Breaking the Piggies’ Bank: A Revolutionary New Idea About Child Support
Child Support Should Support Children. This is the name of a not-for-profit organization I am organizing.
The concept is simple, but California’s Department of Child Support Services, DCSS, decided to complicate things. The first page of their website states: California’s Child Support Services Program works with parents – custodial and noncustodial – and guardians to ensure children and families receive court-ordered financial and medical support. (Italicization mine.)
Child support is not spousal support. It is not meant to keep the former spouse in the style they have become accustomed to or would like to become accustomed to. It is meant to support children.
At first DCSS was only supposed to collect money to pay back the welfare system. But child support collection became big business, and Title IV-D gave an incentive to the state to collect bigger dollars.
The court, especially the family law court is a big piggy bank. Money goes into it from tax dollars, fees, and private party payments. Then a whole list of little piggies start pulling out. There are judges, bailiffs, court clerks, court reporters, file clerks, lawyers for both parties, lawyers appointed to represent the children, psychological-evaluators and social workers, Child Support Services case workers, Child Support Services attorneys, visitation monitors…I may be missing a few piggies, but I ran out of toes. Lots of people benefit from high conflict divorce; none of these people are children.
Child support is based on keeping the same standard of living for the child as the wealthier parent enjoys. I am not here to debate whether this is right or wrong. Though, some people think The State should stay out of our business. If we want our biological children to just get by, that is our prerogative. If that was the agreed upon way of doing things, child support would be uniform regardless of a person’s income. It would determine the cost to feed, clothe and shelter a child per year and make each parent ante up half that amount. But our government decided the amount it costs to raise a child depends on the wealthier parent’s standard of living.
My proposal does not address how the amount it costs to support a child is determined. It addresses how the support monies should be spent.
The present system is not working and it harms parent-child relationships. The present system takes into consideration the percentage of time a child spends with each parent, each parent’s earning potential, then has one parent hand over an equalization payment to the other parent each month. It encourages parents to fight for a higher percentage of time with the children, to get more child support, or to pay less child support.
I suggest the paying parent be required to set up an irrevocable trust with the children as beneficiaries, and the paying parent named as trustee. Since the trust is irrevocable, the money would eventually benefit the children. There could even be a clause that any remaining money or property in the trust becomes the adult child’s property at the age of 25, 21 or even 18.
Now the parent who seems to have a better ability to grow money is put in charge of deciding how the money is best spent.
For example, my family is wealthy and education is a high priority. But my former spouse didn’t care much for education. He liked spending money on trips to Vegas and vehicles for himself. He had sole custody of one of my sons and that son did not get driver’s education or a license until he turned 18 and moved in with me. He did not go to high school after the tenth grade, taking the GED instead. My ex did not pay for music lessons, tutors and the paternal grandmother, Helen Lynn, even shredded a book given to my son by my sister’s husband. The book was called “The Lucifer Principle”, so Helen Lynn presumed it was “evil”.
If I was trustee of the Child Support Trust Account, I would have paid music teachers directly, set aside a college fund and helped my son buy a car, so he could get to school and a job. Nobody walks in L.A. My wealthy parents would have been happy to contribute to the trust, instead of writing my children out of their inheritance.
Since my ex did not provide adequate nutrition, I could have had groceries delivered to the kid’s home.
Trusts are no more difficult to write than a custody agreement. Accounting would be simple, with equal payments going in monthly and a ledger of expenditures. For the more aggressive trustee parent, there may be investments made and investment income to account for. This is no more complicated than any of the other paper work done when a wealthy person divorces.
If the paying parent is low income and uneducated, it is still simple enough to have people who are case workers in the present system help the paying parent pay off welfare and then buy a grocery card for the children, similar to an EBT card. Case workers in the present system would probably be sitting around, twiddling their thumbs and looking at the job listing ads if the paying parent was made the trustee parent.
The same rules of contempt would apply if the trustee parent did not make payments into the trust regularly. Don’t pay in, go to jail. My guess is we would free up lots of jail space to incarcerate the real criminals. People who commit dishonest services fraud, for example.
Sure, there are little details to work out. Child care and health insurance may present an issue. But this might be solved by saying the first X dollars is paid to child care and health care. What we are trying to accomplish is to take out the financial incentive for one parent to try to get a high percentage of time with the children, and to give the income producing parent the opportunity to decide how all that extra money should be spent on the children.
Child Support Should Support Children.