Sunday, May 17, 2009

Roissy on Child Support

We've been talking about child support a lot over at Hit Coffee. Meanwhile, Roissy takes the maximalist position.

6 comments:

trumwill said...

The maximalist position almost uniformly in favor of the man... shocking.

Though I don't believe that the Best Interest of the Child trumps all, I can't take the other view that it is insignificant in subordinance to what is fair to the man vis-a-vis his relationship to the mother.

My main problem with alimony is that it is incompatible with No Fault Divorce. Any fair alimony regime has to take into account the factors within the divorce.

That being said, I have come around to the decision that it has its place. Roissy likes to paint the picture of the Dorito-eating Oprah watcher, but unless we want marriage to be an each-person-for-themself affair, providing protection for someone that sacrifices his or her career for the sake of the other is a good idea.

My career has taken one hit after another for the sake of my wife's because I have invested in her career and when we have kids that will likely become even more the case. My mother helped put two husbands through college and/or graduate school and then stayed at home to raise us. When this sort of thing happens, I think that we have a (limited) stake in that person's career and that, in the event of a divorce, I think that we are owed something in order to help us get our own careers back on track and help tide us over until that happens.

Of course, if we up and leave willy-nilly, I think that we're owed less (or maybe not at all). That's the problem that NFD presents in the equation. Even so, protections like alimony can strengthen a marriage by convincing one party to sacrifice for the other.

Φ said...

Mmmm . . . This is a good point. I was prepared to concede that, all things being equal, a just divorce settlement would evenly divide the assets accumulated during the marriage. One spouse's education, to the extent the other spouse invests in it, can represent "asset accumulation" in a meaningful sense. Since that education is non-fungible, alimony might be appropriate in the circumstances you describe.

However, I'm less convinced that non-material "career sacrifice" should be considered such a marital investment, if only because its marginal net present value can be devilishly hard to calculate.

We're agreed, though, that NFD is an abomination. The law should not treat one spouse's unilateral decision to leave a marriage as morally neutral.

Anonymous said...

The problem with making the man pay is that it is just about the most grievous harm you can inflict on a man outside of killing him, or maybe hacking off a limb or two.

Roissy and I put out the hypothetical: would you rather be anally raped by another man or have to pay child support for your wife's child by another man? I would say that most men would choose the former. I would.

- Thursday

Φ said...

Here is a lengthy piece by Megan McArdle from her "Jane Galt" incarnation that discusses the effect of NFD in the context of gay marriage.

Brandon Berg said...

The problem with at-fault divorce, as I understand it, is that it's really hard to figure out who's at fault, and also provides powerful incentives to make things up (e.g., false allegations of abuse). You can't just say the initiator is at fault, because it's easy to make a marriage intolerable without doing anything that would constitute legal grounds for divorce, so the legal initiator is not necessary the de facto initiator.

I don't think there's a perfect, or even very good, solution. As flawed as no-fault divorce may be, the alternative isn't much better, and probably even worse.

trumwill said...

However, I'm less convinced that non-material "career sacrifice" should be considered such a marital investment, if only because its marginal net present value can be devilishly hard to calculate.If by "non-material" you mean that I took a pay-cut rather than actively put money towards her education, we're in disagreement. That such a figure may be difficult to calculate does not mean some non-exact compensation may be due. I don't actually think that compensation should be 1:1 and I don't think that it should be indefinite (even if the wife paid for a husband's entire MD). But I think that some transfer so that the non-working spouse can get back on her (or his) feet is fair. Estimations should be conservative, but I don't think that the difficulty in deriving them are prohibitive.

In case by "non-material" you mean complaints about the lesser-earning spouse about how they would be happier with their job or that they'd be a star by now if they hadn't put everything on hold... yeah, I agree.

The problem with making the man pay is that it is just about the most grievous harm you can inflict on a man outside of killing him, or maybe hacking off a limb or two."Making men pay" which, precisely? Alimony? Child support? Cuckold child support?

I've written pretty extensively on that last one and think that laws need to be changed to prevent that from happening in the first place and to encourage men to step forward if/when there is any doubt. I don't think alimony is like having a limb severed. Nor is child support, assuming that the kid is his. Cuckold child support depends on the circumstances.

Roissy and I put out the hypothetical: would you rather be anally raped by another man or have to pay child support for your wife's child by another man? I would say that most men would choose the former. I would.Depends on the child and the woman involved as well as whether or not the courts give me equal access to the kid. There are few circumstances where I would prefer rape.

The problem with at-fault divorce, as I understand it, is that it's really hard to figure out who's at fault, and also provides powerful incentives to make things up (e.g., false allegations of abuse).That's a really good point. My mother left her first husband, but he was an alcoholic. I don't think who-leaves-whom is all-important. But I do think that tangible things such as infidelity, alcoholism (if there's a paper trail), abuse (if credible police reports were files), and so on should factor in.