29 Fam. L.Q. 483 (1995-1996)
Child Support Awards: State Guidelines vs. Public Opinion

handle is hein.journals/famlq29 and id is 507 raw text is: Child Support Awards:
State Guidelines vs. Public Opinion
BARBARA R. BERGMANN, PH.D.* and
SHERRY WETCHLER, PH.D.**
Since 1975, a series of federal enactments has encouraged the states to
make significant changes in the determination of child support awards and in
the administration of their enforcement.' Each state has adopted an explicit
formula to guide judges in deciding the size of awards, and many continue
to make progress in implementing procedures designed to strengthen the
collection process. Actual collections continue to lag far behind awards,
and considerable numbers of custodial parents still fail to receive awards
assigned to them; however, the machinery for serious enforcement contin-
ues to improve. Soon the day will arrive when the law will effectively
compel a parent who has children from a terminated relationship to share
a substantial part of his or her income with the household in which those
children reside.
A new regime of standardization of awards and tight enforcement will in-
volve millions of people, perhaps a third of all parents with children under
eighteen, in giving up or receiving considerable sums of money. If the general
public (or even the general run of men) perceive the size of the payments as
unjustly burdensome to the noncustodial parent, we would expect that, one
way or another, the movement toward full-fledged enforcement would stall.
Thus, public opinion on appropriate levels for child support awards is of
considerable interest.
This article reports on the results of an opinion poll that surveyed the resi-
dents of the State of Maryland. The questions focused on a series of vignettes
* Distinguished Professor of Economics, American University, Washington, DC.
** Assistant Professor of Economics, Ithaca College.
Helpful comments on earlier drafts were received from Nora Cate Schaeffer, Carol
Bruch, David L. Arnaudo, and Karen Czapanskiy. However, responsibility for errors
rests with the authors.
1. For a history of federal child support legislation, see PAT WONG, CHILD
SUPPORT AND WELFARE REFORM (1993).

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