Friday, September 21, 2012

Fathers and Families

Fathers and Families
Child Support Guidelines Make Fathers ATM Machines
When It Becomes About the Money,
the Children Always Lose

September 21, 2012
Top Story
Child Support Guidelines Make Fathers ATM
Erin Johnson
Erin Johnson

By Erin Johnson, Member, Massachusetts Executive Committee, Fathers and Families

The formula for the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines is excessive and flawed. I am a divorced mother of two daughters who mediated my child support with my ex-husband. We did it so that we had EQUAL income in order that we could provide EQUAL homes for our children. Why? Because it was the right and moral thing to do.

Massachusetts hides behind the premise that these guidelines are in the best interest of the children. The application of these guidelines does NOT follow its own principles, the main one being # 2 “to encourage joint parental responsibility for child support”. There’s nothing “joint” about these guidelines. If we had gone through the Child Support Guidelines, my children’s father would not have been able to provide a comfortable home for his children when they were with him and little money to entertain them. There is no way that my ex-husband and myself spend 30% of our income to support our children each year and my kids live pretty well.

This system treats fathers as no more than ATM machines, incapable of making financial decisions for their children. My ex-husband has his shortcomings, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good father, capable of making financial decisions for his kids. Fathers made competent decisions on behalf of their children before divorce, so why is it that the state deems men incompetent after divorce, empowering only the mothers? Deciding what to spend on our children should be EVERY parent’s right, not just mothers. The state of Massachusetts has taken away that parenting right from fathers by giving mothers complete financial control.

The moms are the heroes, which further alienates the kids from dad because all they know is that mom spends all the money on them and dad is always broke. That dad lives in a dump that they are embarrassed to visit and never has enough money to do things with them. They have no concept that the money that mom spends is coming from dad. The monetary gains that mothers achieve under these guidelines, coupled with free legal aid, encourage mothers to demand full custody in our court system. I am confident that there would be a significant decrease in this disturbing trend if the guidelines were adjusted to reflect fair child support amounts for each party.

Divorce is financially devastating, but the guideline’s principle # 1 “to minimize the economic impact on the child’s standard of living” is unrealistic. Financial upsets happen in MANY households, for various reasons, and families get through it just fine. Having to adjust a child’s standard of living is not a bad thing. It teaches them to appreciate what they have. Was my divorce financially devastating? Did we have to downgrade our lifestyles? You bet. And our kids were not damaged by it. Disappointed at times, yes, but not damaged. What’s more important to a child, Ugg boots and smartphones or a loving relationship with their father and mother? What will do more emotional damage to a child, having to move into a smaller home or having to witness the deterioration of their father’s pride and well-being, and having little time with their exhausted fathers because they have to work three jobs just to stay afloat?

Our girls are smart, strong, capable young ladies. Why? Because they see their mother working and taking responsibility. They see the financial contribution of BOTH parents, not just mine. They see their mother and father as EQUAL parents. As a working mother, I am insulted that the State allows mothers to bleed these fathers dry under the cop-out of doing what’s best for the children, with absolutely NO requirement that the money is actually being spent on the children.

The guideline’s ineffective modification language falls on deaf ears with our probate courts. If a married couple faces a job loss, the entire family must adjust to the financial impact. But in a divorced family, this state does everything in its power to push the burden only to the father. The “Attribution of Income” language fails to acknowledge the main driver when listing the “ relevant factors for the Court to consider, which is the “unemployment rate” in a troubled economy.

I have two master’s degrees and make a decent salary, but if I lost my job, I would not be able to replace my current income in this economy. I would be faced with a severe pay cut if I could even get another similar job. Why is it that the court system is quick to impute an “earning capacity” to the father, yet fails to impute the same for the mother of school aged children who is capable of working, yet chooses not to? These men did not sign up to be their spouse’s father too, but these unfair child support amounts are causing just that.

When my ex-husband lost his job of 30 years, we all tightened our belts. If I had gone through the Massachusetts court system, he would have been forced to continue paying the same child support amount because he would have been deemed “capable” of earning his former salary. Does this committee really believe that a 40-50 year old man, trying to find a similar paying job in a saturated job market, competing with college graduates that will take the job for much less, is “capable” of earning the same salary he accumulated over 30 years with one company? Does this committee really believe that a construction worker who loses his job in a market that has hundreds of unemployed workers sitting on the bench is “capable” of earning more? Does this committee really believe that the self-employed landscaper who lost half of his customers in this poor economy is capable of earning more?

Additionally, the guidelines inclusion of “pre-divorce” overtime earnings needs to be removed. The physical demands of overtime work cannot be sustained as fathers age, especially in the labor trades. This requirement borders on slavery. I myself would not be able to sustain the overtime hours that I worked in my younger years.

It is my hope that this committee takes an honest and “unbiased” look at this broken system and makes a real effort for real change to a system that is clearly not working.

When It Becomes About the Money, the Children Always Lose
Michael Robinson
Rita Fuerst Adams
By Rita Fuerst Adams, National Executive Director, Fathers and Families

Why should you care about Massachusetts reviewing its child support guidelines?

As many of you know, according to Federal law, every state must review its child support guidelines every four years. Fathers and Families wants to work with vocal volunteers to be the voice for shared parenting and gender equality at each state’s review.

This week, the Massachusetts Trial Court completed its open hearings. Fathers and Families members/activists voiced their opinions, told their stories, and spoke for their children and families. Together we are continuing to voice our opinions about the impact of the guidelines with our legislators and the Chief Justice. Change in Massachusetts, or any other state, may lead to change in your state.

Make your children winners no matter which state you live in. Fathers and Families wants to work with you and other committed volunteers when the child support guidelines are reviewed in your state. As we gain strength in Massachusetts, we are taking what we learn and using it to be successful in other states.

Do you know when the guidelines will be reviewed in your state? Contact us.
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Printer for Sale
A member recently donated a used, excellent condition Kyocera Taskalfa 550c color multifunction system with scanner, fax board, and saddle-stitch finisher. It prints, scans, copies, and faxes.

  • Print Speed: 55 pages per minute (black and color)
  • Resolution: 600 x 600 dpi (copy and print) / 8 Bit Color Depth
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More information, specs, and photos are available at Kyocera’s website.

Price is negotiable. The money we receive will go towards our work reforming family law. Pickup only from Manchester, NH. Please spread the word to anyone you know who may be interested. Contact Rita Fuerst Adams.

Fathers and Families improves the lives of children and strengthens society by protecting the child’s right to the love and care of both parents after separation or divorce. We seek better lives for children through family court reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers.

Fathers and Families’ vision is a society in which:
  • Children are happier and more successful because their loving bonds are protected after parental separation or divorce:

  • Children have a natural right to be nurtured and guided by both parents:

  • Society treats fathers and mothers as equally important to the wellbeing of their children:

  • Shared parenting after separation or divorce is the norm:

  • The courts arrange finances after separation or divorce so that both mothers and fathers can afford to house and care for their children and themselves: and

  • Our society understands and respects the essential role of fathers.

Core Principles
Our core principles are:
  • Shared Parenting: Shared parenting protects children’s best interests and the loving bonds children share with both parents after separation or divorce.

  • Parental Equality: Equality between genders has been extended to every corner of American society, with one huge exception: family courts and the related agencies.

  • Respect for Human and Property Rights: The Supreme Court of the United States has found that “the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children... is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.”

Fathers and Families
Fathers and Families
PO Box 270760
Boston, Massachusetts 02127-0760
(617) 542-9300

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