Tanya Gomez

Tanya Gomez

University of Rhode Island

Psychology


1998

Mentor: Dr. Walter L. Ellis, Assistant Professor of Social Work

Urban/Rural Differences in the Application of Child Support Guidelines

With approximately half of all first marriages ending in divorce, child support has recently become a popular issue. In an attempt to restructure existing laws concerning child support and ensure fair awards, Congress passed the Family Support Act of 1988. The Family Support Act of 1988 mandated states to use presumptive child support guidelines when setting child support levels. The objectives of this research study are twofold: 1) to ascertain whether or not the frequency in which child support guidelines are complied with or deviated from differ in an urban and rural courthouse in New Hampshire, and 2) to ascertain whether or not factors such as parents' socioeconomic characteristics, child custody decisions, and characteristics of the legal system have an influence on how these guidelines are applied.

In order to do so, divorce case data involving minor children were obtained from Superior Courts in the New Hampshire Counties of Strafford and Carroll. Urban Strafford County is located in the New England Metropolitan Area . Rural Carroll County consists of mainly small towns.

Chi-square test found no significant difference (X2=2.77, p=.24) in the frequency in which child support guidelines were either complied with or deviated from in Strafford and Carroll County Superior Courts. However, stepwise logistic regressions found factors influencing the way in which the guidelines were applied in these two courts to differ. In Strafford County, the guidelines were likely to be deviated from when fathers had high incomes (.02), fathers were awarded the marital home (.92), fathers were granted sole custody (.89), and parents were awarded joint custody (2.58). On the other hand, in Carroll County, the guidelines were likely to be deviated from in situations where fathers were self-employed (1.50) The guidelines were less likely to be deviated from when mothers were granted sole custody (-1.23). These findings suggest that in the more affluent urban county, factors associated with bargaining tended to dictate the way in which the guidelines were applied, whereas in the poorer rural county, factors related to economic need were likely to determine the manner in which the guidelines were used. It is concluded in this study that the guidelines appear to be applied appropriately in Stafford and Carroll County Superior Courts, and therefore, the guidelines are not in need of legislative reform.

 

1997

Mentor: Walter L. Ellis, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Social Work

Urban/Rural Differences in the Application of Child Support Guidelines

With approximately half of all first marriages ending in divorce, child support and child support enforcement have recently become popular issues. In an attempt to restructure existing laws concerning child support and ensure fair awards, Congress passed The Family Support Act of 1988. The Family Support Act of 1988 mandated states to use presumptive child support guidelines when setting child support levels. The purpose of this research project is to ascertain whether or not there are urban/rural differences in the application of child support guidelines.

In order to do so, divorce case data involving minor children was collected from two county courthouses in the state of New Hampshire; Carroll County, a rural area consisting of mainly small towns and Strafford County, an urban, metropolitan area. Being that the Northern part of New Hampshire is rural, it is considered one of the poorer economic clusters.

It is hypothesized, therefore, that there are more deviations from the guidelines in the rural county than in the urban one.

 

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