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June 3, 2015
By Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

This excellent article on the realities and the public perceptions of child support contains quotations from an interview of NPO’s Robert Franklin by the writer, Mandy Morgan (Deseret News, 6/2/15). I addition to Franklin’s quotations, Morgan’s article is well done, a balanced, informative piece of journalism about a contentious topic.

Most importantly, it reports on a new study by Arizona State University professors Ira Ellman and Sanford Braver (professor emeritus).

The public views court-ordered formulas calculating child support in the United States and England to be unfair, according to a study released Monday that researchers hope will be valuable information for policymakers dealing with family law issues.

Although child support laws in the two nations differ, the study, published by the Child and Family Blog, found that respondents from the U.S. and England have similar personal views on what is fair in calculating child support paid by noncustodial parents.

"What it tells you is that the existing child support law is not consistent with the basic application of fairness that most people have," said Ira Ellman, an author of the study and professor of psychology and law at Arizona State University.

For more than a decade, Ellman and professor emeritus Sanford Braver, also of ASU, examined public responses to the application of child support laws, along with other similar topics such as alimony and child custody.

The research ultimately found that the public believes child support should be adjusted higher or lower based on the mother's income (assuming she is the custodial parent caring for the children). In some states, child support is based solely on the noncustodial parent's income, while in others both incomes are used in the calculation with an emphasis on the noncustodial parent's income. Each state has a set formula for judges to use in child support cases...

"(Respondents) did not mirror the law in the way they responded to changes in either dad's or mom's income," Ellman said. "They put much more weight on mom's income; if her income went up or down, that would affect how much child support would be paid, versus what the law would require."

Another area impacting child support that was explored in the study was reaction to the custodial parents getting remarried, and whether that might change the amount of child support paid.

"The law doesn't pay any attention to remarriage of the custodial parent, but our respondents wanted to take into account the stepparent's income," Braver said. "That changes the resources for the child, that changes the hardship on the custodial parent, they now have the income from a new spouse to rely on. To me, that makes imminent sense that that is what is fair and just and proper."...

Though the many studies were only conducted with groups in Arizona and England, the demographics were all across the board, and were purposely put into the study overviews, to show that responses were similar from all different people, Braver said.

"You get that same result no matter what — if it's about women and men, there's no difference. High-income people and low-income people are the same, same pattern. If they're Democrats and Republicans, no difference," Ellman said. "You get this result over and over again, it's true in the U.K. also, so that's a powerful result, I think."

Mandy Morgan is to be congratulated on a fine article. If you’d like to do so, here’s her email address: [email protected]

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