We have all heard the horror stories of parents being bankrupted by unreasonably high child support payments. Stories of fathers living in one-room apartments while their former spouse lives in a mansion with the kids. Tales of dads just barely scraping by and working three jobs to make their child support payments for their three children. Mothers can face this issue too, and some have gone into serious debt after trying desperately to adhere to their child support agreements.
So, is child support unreasonably high in the United States? The answer, of course, is that it depends. While some might assume that it might depend on the unique factors of each family, a more important thing to consider might be the location of the family. As you will see, child support payments can vary wildly from state to state.
It is All Over the Place
An average child support payment in Virginia can be just a few hundred bucks per month, while you might expect to pay well over $1,000 per month in states like Massachusetts. This means that relocating just a few miles into another state could equate to tens of thousands of dollars in annual savings. Generally speaking, states in the Northeast have the highest child support payments, while states in the Rocky Mountain area have the lowest.
Why is Child Support So Varied?
Child support varies from state to state for a number of reasons. First of all, some states do not consider a mother’s income when calculating child support. This leads to a higher child support amount, and Mississippi, North Dakota, and Texas all continue to ignore a mother’s income entirely when making their calculations.
Another “official” reason is that the cost of living varies from state to state. This is something judges are supposed to keep in mind when awarding child support. However, this logic does not actually make much sense when you look at the numbers. For example, New Jersey is one of the most expensive states in which to live, but it is close to the bottom of the rankings in terms of the most expensive child support systems.
The Modern Reality
You also have to remember that child support was initially created at a very different time. Back in the 1970s, the majority of mothers were housewives. Although working women were common, the child support system was designed to replicate the nuclear family as much as possible. In addition, very few children were born out of wedlock compared to the modern era.
Fast forward to the modern era, and you have a vastly different situation. Mothers are extremely likely to earn considerable incomes, and parents are more likely to have children without ever getting married. This leads to a child support system that is quite outdated, as it is built around a 1970s-era society that no longer exists. In addition to creating some sense of consistency across the states, America should also consider the reality of working mothers.