The Costs of Raising Children: Toward a Theory of Financial Obligations Between Co-Parents

Ayelet Blecher-Prigat


This Article sets out to initiate the development of a theory about the financial obligations that joint parenthood imposes. It considers what joint parents owe one another, separate and apart from any obligation they may or may not have as former spouses or partners. The Article suggests that parenthood is not merely a vertical relationship between an adult parent and a child, but also a horizontal relationship between adults who share it. It is further suggested that the relationship created by joint parenthood should be a significant factor in defining adult family relationships and their legal implications. This proposal intends to contribute to promoting caregiving as a value, in law in general and in family law in particular.
This Article focuses on the financial obligations joint parenthood imposes, based on the premise that caring for children and the costs of such care are the joint responsibility of a child’s parents. Childrearing costs as defined in this article refer not only to the actual money spent on providing children with food, healthcare, education, clothing, and the like, but also, and even primarily, to the personal costs that parenthood exacts from parents in terms of the impairment of earning capacity or career progress, and the loss of leisure time. The Article suggests that when co-parents do not share a relationship, either because they have separated or because they never had one, there are good reasons to be concerned about the way the costs of raising children are allocated between them. The Article addresses the failure of existing legal frameworks of property division, alimony, and child support to adequately deal with the concerns over the allocation of childrearing costs between parents, and calls for a new legal framework to be defined to address this issue.

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