Child Support: Increasing obligations likely to backfire – Richmond Times-Dispatch: Guest-columnists
Virginia is on the verge of substantially increasing child-support obligations for the first time since 1988. But the proposed increase, which recently passed a legislative committee as a bill called HB 933, would result in excessive obligations for many parents, more unpaid child support and more jailings for nonpayment at taxpayer expense. Some noncustodial parents already pay more than 50 percent of their income in child support.
Order people to pay more than they can afford, and they may simply give up and not pay at all. Even the drafter of the increased child-support schedule, Dr. Jane Venohr, admitted in 2012 that “Research shows that noncustodial parents whose child support obligations are more than 20 percent of their income are less likely to pay.”
But such high obligations are commonplace even under Virginia’s existing child-support guidelines. In Herring v. Herring (2000), Virginia’s existing child-support guidelines set the obligation of John Herring, a father of two, at $673 per month, more than half his monthly salary of $1,300. He was so poor that he lived in his sister’s basement. When a trial judge reduced his obligation to a more reasonable $484 per month — 37 percent of his income — the Virginia Court of Appeals reversed that reduction, because it was contrary to Virginia’s existing child-support guidelines. Under the increased child-support schedule drafted by Venohr, this poor man’s child-support obligation would go up even further.
Her increased child-support schedule inflates the obligations of many poor and working-class parents: It makes noncustodial parents pay for costs that custodial parents have already effectively been reimbursed for by the federal tax code. That includes payments like the $1,000 per-child refundable tax credit, the earned-income tax credit and the personal exemption of $3,900 in income from tax per child. For many lower-income households, these tax benefits amount to most of the cost of raising a child.