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Board of Editors

Editor in Chief
Linda D. Elrod

Associate Editors
Robert G. Spector
Nancy Ver Steegh

Board of Editors
Jeff Atkinson
Elizabeth B. Brandt
Jean N. Crowe
John DeWitt Gregory
Robert J. Levy
J. Thomas Oldham
John J. Sampson
Samuel V. Schoonmaker, IV

Reviewing Editors
Susan Appleton
Patricia M. Hoff
Harry D. Krause
Paul M. Kurtz

Managing Editor
Deborah Eisel

2011-2012 Student Editorial Staff
Washburn University School of Law

Student Editor-In-Chief
LeTiffany O. Obozele

Student Executive Research Editors
Samuel R. Feather
Laura E. Windheuser

Student Senior Editors
Laura A. Allison
Corrine E. Johnson
Kelly A. Navinsky-Wenzl
Madeline J. Rogers

Student Junior Editors
Leah N. Bockover
Steven L. Goaslind
Ellen J. Grennier
Benjamin T. Hinkle
Daniel N. Jacob
Jordan P. Seckman

Staff Assistants
Penny R. Fell
Shirley Jacobson