Complex Families and Equality in Child Support Obligations: A Comparative Policy Analysis

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Family complexity creates difficulties for child support policy. We examine whether policy in 14 countries results in nonresident parents having equal financial obligations to children in different complex family situations. We find that when a nonresident parent owes support to two nonresident children in different families, the most common policy is to have unequal obligations favoring the older child. However, nearly as many countries achieve equal orders, but do so by reducing the obligation to the older child. When a nonresident parent has one nonresident child and a new resident child, the most common strategy is to reduce the obligation to the older nonresident child, but to make no attempt to equalize obligations for both children. Each of the four main policy strategies we identify has advantages, tradeoffs among three principles of equality, affordability of obligations and protecting the first child's standard of living are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1804-1812
Number of pages9
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


  • comparative research
  • employment/benefits
  • social exclusion, income, poverty
  • family

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