Project for the Improvement of Child Support Litigation Technology
An analytical approach to assessment in the USA
An attempt to apply formal analysis to obtain a rationally-derived, just
and fair method of assessing child support liability in some states of
the USA, which satisfy the Constitution & Federal law, is described
at the links below. However, the constitutional & federal/state &
legal framework, and other systems such as welfare & tax, are considerable
different in the those states of the USA from the UK, so the conclusions
do not easily translate to the UK.
The Child Support Guideline
May 6, 1998
Roger F. Gay, MSc and Gregory J. Palumbo, Ph.D.
for the Improvement of Child Support Litigation Technology
Last changed on August 8, 2002
Roger F. Gay, Project Leader
Commentary on PICSLT's "Science of Child Support"
These PICSLT statements are taken from Building
Child Support Science from First Principles (September 7, 1999), which
is at the second of the 2 links above.
"Project for the Improvement of Child Support Litigation Technology"
What following discusses PICSLT's "science", starting
with its "fundamental laws", and then its "rules".
Note the word "Litigation". This project is about improving
how courts handle child support litigation. It is not intended to
apply directly to other means of determining child support liabilities.
It can be seen from Roger Gay's viewpoint,
illustrated with many quotes from him, that use of litigation,
rather than other methods such as an administrative agency, is an
important part of his approach to child support.
Some states in the USA have added an
administrative process, often via an administrative agency (such
as a CSA!), to the court system. The USA does not uniformly use
litigation for child support.
|Fundamental laws of child support
|"Child support is for the care
and maintenance of children"
Yes. Child support is about paying for the goods and services needed
by the child, and perhaps also those desirably spent on the child,
while it is growing up. Views differ on what this comprises.
of expenditure on children.
|"Both parents have an equal
duty to support their children"
||Yes. But there is probably no consensus
on what "equal" means. Probably most people would accept
that it doesn't necessarily mean equal amounts of money, but neither
does it necessarily mean equal proportions of income, or equal proportions
of disposable income. For example, research suggests that £10
matters more to some who earns £100 per week than £100
matters to someone who earns £1000 per week.
|"All relevant circumstantial
information may effect the amount of the award"
The CSA of the 1991 and 1995 Acts failed, among other reasons,
because it tried to take so much into account that the evidence
for this could not be managed. Not only did it need a lot of evidence,
but circumstances changed often because so many of them were taken
Some people, such as new partners, felt that the CSA was too intrusive.
Some people wanted a level of predictability that was lost by taking
a lot of circumstances into account. Who decides what is relevant?
|"The potential standard of
living the children could enjoy on the basis of both parents ability
to provide shall be considered as part of the relevant circumstances"
|"The calculation of child support
shall be based upon the circumstances of the family during the period
in which the order will be in effect"
"Retroactive adjustments may be made to the order"
The first sentence is OK.
The second sentence appears to allow retrospective (hence backdated)
changes in liability. This is normally not allowed in the UK, because
it can make it even harder for parents to plan their financial future.
It makes sense if the parents are aware at the time of the change
of circumstances that the liability will change, so that they can
make provision for the backdated liability.
|"Demands by the state for support
of a child by parents shall not exceed the parents' ability to pay"
"So much shall not be taken from a parent that they are unable
to care for themselves"
Both of these are OK.
The UK tends to go a bit further than this, and tries to ensure
that not only can they pay, but they have some left over for other
things such as having a new life. But it has proved very hard to
get the right balance - people often simply do not like having to
|This says: "It is our opinion
that Constitutionally acceptable child support law cannot be constructed
without the central inclusion of the three "fundamental laws"
This statement, and many others, makes it clear that PICSLT is
focused solely on the USA. In fact, there isn't even a hint in the
referenced web page that it is intended for use outside the USA.
It has been said that with less than 5% of the world's population,
the USA has 70% of the world's lawyers and 94% of the world's lawsuits.
Litigation is a particular style of doing things especially used
by the USA, but it is not the only style for "Western civilisation".
|The Numeric Component
|To be discussed.
|To be discussed.
|Model Child Support Statute
|This says: "In making its'
determination, the court shall consider, but not limit itself to,
the following factors:"
||Here, I'll comment on whether these
are relevant to the amount of the liability. This commentary isn't
concerned about whether they are considered by a court, or by some
other means such as research on behalf of the government plus a legislated
formula based on this research.
|"The financial resources of
||Yes. This is better than the reformed
UK system which only considers the financial resources of the NRP
|"The ability of each parent
to support themselves"
||Yes, although this must also take
into account ability of each parent to claim social security (so it
includes the ability for each parent to be supported by the state).
|"The cost of day-care if the
custodial parent works outside the home"
Yes, but I would also add childcare costs in other cases too, such
as doing essential things such as shopping.
of expenditure on children
|"The expenses attributable
to the physical, emotional and educational needs of the child"
of expenditure on children
|"The tax consequences to both
parties resulting from spousal support awarded, if any, and the child
support award, and determination of which parent will claim the child
as a dependent"
||Yes, although the UK and USA tax
systems, and the fact that the UK's child support system works on
net income, means that it would be very hard to translate this from
one nation to the other.
|"Expenses in the exercise of
||In extreme cases, perhaps. But it
isn't always clear who should bear the cost.
|"The existence of children
of other relationships"
||This is contentious. In fact, under
the reformed scheme the UK allows a reduction for children living
in the NRP's household even if they are not the NRP's own children.
At the other extreme, some claim that the NRP should pay for the qualifying
children before having more children.
|"Expenses arising from other
factors as the court may determine relevant in a particular case"
What are the limits? How intrusive and complicated can this be
allowed to get?
The UK departures and variations schemes allows pre-defined extra
factors to be taken into account. An aim of the variations scheme
is that it won't deal with small effects, only large effects, for
Administration versus litigation in the
States of the USA vary in their approach to determining child support
liabilities. Some operate a judicial/court-based approach, using the sort
of litigation that presumably PICSLT is designed to support. Some use
administrative procedures or agencies to some degree. The choice is largely
up to individual states.
Some of the states that primarily use administrative methods include:
Some of the states that use administrative methods, within a judicial/court-based
"An Overview of the Commonwealth Countries and United States
Procedures for Establishing and Modifying Child Support"
March 1997 - funded by the Child Support Team, Department of Justice Canada
Presented by Mary MacDonald, B.A., LL.B.
1: Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom
2: United States of America