An Assessment of Federal Child Support Guidelines

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The Federal Child Support Guidelines implemented by the Canadian federal government in May 1997 lay out how the courts are to decide issues dealing with custody, child support, and related matters. The guidelines claim to be based on studies of the actual expenditures on children and claim to be equitable to both the paying and recipient parents. A close examination of the guidelines, and the formula used to create the child support payments, demonstrates that neither claim is true. Rather, the guideline table amounts are based on a formula, which uses an arbitrary equivalence scale and a number of unrealistic assumptions that make them unfair. This study analyses the development of the guidelines’ formula, and compares the outcomes of the formula using the assumptions postulated by the federal government (and specifically the Department of Justice), and compares those results against models with more realistic assumptions, as well as against the costs of raising children as determined by other agencies. This analysis concludes that the guidelines have no connection to economic studies on the average spending on children (and do not legitimately assess the costs of children), nor do they equitably distribute child maintenance obligations between parents according to their means and relative abilities to contribute to those obligations.

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