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Child Support Guidelines Debate Rages on
While Fathers Pay Huge Sums For the Privilege of Having Their Children Taken Away

Saturday, June 15, 2005


Guidelines should look beyond myths
Because Legislature put adults' interests first, commission should make children a priority

Published on: 06/26/05
Two perceptions led to the Legislature's vote this year to change the way child support is calculated in Georgia — the current formula is unfair, and non-custodial parents pay too much.
No one in the Legislature was bothered by the absence of data supporting either contention. The push to rewrite Georgia's child support guidelines succeeded because the political opportunity existed even if the economic evidence did not.

This is an opinion piece, by the Atlantic Journal Constitution. I thought I would add my commentary.


Guidelines should look beyond myths

Because Legislature put adults' interests first, commission should make children a priority (Rinaldo's Notes: Ah yes, the old argument prevails that when mom gets more money, it is all about the children. I may be wrong, but I do not believe there is a state in the union that requires child support actually to be spent on the children. Most payments of child support are used to pay regular household expenses that accrue regardless of whether one has a child.)

Published on: 06/26/05

Two perceptions led to the Legislature's vote this year to change the way child support is calculated in Georgia — the current formula is unfair, and non-custodial parents pay too much.

No one in the Legislature was bothered by the absence of data supporting either contention. (Rinaldo's Notes: Ahhhh, data. You see, the cost of children is so perplexing, we need 10 more "studies"
to see what children really cost. Apparently, what food cost, what clothes cost, the cost of an additional room if you rent an apartment [most houses have more than 1 room so there is no real additional cost for home owners is not within the ken of average folks. Hey, let's have a Los Alamo type of project to figure out the real cost of children. Or maybe we can talk to extremist feminist groups. Do you know children really cost $600 per week, per child, above and beyond normal household expenses that would have accrued anyhow? Take it from these "studies.")

The push to rewrite Georgia's child support guidelines succeeded because the political opportunity existed even if the economic evidence did not. (Rinaldo's Notes: The "economic evidence." Hmmmm.
Is grass really "green."? Let's have a study. Don't like policy.
Rather than say something substantive, just say it was not studied enough, even things well within the ken of the average person.)

Overturning Georgia's child support guidelines was always a goal of state Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), a divorced father who sprang from the legislative backbench under Democratic reign to a quarterback role with the GOP. Using his new clout in the General Assembly, Ehrhart immediately gave fathers' groups the legislative remedy they believe will lower their support orders.

(Rinaldo's Notes: Maybe they can custody laws changed. Funny, if father's won custody all the time as they did in the 19th Century and THEY received child support, why do I suspect this same journal would be writing about the cruelty of the system, forcing mothers to pay for children taken from them against their will with sums of money that do no correspond to the actual incremental cost of having

Now, the 15-member Georgia Child Support Guidelines Commission appointed to create a realistic economic portrait of child-rearing costs must do the important work legislators refused to do — separate the reality from the myths. (Rinaldo's Notes: Hey, this is brilliant logic. Create a committee to study something, and then have a paper criticize that was no study done before the creation of a committee to study it. Hey, maybe if did that study, we can say that there was a problem because there was not study of the pre-study. And if they did that, they would complain that there was no pre-study, of the pre- study, of the study to be done by the child support commission. You really are on a roll Atlantic Journal Constitution.)

It won't be easy. Lobbyists for lower awards convinced lawmakers that Georgia's current method of calculating support based on a percentage of the father's income was inherently unjust and led to higher-than-necessary levels of support. What was more equitable, they said, was an income shares model, which looks at the earnings of both the father and the mother.

But experts say it's not the formula that matters; it's the numbers that are plugged in that determine the amount of child support. "It's like fighting over whether to measure the distance from Atlanta and Athens in meters or miles," says Arizona State University law professor Ira Ellman, the primary drafter of the American Law Institute's Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution. "If you start from the same economic assumptions, you'll get the mathematical equivalent with both percentage of income and income shares."

(Rinaldo's notes: There is SOME truth to this. Here in Massachusetts, whenever the mother makes less than 40k per year, certainly less than 25K per year, the guy really gets raked over the coals. The lack of truth is that when mom is rich, poor fathers should still pay the same amount. After all, in 90% of all cases, the child was forcibly taken from the father. These are not dads that just took off or would not take in the children in and raise them.)

In studies of the percentage-of-income model, custodial parents were shown to support their children with their incomes in the same proportion that the non-custodial parents did; their contribution just wasn't spelled out in the court award. (RINALDO'S NOTES: You don't need "studies" to confirm what you can get by using a formula, but hey, these guys don't sound too science savvy. At any rate, clearly in situations when the mother's income goes way up, child support goes way down when both incomes are considered. It is not a matter of a "study," its a matter of pulling out a calculator and seeing for yourself. One problem: mom moves in with rich guy, his income is not used.)

As the scholar who pioneered the percentage of income approach, Columbia University professor Irwin Garfinkel understands why Georgia fathers now perceive the model as unfair. "There is something intuitively wrong about only counting his income and not her income,"
says Garfinkel, "but my argument was that the mother is contributing and sharing her income with the kids and that happens automatically.
(Rinaldo's note: Really? This happens "automatically." Now this DOES require a study. Maybe not. Unless Jr. is getting a brand new motorcycle ever week, rest be assured that the $300 per week is going to regular household expenses that will occur regardless of the presence of children.) But what happened was that in some cases she earns more than he does, and everyone says that's awful and that's what killed percentage-of-income." {Rinaldo's Note: Yes, that is awful. The concept that mothers who forcibly took a child from a father in court should have to pay her share of raising the child.
Love this logic.}

Another myth that held sway during the child support debate was that the support awards impoverished fathers and enriched mothers. But every credible study has found the reverse. {Rinaldo's Notes: Now I am really laughing my ass off. First, staggering child support does not impoverish fathers, and hey, they have "credible studies" to prove it. You see, when you have to pay $150, $300, or $450 a week, it does not lead to "impoverishment." I'll be honest with you. I don't think that I have met a father in my life that paid child support that didn't have a huge burden placed on their financial situation--that's ALL of them, save for true blue multi-millionaires.
Impoverishment is common. But the "reverse" is true? Women get "poorer" when child support goes up?)

In his widely cited research, Garfinkel found that after child support is subtracted from the non-custodial father's income and added to the mother's and child's income, the standard of living of the dad is still about twice that of the mothers and children.
(Rinaldo's Notes: First, as to nearly everyone I have met, I know very few people that had an increased standard of living after a divorce. Remember, the more you make, the more they take. I suppose it might be POSSIBLE [certainly not the usual or even COMMON case] for the father to have a higher standard of living, but hey, mom, if your standard of living is way below his after winning the house and getting 40% of his AFTER TAX income, get yourself off your duff.]

It's critical that the child support commission disregard the political fictions, a near-impossible task since Gov. Sonny Perdue loaded the commission with political appointees; he even named Ehrhart as its chairman. [Oh gees--like these women's groups--groups who, by the way DO NOT represent the views of most women--don't have a stranglehold on the legislature.]

"If a commission is set up by virtue of an act by someone who's already decided that the guidelines are too high or too low, that's a problem for Georgia," says Ellman. "It's hard to imagine how they know that because they don't have good information yet upon which to make the judgment." {Rinaldo's Notes: Ahhhhh, when you have people really concerned about inequities--what a problem.}

That's exactly what the commission has to obtain from credible economists — good information that's not politically tainted by father's rights advocates who believe that child support should be set at a subsistent or basic level. {Rinaldo's Notes: First, economist and psychologist are NOT real scientist and you can get any two of them to disagree on just about anything. Second, what a child cost is as knowable without a study as the going rate for a gallon of milk. You just need commonsense, eminently lacking in this opinion piece. Do we really need a blue-ribbon panel to figure out the kids don't really cost $600 per week to raise?}

"What scares me about the commission is that the stated political intent is to serve the needs of the payor and not the child, and I have never seen lay members of any commission outvote political leaders with an agenda," says state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D- Decatur), the General Assembly's most knowledgeable member on child support and family law. Because she opposed the changes to the guidelines as a threat to child welfare, Oliver was not put on the commission. {Rinaldo's Notes: Hmmmm. Mary, since you are so concerned about children--and we will take your word for that since we would NEVER DREAM that you were just trying to get more buckaroo's for women, why not have women account for their payments so that the money is really going for the children? I know--you already filed the bill but it just got lost in committee. Using children as a political tactic to attack the other parent has all the class of speech written by a Nazi propagandist.}

Child support has two basic purposes — to protect child well-being and to spread the support burden fairly between both parents.
{Rinaldo's Notes: Interesting, and this can be determined without taking in the mother's income? Or, as in Massachusetts, ignoring the first $20K of the mother's income, thus putting the entire onus of the cost of the child, and then some, on the father?}

"Those two goals can conflict," cautions Ellman. "You cannot design a system without a value judgment and whatever value judgment is being made should be as transparent and open as possible."

The child support commission has to make a value judgment in favor of children. The politicians have already made one in favor of adults.

{Rinaldo's Notes: Remember that clarion call from these women's groups that actually don't represent the views of most women.
Father's want rights; mothers want what is best for the children. In reality, most father's actually are concerned with their children, and most women that champion the current system—which is probably about 6% -- 10% of the population given recent poll results—really want more money. Its like welfare—just keep saying its about the children, and hopefully you will get enough people to say its not about women trying to live off of their uterus systems. These people don't care about children—they care about almighty dollar. If they really cared, they would adopt shared parenting—which is REAL child support. As Ghandi said, "First they ignore you, then the laugh at you, then they argue with you, then you win. We are in the argument stage.}

This newsletter is put together by Attorney Rinaldo Del Gallo, spokesman of the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition, who practices in family law. He may be reached at 413-443-3150 for those needing legal help or support. The Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition meets the first and third Wednesdays at the Berkshire Medical Center (BMC), 710 North St., Pittsfield, MA.