My Psychology Today post on the legal wrangling over the new Massachusetts child-support guidelines is attracting a lot of comments. I tried not take sides on the dispute, but merely to ask whether the guidelines are fair. How do we determine what's a fair child-support payment?
It's not an easy question to answer, and not one that lawyers are equipped to answer.
The people who have the expertise to even take a wild stab at establishing fair payment guidelines would be economists, demographers, or social scientists. Not lawyers. Yet it is lawyers and judges who are charged with devising guidelines and implementing them.
This question wouldn't interest me much except for one thing. This is not just about money. This is about relationships between non-custodial parents, usually fathers, and their children. Rancor or economic disparity caused by faulty guidelines can damage a relationship between a father and his children.
None of us should want that. Not even the most wounded, angry, or vengeful parent. Sadly, however, in practice, children's well-being is often sacrificed by battling parents.
We want child-support guidelines that can ease that fighting, not exacerbate it.