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Comment (July 20, 2004)

Comments on William S. Comanor's Interview "Child Support Payments in the U.S."

Joshua Shim (University of Southern California)

I would like to comment on the interview titled "Child Support Payments in the U.S." (
), by William S. Comanor. Mr. Comanor argues that a major issue in the Unites States is child support payments, and this issue leads to an increasing amount of fathers who refuse to pay them. He criticizes the child support system in the U.S. by pointing out that child support payments are currently set at levels which exceed the actual cost of raising children, and "in these circumstances a surprising result is not that so few fathers make child support payments, but rather that so many do." Mr. Comanor also states that "this lack of cost effectiveness costs the government more dollars to collect child support than the actual amount that is collected. He makes a point that the current system is not incentive compatible. To resolve this problem Mr. Comanor offers that if we set more accurate awards, you will get larger amounts of child support paid, and everyone will benefit.

I agree with many of the arguments that Mr. Comanor has brought up. I do think that the child support payment system needs to be re-defined in such a way as to benefit all parties involved. However, one might say that an argument for heavy penalties and payments on child support is in defense of marriage. It may be that the system tries to prevent divorce and conserve marriage, as alimony has been decreasing and losing its effect to prevent "too easy" divorce for recent years. It might make people think twice about the consequences that could result from divorce. In the attempt to preserve marriage by heavy penalties and payments on child support, this might hopefully decrease the amount of traffic our legal system could possibly encounter in the case of lenient divorce situations. While divorce may be an answer to marital problems in some cases, the divorce rate in the U.S. seems to be abnormally high, compared to other advanced nations.

Of course, one could (probably, Mr. Comanor would) argue that even with those heavy penalties and payments, the U.S. divorce rate is still high and fathers don't pay, so the current system is counterproductive. But I would not be fully convinced until some evidence is shown that the elasticity of the divorce rate with respect to child support payments and penalties is low enough to justify Mr. Comanor's argument for lower payments and lighter penalties.

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