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Letter To Anne Archer - Commission on Federally Mandated Child Support Review

Anne Archer,  wish I could have attended Thursday night's meeting and want to thank you for giving Fathers and Families this badly needed opportunity for input.  I was at the first meeting with your predecessor and the Boston hearing but I did not get to speak on this topic due to the lack of time.  I had my kids for an overnight yesterday and this is like gold given the little time I get with them now. Hopefully this letter will communication this message even more effectively.

  I have been a CEO of 5 different companies over the last 16 years and have lots of expertise in financial analysis and management.  So I do not say this without much professional expertise.  Frankly I am always further horrified with each trip into court. I have now studied the relevant law in some depth over the last year.  The lack of understanding of judges of the financial orders they make and their impact never ceases to amaze me. Lawyers say "judges are not numbers people" - But this is a gigantic understatement. 
I wanted to bring your attention to the very common scenario where restraining orders are involved (about 40,000 per year in Mass. now). Simply stated the result is that 90% of the dad's take-home pay is taken by standard operating procedure by court orders to continue to pay for both the house he was thrown out of and then child support on top of that!  We all know Massachusetts child support is 50% higher than most states and is the highest in the nation. It is at least as much welfare for ex-wives as it is child support.  This is really undeniable, as no one spends 40% of their take-home pay on their children. Not to mention that the mother should be sharing in this cost too.  Clearly this is wrong and needs to be fixed. However, a very common scenario actual makes this even much worse for MEN (almost exclusively)!

 the scenario you need to understand is when the father is ordered to pay 40% (after taxes) of his net income for Child Support (average with 2 kids for CS guidelines at 26%) and on top of that another 50% of net income (average bank ratio allowed for the mortgage PITI at 35% of gross) for housing payments for the mother and children during the divorce process. This scenario leaves someone with an average of a $50,000 income with $357/month net to live on for rent, food, car and everything else. Only a homeless person without a car to work can live on this in Massachusetts.

The first thing you need to understand is that today restraining orders are given out to virtually any woman (not man) that asks for them when no actual domestic violence has ever occurred. The judges have been doing this for over 10 years now I am told, since some news story where one woman was killed after an RO was lifted. Shall we continue to assume ALL men are batterers and murders because of this one incident? Of course, this is untrue, un-American, unconstitutional, unfair and contrary to the basic foundations of our legal system, which says we would rather let nine people go free rather than put one innocent man in jail. Yet with restraining orders we "convict" up to 95 people for each guilty 5.   The guilty ones will get caught again soon enough.  However, these ROs are given out even though they almost never meet the standard of case law set by the Mass. Appeals court. You can walk into nearly any district court, almost any morning and see these handed out in droves without any exploration of what actually happened, why protection is needed etc.  It takes 2-5 minutes and poor dad isn't even there.  As soon as a woman says the word "fear" (and attorneys and DV advocates coach women on this) the judge issues the restraining order. So the fact of the matter is that LAWYERS SAY between 50% and 95% of these restraining orders should never be issued. Judges are afraid and actually break their oath of office (I have read this) each time they issue an RO due to this outside media pressure.  Even if there was domestic violence, this is no reason to put someone under financial orders that are often impossible to follow, and hence also illegal. This is how to really manufacture criminals and that is exactly what this system does today.
Would you say the word "fear" to a judge if you got 1-2 years free rent for this? What if you also got many other advantages in your divorce like automatic child custody and the ability to throw dad in jail anytime you wanted with a complaint?  Most women would and do. I do not pretend to understand why as I do not think the legal system should be used as a bat against your loved ones, former or not.  Unfortunately this is becoming standard practice, and is even recommended by many unethical attorneys.  This completely unconstitutional 209a law is destroying men, children and families economically and emotionally.  Judges ignore the Mass. appeals court case law requiring "reasonable fear" and the "Serious imminent physical harm" requirements standard is the major problem in this mess. However, this is just a small piece of the broader lack of judicial accountability problem that drives these problems.  This scenario is definitely worth focusing on, not just because it happens many thousands of time per year, but because the case law and unconstitutional parts make this clearly illegal for judges to do. Yet I see 1 to 5 of these ROs issued every time I go to one court in just a couple of hours in one courthouse.  As soon as the woman says "fear" most judges basically issue the RO (unlawfully ignoring the case law).  In fact Massachusetts issues about 35 times more ROs per capita than in the state of Virginia - 1,500 versus about 40,000 with less population in Mass. - They must actually respect people's constitutional rights down there.
Worse, of course, these restraining orders hardly ever cut the other way for women. There is a research study proving this is an entirely sexist thing from the Gardner court.  Imputing income is also a sexist practice that judges do every day.  I know my judge is imputing income of 250% over my current income, and yet my wife is earning only about 1/3 of what she could with her daycare with both kids in school - no imputing income for her though. These sexist rulings have been increase for years now due to DV lobbying, radical feminist propaganda (I have personally heard some DV figures exaggerated not by 100%, but by 100 TIMES!! I would be happy to provide you with the real research in PDF files if you do not believe this.
I am convinced this unbridled combination of restraining orders and child support payments is one major reason people start going into the underground cash economy and lying about their income - they basically have no choice to survive. Few people can live on 10% of their previous income for the entire 12-24 month divorce cycle to play out. Could you live on 10% of your current take-home pay? Of course not.  This creates a bit of a spiral effect over time, as the judges see this happen and then assume everyone is lying and therefore compensate by INCREASING their orders further - and so on, and so on . . . What happens is honest people like me get the shaft due to the sins of others because judges apply stereotypes instead of actually judging. Personally, as you can probably tell, I think the judges are totally out of control and break the law more than the criminals. I have seen my judge break the law between 2 and 5 times every time I have gone to court in my case. I can't say if it is out of ignorance or arrogance, but does it really matter? Bureaucracies need to have checks and balances against individuals. Our forefathers designed juries for this purpose and this has been unconstitutionally removed from family court as an option. Anyone with a civil claim of $20,000 gets a jury trial in superior court, yet with our children at stake and 40% of our income for up to 23 years we get a single judge, with questionable qualifications.

So what does this mean for child support guidelines?

well these these housing payments are ordered support by judges and they should be directly credited to child support. Yes 100% deducted right off the top of the calculated CS figure.

if dad is already paying 50% of his income for all the home expenses, he should not be paying another 40% for child support on top of that. Who could possible think this is fair or reasonable? It is insane.

It places almost any man in an untenable situation, unable to live, unable to work, unable to even defend himself legally in the divorce. They must focus on survival. And how can they be fathers to their children when they are fighting for their own survival?  No wonder so many men are leaving the state and the country - they have little choice - jail or run.  Obviously this is also one major reason the suicide rate for men involved in divorce is 9.9X that of women.

It is hard to believe that anyone could find a 90% income garnishment reasonable, but this is done in two easy steps by judges every day as standard operating procedure!  In fact this practice is already totally illegal under federal law which limits wage garnishment to 60% of anyone's take-home pay and 50% if you have a second family.  It is also illegal, and the order is automatically void, under Mass GL 209 Section 32 if the person is not left with enough money to live on. Yet this is totally ignored by judges, and these oppressed fathers rarely know about it or can afford the time and money for an appeal in these circumstances. Worse yet lawyers refuse to contest this issue, as they are afraid to confront judges in any way, even when their clients are being illegally crushed!!
So what I am suggesting you do here is ACTUALLY ALREADY THE LAW both on state and federal levels BUT TOTALLY IGNORED BY JUDGES.  Judges who need far more oversight and training. This system has run amuck. A simple line placed on the CS guidelines worksheet for this deduction would partially solve this problem and force more judges to obey the law to some degree. Although the law also requires the court to fill these worksheets out, many do not. This also needs to be enforced.   My judge has never once fill this out, he just picks a round figure out of the air for speed and convenience of time. This is truly arrogance and indicative of a massive problem of a lack of any real judicial oversight.  I bet if you went through dockets in many court there would be no worksheets in them. Easy to test. 
This simple correction to the guidelines (to follow current law) would likely increase a person's ability to conform and give judges the message.  Also note that the Supreme court clearly says that impossible orders by judges are always illegal. However, this never stops judges from throwing people in jail for not conforming to these impossible financial order. I personally was under an order to pay about 300% of my income for combined child support and housing costs for over 11 months and was found in contempt illegally (still on appeal) for not being able to do the impossible.  This is just plain extortion and ignorance.  This is pure tyranny by definition. Therefore many of these court orders are actually unlawful in 3 different ways!!  If this correction was made compliance would go up. Fathers would not be criminalized for being under impossible orders, and there would also be more incentive to get the divorce over with, without all the onerous legal fees continuing for many extra months.  It is very clear lawyers love this very broken system because it drives their potential fees much higher.
ust having to spell this problem out for people is a little scary. How can this system not be aware of all these blatantly illegal actions. I would think that is not possible. If this is not the case then the entire system is actually corrupt by intentionally violating the laws as a matter of standard procedure. It seems few people have a broad enough perspective on this problem to understand this.  Very soon the many fathers groups now organizing will be bringing this to light and a scandal will result.  Everyone may understand only their own small piece of this problem but ignorance is no excuse for illegal activity.
I sincerely hope you understand and then communicate and address this problem. This system is very broken and it must be fixed one way or another.  As I said, these practices are already completely illegal, under several state and federal laws. A small amount of research will verify this.  I think you could solve part of this problem simply by incorporating this one line into the child support guidelines worksheet.
Thank you again for being open for input and for your time.
Sincerely, Robert - A concerned father whose children have been kidnapped by the state

Hi Anne, hope you are feeling better.
I attended the Fathers and Families gathering on Thursday, I was in line but didn't get a chance to speak because of time constraints.
Ned limited the discussion to the guidelines but I believe a big picture view is in order to get a better understanding of why your committee is very important.
Many divorces today are initiated by the women in the marriage somewhere around 80%, I believe that this is the case because of the "Holy Grail" known as Child Support.  The winner takes all mentality is killing the family today, in order to get the Holy Grail all a women has to do is follow a simple recipe which is commonplace in the state of Massachusetts.
The ingredients are 1 Restraining order = Advantage in the courtroom = custody of children = child support
If the Holy Grail was eliminated or reduced down, you would essentially be forcing couples to at least try to resolve their problems.  It use to be child support was meant to get a parent who left the family to help provide for the child but that is not what is happening today.  Today good fathers are being forced out by mothers who know they will get a guarantee income which can be spent any way they want.  No accountability at all, the custodial person may not even spend any of that support on the child, but if the non custodial person misses a payment they are brought into Probate Court like a criminal. Solution: Debit cards/pcards which allow record keeping of expenditures for the child
The Holy Grail Guidelines does have other problems which need to be resolved, one of which is the $20,000 disregard exclusion from the custodial parent's(mother's) income when calculating the Holy Grail.  The disregard was supposed to be for paying for rent, utilities for the custodial parents, but nowadays a non custodial parent needs to have almost the same facilities so why does the custodial parent get this disregard and not the non custodial parent.  Solution: This should be eliminated, currently the only other jurisdiction with it is Washington, DC and they are recommending eliminating it.
Emancipation of children in most states is 18 or when they finish high school but in  Massachusetts it either when a child finishes college or reaches 23.  Most judges will continue the support even if the child isn't going to school but may have a brochure from a college at their home, this is wrong.  Why is it social security doesn't pay for the surviving children of deceased parent past 18, or married couples aren't forced to pay for their children to go to college.  In Massachusetts non-custodial parents not only have to send their children to college which takes considerable amount of resources but they also have to pay for child support to the custodial parent when most likely the child is living at the college.  This is wrong. Solution: The guidelines should be 18 or until the child graduates from high school because it is too cost prohibitive for a non-custodial parent to pay for both college and child support (which would be probably used by the other parent to pay for the education or worse for their own personal use.).  Another point to be made is that the custodial parent may get financial aid and not disclose that to the other parent so the custodial parent is also paying less of share of the cost of college tuition. 
Another problem with the guidelines is it act as a disincentive to work harder, if a non custodial parent knows that as their pay increases the amount of child support will also increase why should they work harder to accomplish this, the rule and the courts do not easily reverse this if that same person loses their job or get a lower paid job.  Now the person falls behind in child support and is label a dead beat dad, meanwhile mom can sleep all day and nobody cares.  Solution: A New Hampshire committee recommends looking at what is costs to raise a child and that should be used with each parent paying 50% of that amount.
I honestly believe that by lowering child support in most cases make reduce the number of divorces, restraining orders and social problems are children are incurring today.
Wayne R. Jewett