At the time one’s divorce is imminent, often two main concerns are obviously going to be child support and child custody.

It is reasonable to conclude that in many cases, the fights over child support are not rooted in making sure that the children’s needs are well taken care of. It’s rooted in maximizing the household income of the mother via “child” support. Given the work that we have done with people involved in high-conflict divorces – those divorces yield this to be a very common theme. In these cases, child support is more than that – it’s alimony or spousal support, too, simply disguised as child support.

It’s important to understand that individual states get kickbacks in the form of reimbursement dollars for child support money collected. While it would take entirely too much time to delve into this specific issue in great detail within this article – it suffices to say that when people’s livelihoods depend on collecting lots of child support via collections and enforcement measures, that federal reimbursement money is a primary driving factor. In order for this system to grow and expand, the system must drive as many families into it as it can and make sure that child support figures are set as high as possible to maximize this federal money given to the states. Social Security’s Title IV-d, originally intended to lighten the tax burden and costs associated with divorced families using various assistance programs ultimately found that by driving every possible family into the system, the money flow would be substantial. This is why we have the gargantuan system we have today. Title IV-d has been leveraged as an income generation source for individual states.

Almost every state’s guidelines are established via research on “consumer spending surveys.” Read that again. Consumer spending surveys don’t take into account the basic needs of the children. It takes into account the overspending that our society typically does. It is a fact that the lion’s share of household discretionary funds are controlled by mothers. It is also a fact that the lion’s share of child custody is awarded to mothers. Combine these two realities and it’s a recipe for overinflated child support orders that are predicated on keeping the children in a “style to which they had become accustomed” when the family was intact. Of course, this is impossible because it fails to take into account that there are now two households that need to be supported by all of the basic expenses that come with them.

When I sometimes debate and discuss these issues, particularly with divorced mothers, the complaints and justifications are common:

  • The amount of child support I get doesn’t even cover the essentials!

While I can rarely substantiate such a claim on an case-by-case basis, the realities are simple… more often that not, child support receiving mothers rather often roll into their figures expenses that are not truly part of their day-to-day equation. They typically toss out:

  • Their entire rent or mortgage figure.

In all but the fewest cases, the places in which we live weren’t purchases solely for the addition of children. In my own case, I owned a three-bedroom house before I had ever even considered children. Therefore, I could justifiably argue that the addition of children had zero impact on my housing costs – or hers. One could counter that without children, she could downsize to a 1-bedroom home or apartment. While a legitimate argument, I can tell you that in a majority of cases, people who can afford something bigger and more comfortable – buy something bigger and more comfortable. But let’s be reasonable and presume the difference between a 1-bedroom and a 2-bedroom apartment, for the sake of round figures, would be about $200.

  • It costs me $400/month in food, and dad needs to pay for that!

Reality is, your entire food bill for the month isn’t subject to being paid for by the father of the children.

  • What about the increase in water, heat, power, light? That costs me about $300/month!

Again, the actual impact that the children have on that figure is negligible. The house would still primarily have to be heated, powered, lighted, and water consumption would be hardly different enough to justify a significant financial difference that again, would require dad to pay a huge portion of that bill.

This list could get long with clothing, extracurricular activities, and a host of other things. Of course, there exist many other aberrations like children with special needs and other deviations from that which we understand to be “normal.”

What’s so often overlooked in situations such as mine, which represents quite a lot of what we consider to be “the middle class” is that all of those things are needed at dad’s house, too. And before you go ranting about how all of those things are “factored in” when the guidelines are created – it’s simply not true. What dad has to pay for is rarely ever a concern for a high-conflict mother. In their zeal to obtain more and more from the “deadbeat” dad, they fail to understand that they are taking resources from the children’s other parent – resources needed at his household for food, clothing, heat, power, light, rent, etc. Yes, even in an unbalanced custodial arrangement.

Few people realize that in most states and even surrounding countries – your normal daily expenses are not even considered when factoring child support. The rules are clear… he makes this much money, she makes this much money, combine them – give the money to her and how you live is none of their concern. Then, they use a formula to determine how much it costs to raise a child per year, it’s astounding, and it’s based on flawed data.

Now, factor in that the laws also have determined through some never named or cited research, that when you are divorced, suddenly if you get a raise, make more money, get a second job – the costs for the basic needs of the children go up – and your support figure goes up accordingly! I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in wondering where and how that rationale came to pass, because I can tell you this, if and when I received my annual raise – the children didn’t suddenly need more food, more clothes, more shelter, more utilities, etc. etc. etc. However, once you’re in the divorce machine – the laws and computations say that’s what happens. Who suffers? The person who pays the price is usually the non-custodial parent – in the overwhelming majority of the cases – the father.  There is no accountability for how child support payments are spent.

Let’s not just blame custodial mothers though, I mean, who wouldn’t want more money for nothing, right? The system allows it and the only person who loses money is… guess who? The father. Mom can file for a support modification whenever she wants. You have to produce your financials. Who gets paid? Conference officers. Judges. Lawyers. Mother. Court Clerks. Transcribers.  Court Reporters. Secretaries. The State Fund. Who is paying? The non-custodial parent. It’s state and federal sanctioned theft hidden behind “the best interests of the children.”

I leave you with these final thoughts. Another common rant of child support receiving mothers is this:

He’s only fighting for more child custody so he has to pay less child support!

This notion is absurd on two fronts.

  1. If the child support he’s paying you now isn’t enough to cover the basic expenses as is so often argued, then your claim makes no sense as having more child custody will be more costly to him than simply paying his court-ordered child support.
  2. You can’t argue that he is trying for more child custody to reduce child support without also saying (without saying actually saying it) that you’re fighting against his having more child custody to maximize child support.

Try as you so often might – you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. Actually, you can. Family court allows it every single day. That doesn’t make the above two points entirely too true for many people to accept.

Leave a comment with your thoughts.

For more information see: Shared Parenting vs. Child Support