Child custody has evolved to the point where, at a minimum, states provide a mediated process by which parents may formulate parenting plans with court-appointed assistance. At a maximum state legislatures and courts increasingly consider joint physical custody awards. While joint physical custody safeguards the fundamental rights of parents, it nonetheless prompts practical concerns in awarding child support. Today, child support begins with state statutory guidelines, but the guidelines often fail to adequately address the economic consequences of two complete residences, one supported by a parent with fewer economic resources, and the fact that oftentimes the child drifts from one to the other soon after the court order.
This Article argues that child custody and child support should be formulated in the similar fashion. That is, borrowing the approach proposed by the American Law Institute, it is prudent for separating couples to be assisted in developing a child support plan, just as they are assisted in developing a child parenting (custody) plan. The federalization of child support, the guidelines, and the enforcement mechanisms involved, distract states from the urgency of involving parents, together with professionals, in formulating workable child support plans. The child support guidelines are and will remain the first step, but they cannot be the last if child support is to be equal with child custody in providing for the best interest of the child.
Raymond C. O'Brien, Child Support and Joint Physical Custody, 70 Cath. U. L. Rev. 229 (2021).