THE SURVEY OF CHILD SUPPORT AWARDS: INTERIM ANALYSIS OF PHASE 2 DATA

(October 1998 to March 2000)

CSR-2001-2E

PART 2: INTERIM ANALYSES OF PHASE 2 OF THE SURVEY OF CHILD SUPPORT AWARDS (continued)

9.0 INTERIM FINDINGS OF PHASE 2 DATA (continued)

9.2 Factors Related to Child Support Awards

To more fully explore child support award amounts and their relationship to other factors, a series of secondary analyses were undertaken. Given that sole custody cases represent those in which the most straightforward application of the Child Support Guidelines would be expected, only sole custody cases (n=12,079) are analyzed in this section unless otherwise noted.

Relationship between Child Support Awards and Table Amounts Recorded in Child Support Orders

One survey item asks for the Guidelines table amount for the paying parent. Data-capture clerks were instructed to include these amounts only if they were specified in the order or judgment or supporting documentation. A total of 7,138 sole custody cases had a response coded for both the child support award amount and the table amount for the paying parent. It should be emphasized that the table amounts used for these analyses are those entered by the data-capture clerks based on information contained in the file and not on the actual published table values. Table 9.4 presents the proportion of cases reporting actual award amounts less than the table amount, (27) equal to the table amount, and greater than the table amount for all cases and also separately by income level of the paying parent. Across all cases, on the actual child support award amount was most likely to be either equal to the table amount as coded by the data-capture clerks (65 percent) or greater than the table amount (29.6 percent). Only 5.4 percent of all cases reported an award amount that was lower than the table amount. For the most part, the analysis comparing award amounts with table amounts as coded by paying parent income was consistent with the pattern observed with all cases. However, as paying parent income increased, the percentage of cases in which the award amount was greater than the table amount also tended to increase. There was also a tendency for the proportion of awards less than the table amount to increase as income increased.

Table 9.4: Total Child Support Award Amount in Relation to "Table Amount"1 by Paying Parent Income in Sole Custody Cases
Income 2 Relationship of award to table amount 3
Award less than table Award equal to table Award greater than table
n % n % n %
$1-$14,999 (n=635) 21 3.3 439 69.1 175 27.6
$15,000-$29,999 (n=1,990) 83 4.2 1,293 65.0 614 30.9
$30,000-$44,999 (n=2,067) 120 5.8 1,312 63.5 635 30.7
$45,000-$59,999 (n=1,164) 69 5.9 765 65.7 330 28.4
$60,000-$74,999 (n=556) 43 7.7 349 62.8 164 29.5
$75,000-$149,999 (n=421) 26 6.2 249 59.1 146 34.7
$150,000 + (n=89) 11 12.4 49 55.1 29 32.6
All cases (n=7,139) 4 383 5.4 4,642 65.0 2,114 29.6
Paying Parent's Income and Child Support Award Amount

To investigate the relationship between the paying parent's income and monthly child support award amounts, a series of bivariate regression analyses was conducted(28). Figure 9.15 plots the resulting regression lines for sole custody cases including one, two or three children. Data were not analyzed separately for cases that included more than three children due to the low numbers of these cases. The pattern of findings was quite consistent across number of children, and indicated a steady increase in the amount of child support awards as income of the paying parent increased and the number of children increased. This pattern would be expected, given that the table values increase incrementally with payer income and number of children in the case. This pattern was statistically significant for one child [F (1,3538)=4997.3, p < .001], two children [F (1,3759)=5646.8, p < .001], and three children [F (1,1004)=2581.1, p < .001].

Figure 9.15: Regression Analysis of Monthly Child Support Awards by Paying Parent

[ Description of Figure 9.15 ]

Child Support Award Amounts and Legal Representation

The relationship between the paying parent's income and monthly child support award amounts was investigated by whether one or both parties had legal representation. Figure 9.16 presents the regression results for these analyses. The four regression lines representing "mother only represented," "father only represented," "both represented" and "neither represented" were essentially overlapping, indicating no significant differences in the relationship between paying parent's income and child support award amounts by whether one or both parties was represented. The relationship between monthly support amounts and paying parent incomes was statistically significant for "mother only represented" [F (1,1349)=1875.1, p < .001], "father only represented" [F (1,404)=637.6, p < .001], "both represented" [F (1,4787)=4486.0, p < .001] and "neither represented" [F (1,515)=881.2, p < .001].

Figure 9.16: Regression Analysis of Monthly Child Support Awards by Paying Parent Income in Sole Custody Cases by Legal Representation of Parents

[ Description of Figure 9.16 ]

Paying Parent's Income and Special or Extraordinary Expenses

A series of analyses was conducted to examine the relationship between the paying parent's income and the award of special or extraordinary expenses in sole custody cases. Figure 9.17 presents the number and percentage of cases for each income level that had special or extraordinary expenses awarded. There was a strong tendency for the proportion of cases with special or extraordinary expenses awarded to increase as income level increased. At the lowest income level, only 13.7 percent of cases had special expenses awarded; this increased to 45.7 percent in the middle income range ($45,000-59,999) and to 53.2 percent at the highest income level.

Figure 9.17: Percentage of Cases Having Special or Extraordinary Expenses Awarded, by Income of Paying Parent in Sole Custody Cases

[ Description of Figure 9.17 ]

Figure 9.18 presents the median amount per month of special or extraordinary expenses (for those cases with a non-zero amount specified) at each income level. There was a consistent increase in the amount of special expenses awarded with increasing income levels. The median special expense awarded at the lowest income level was $55 (mean=$78); this amount increased to $125 (mean=$167) at the middle income level ($45,000-59,999) and to $320 (mean=$433) at the highest income level.

Figure 9.18: Median Special or Extraordinary Expenses Awarded per Month by Paying Parent Income for Sole Custody Cases Where Dollar Value Started for Special Expenses

[ Description of Figure 9.18 ]

Child Support Award Amounts and Special or Extraordinary Expenses

A regression analysis was conducted to examine the relationship between the paying parent's income and the monthly child support award amount according to whether special or extraordinary expenses were awarded. It should be noted that the total child support amount should represent the base table amount plus any adjustments for the award of special or extraordinary expenses. In cases when special or extraordinary expenses were awarded but only a proportion was to be paid by the paying parent (and with no amount listed or only a lump sum or annual award for special expenses noted), the child support award amount likely does not include the special or extraordinary expenses. This means that the difference in award amounts observed between cases with special or extraordinary expenses and those not having these expenses will appear artificially lowered.

Figure 9.19 presents the results of the regression analysis. At lower income levels, total child support amounts awarded were slightly higher for cases in which special or extraordinary expenses were awarded than for cases not having these expenses. However, the total support amounts for cases having expenses and those for which they were not awarded were quite similar at higher income levels. The relationship between the paying parent's income and the total child support awards was statistically significant for cases in which special expenses were awarded [F (1,3226)=3083.2, p < .001] and for cases in which special expenses were not awarded [F (1,5074)=5567.5, p < .001]. Follow-up analyses indicated that for paying parent incomes of $106,700 and above, there were no significant differences in the monthly support amounts whether or not special or extraordinary expenses were awarded.

Figure 9.19: Regression Analysis of Monthly Child Support Awards by Paying Parent Income in Sole Custody Cases by Whether Special Expenses were Awarded

[ Description of Figure 9.19 ]

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