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Divorcing child custody from child support

A colleague of mine, Casie N. Suddeth, posted on facebook about an Ontario Canada divorce case in which the judge became so frustrated with the parties and their acrimony that he awarded custody to the mother but only required the father to pay $1.00 per month in child support.  See The Divorce So Bad it Made the Family Judge Flip Out

I firmly believe that much of the acrimony we encounter in family court is because we have turned children into economic assets.  Get custody of your child and you get child support.  In South Carolina, if the other parent gets at least 110 overnight with the child he or she (usually he) can seek application of Schedule C guidelines which can reduce–sometimes greatly reduce–the child support amount.  And while it’s obvious that the cost to raise a child in the manner of myself and most upper-middle-class strivers far exceeds the typical child support award, it’s equally obvious that many parents live off their child support award (basically any custodial parent who has no other income is living off the child support award).

Ideally, resolution of custody cases would involve determining how to arrange the child’s time so that each parent’s relationship with the child remains healthy.  Instead, because money flows from the resolution of these disputes, many custody cases devolve into whether one party can get 110 overnights or whether, if child custody is modified, the party seeking modification will forgo a modification of child support.  I have had many child custody agreements break down because child support couldn’t be resolved to one party’s satisfaction.

I have no idea how to design a system in which child support and child custody are not decided in concert.  However, I am certain that if getting more time with a child didn’t also mean getting (or keeping) more financial resources, parents might fight less about getting more time with the child.  They might even start fighting over who has to spend less time with the child.  Such fights would be refreshing.

I highly doubt this Canadian judge will be sustained should either side appeal.  But I admire his courage in divorcing child custody from child support.

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