The Relationship Between Child Support and Parenting Timeclick to download
When child support guidelines were initially drafted, it was assumed that in most instances, the lesser-time parent would be the father, the father would see the children infrequently, and the father would have a higher income than the mother. Today, more custodial parents are male than before, the wage gap between mothers and fathers has narrowed, and a substantial number of fathers are more involved in their children’s lives.
Decades ago, it was rare for an obligor parent to have access to his child more than every other weekend and every other holiday and approximately three weeks in the summer (or about 20% of all overnights per year). Recent studies have found that shared placement has become more common. Census data find that 58% of noncustodial fathers and 73% of noncustodial mothers had provisions for visitation or joint custody or both in 1991, and that the percentage increased to 81% of noncustodial parents in 2018.6 These trends raise questions about how to calculate child support obligations in various situations, particularly when the payor parent has substantial access to the child.
This article will discuss various approaches that have been applied to how child support should be calculated (i) when the lesser-time parent has a higher income than the other parent but has substantial access, (ii) when both parents have equal joint physical custody, and (iii) when the greater-time parent has a higher income than the other parent. We will highlight the advantages and disadvantages of the various policy options.
Published in Family Law Quarterly, Volume 54, Numbers 1 & 2, 2020. © 2021 American Bar Association.
Issue(s): Child Support
Issues & Focus Areas
- Child Support
- Child Welfare
- Early Childhood & Education
- Economic Security & Healthcare
- Father Engagement & Healthy Relationships
- Gender-Based Violence