Child Support Guidelines and Divorce Rates

Douglas Allen (Simon Fraser University)

Abstract: A child support guideline is a formula used to calculate support payments based on a few family characteristics. Guidelines began replacing court awarded support payments in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and were later mandated by the federal government in 1988. Two fundamentally different types of guidelines are used: percentage obligor and income share models. This paper explores the incentives to divorce under the various schemes, and uses the NLSY data set to test the key predictions. We find that percentage obligor models are destabilizing for families with high incomes.