A new method for creating guidelines for child support payments is proposed in an article by Professor Ira Ellman published in March in the Harvard Journal on Legislation. The article, "The Theory of Child Support," is co-authored with Ellman's wife, Tara, who has an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and contributed to the economic analysis in the paper.
According to Ellman, the work grew out of the couples' involvement with a special committee appointed by the Arizona Supreme Court to consider changes in the way the state's child support guidelines are constructed.
"More Americans are subject to child support orders, either as obligor or oblige, than to any other civil judgment," according to an abstract of the article. "Federal law requires each state to have its own guidelines to determine the dollar amounts of most support orders.
"What principles should decide the design of such guidelines and thus the amount of support to be ordered? What do these fundamental principles say about the impact that a parent's marriage or remarriage should have on the support order?
"This article explains why the method most states use to develop child support guidelines prevents productive attention to questions like these. The article then identifies the four fundamental policy considerations that rulemakers are likely to find relevant and offers a new method for creating or revising support guidelines that would ensure the guidelines in fact reflect the rulemaker's preferred balance among these four considerations.
"The recommended method would replace the conventional approach employed by most of the consultants that states rely upon to prepare their guidelines, because the conventional method's exclusive focus on marginal child expenditures prevents such a balanced analysis."
A shortened version of the article is included as Chapter 6 in the book, Raising Children: Emerging Needs, Modern Risks, and Social Responses, edited by Jill Duerr Berrick and Neil Gilbert and published by Oxford University Press in 2008.
Ellman also has been appointed by Chief Justice Ruth V. McGregor of the Arizona Supreme Court to serve on the 2008 Committee for the Quadrennial Review of the Child Support Guidelines. Ellman served on the previous committee, which is appointed every four years to examine support guidelines and recommend changes.