Frequently, a state’s case study is rather simplistic, essentially consisting of broad descriptive statistics that are not very useful for helping meet the intent of the case study (improving the guidelines and evaluating economic impact such as low-income situations). Broad statistics typically are merely how many of each state’s listed deviations occurred within the study. There often is no detailed analysis of patterns seen in deviation component data. But such analysis is needed to help determine if improvements in guidelines are needed to comply with federal requirements and intent for case studies.
Understanding the economic issues surrounding potential deviation factors is important can underlie key parts of case study analysis. Frequently, there are reasons to expect a deviation due to notable impact from certain deviations that make the presumptive award unjust or inappropriate. For example, if separated parents live a significant distance from each other, notable travel costs will occur for exercising parenting time. Each parent’s resident city or the distance in miles would be useful information for determining whether a travel deviation should occur frequently. Another example would be that child care tax credits are sizeable and can be claimed only by custodial parents. If there are day care expenses and custodial parent income is high enough to benefits from child care tax credits, then such a deviation should occur or be built into the presumptive formula.
The point is that case studies should have a broad picture of not just legal procedures for child support awards but of the economic context of potential deviation factors.
Rogers Economics has experience with child support award case studies and has applied knowledge of the economic context of deviation factors. Click here for a recent analysis of case study data from Georgia’s guideline review in 2014. Special attention is given to analysis of the impact of awards in low-income situations.
As an example of how moderate statistical analysis can show significant needs for guideline improvement, a revisit to Georgia’s 2014 showed a sharp contrast with state findings. Out of 235 cases, the state only noted that courts ordered a mere 3 deviations for the low-income deviation factors. The “revisit” to the case data by Rogers Economics used the federal poverty level as a benchmark of whether the child support payor had this amount of income for meeting basic living needs after paying child support. This simple statistical analysis used benchmarks equal (100%) of the poverty guideline and then 110% and then 120%.
Surprisingly, 23.5% of the sample had left over income below 100% of the poverty level, 39.1% below 110% of the poverty level, and 46.1% below 120% of the poverty level. Moderate statistical analysis had a sharply different conclusion than mere counting of the number of deviations.
Again, for the full report on the case data, click here.