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Friday September 30, 2005

Summary comments:

It is not clear that these hearings are taken very seriously but we will see what results.  Only major changes would be acceptable. It is clear the guidelines are about double what they should be once you are over $50,000 in total household income.  This review process is federally mandated each four years, but according to the people running them have absolutely no budget, are rushed and in fact they recognize there are a great many known serious problems without them being addressed for years.

I testified in Worcester about the great disparity caused by the current child support guidelines (see letter and financial analysis). I detailed a scenario where an average family with the father earning $40,000 and mother earning $20,000 would have a mother living at an 81% higher standard of living (based on take-home pay) than the father due to the many hidden tax benefits, income disregard and other factors.  I testified that any father earning less than $60,000 would not be able to afford a very basic one bedroom apartment and bare necessities. So the bulk of people fathers under these guidelines are living in or near poverty. The judges are breaking the laws they are suppose to enforce every day by going outside the guideline (higher of course so they feel like heroes) without the legally required finding of facts.   The judges are imputing income that does not exist and therefore breaking federal law that limits the amount of garnished earning to 60% of take-home pay (single father - 50% for father with second family). The judges are basically out of control and doing whatever they want and legislating from the bench and breaking their oaths of office.

I was not allowed to testify a second time in Boston (see text), as they ran out of time with all the people there. I would have detailed the scenario, that is now epidemic,  where a father earning $50,000 would be forced to live on $357 per month after court orders him to continue to pay for the home he was thrown out of (usually without good reason or due process under the theory that the word "fear" can strip a man of his constitutional rights to his children, income and property) AND also pay 26% of his GROSS pay (before taxes, therefore about 39% of net pay) for child support. How many people can live of about $10/day and 13% of their previous income? This system is manufacturing criminals because under this you are forced to work under the table, leave the state/country or just give up and commit suicide. You are instantly made a slave to your soon to be ex-wife where she gets everything from day one without you even being able to say a word in court. And once these restraining orders are granted most judges do not want to remove them. They can even be granted for "life".


Financial Situation of an Average Father Removed From Home By Restraining Order

Year Month % of Take-Home
Gross Salary:  $     50,000  $     4,167 143%
Take-home pay:  $     35,000  $     2,917 100%
Home related costs (50% PITI + utilities):  $     17,500  $     1,458 50%
Child Support (at 26%of gross for 2 children):  $     13,000  $     1,083 37%
Remaining income for Father to live on:  $       4,500  $        375 13%

 These guidelines are the highest in the nation (by percentage which takes cost of living into account already) and are about double the amount in many states. There is no correlation to the INCREMENTAL cost of raising a child or foundation for them report. There is no accountability for the spending of the fund and so effectively this a an ex-wives welfare system, not a child support system.

The family court system is morally and ethically bankrupt and is destroying fathers for the benefit of mothers every day. Their "excuse" is that this in in the "best interest of the children". BULLSHIT and they know this is not true. Taking away a father, destroying him financially, making him a visitor is not in any child's best interest. Do they have no common sense? Why do they do this? It is INSANE!


* I was able to attend the last child support hearing in Boston this past Tuesday--I will post my submitted comments later. Very well attended. That was the last hearing and there are no more. Kudos to Ned Holstein and Dan Hogan of Fathers and Families for getting so may out there. Saw Dan Grubbs and Isaac Saiss among the crowd. One major problem--the child support guidelines committee is not adequately funded and is sort of being thrown together. Most of the people spoke on behalf of fathers, and those in support of increasing child support came from government funded groups.

Major complaints Heard in Testimony: 

1. The 20,000 disregard in the formula of the mothers income. Right now child support follows a formula based on the income of both parents. The first $20,000 of the mothers income is disregarded.

2. The sheer amounts of the awards--far in excess of the true incremental cost of having children--i.e.., the true amount of ADDITIONAL COST BUT FOR having the child. Right now child support is used to pay bills such as the mortgage or phone bill or heat bill which are cost that would have to be born regardless whether one has a child. Also, many fathers testified how they were impoverished and also how they could not provide for the children they had the kids.

3. No accountability--the mother uses the money as she wishes without itemizing how they should be spent on child. Many fathers reported having to buy clothes.

4. Complaints about terms such as "visitation" instead of "parenting time" as if the father was just a visitor.

5. Courts are unfairly making up a salary of a father and using them in the child support formula ("imputed" or "attributed" income) while at the same time almost never attributing income to the mother, many of whom only work 20 hours per week. Imputed income needs to be either eliminated altogether or modified so it is clear that reductions in salary that are not related to avoiding the support obligation are not used as a basis to impute income.

6. There were complaints that the child support guidelines have not underlying rationale in terms of economic data or reasoning (what exactly should the father help pay? for example) but appear to be randomly generated.

COMPLAINT: Time to speak of 3 minutes is WAY too short. The meeting went from 4 pm to 5:40. By way of example, the matrimonial commission in New York had a panel of 13, who met for entire day.
Time for each speaker was ten minutes--speakers were scheduled in advance. This panel only had two judges.

The Child Support Guideline Reviews are mandated by Federal Law in exchange for federal dollars.

Under our constitution, family law matters are supposed to be left as a state concern.

Above reported 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.


Sent: Tue, 13 Sep 2005 13:35:10 -0400
Subject: Improved analysis presented yesterday in Worcester

September 13th 2006
Dear Judge DiGangi and Carey,
I think we all appreciated your patience and time yesterday for the federally required review of CS standards. I have attached and pasted below a corrected and improved version of the handout I gave you.
The mother's taxable equivalent income was not shown as high enough due to an error in the calculation formula.
The reasons to reduce the child support guidelines are very clear. We are harming children and destroying the lives of their fathers too with this system.
To summarize the best reasons I heard the guidelines are too high because:
1. Massachusetts is the highest in the U.S. as a percentage of income that already takes into account living costs due to higher salaries. Are 49 states wrong and Massachusetts right?
2. Three different benefits accrue to the mother only that are hidden and need to be included in any analysis as follows:
    a) Father pays all taxes (after tax dollars are worth 50% more than pre-tax dollars)
    b) Disregard of $20,000 creates incentive NOT to work
    c) Mother gets head of household tax status, when father is forced to earn far more money
I do not believe the people who created this guidelines understood this huge hidden impact, or looked at the father's position at all.
3. We are encouraging mothers not to work and fathers to work under the table.
4. We are not giving children enough time with their fathers for proper development and growth. Working mothers would facilitate more time with dad.
5. We are creating a welfare system, and showing children, how to live off the labor of someone else, not be independent and contribute to society
The result of the current system is that the standard of living of a mother is 81% higher than the father when the father earns double, and 41% higher when the father earns triple. This might make some sense when children are of pre-school age and the mother must stay home, but it make no sense at all after that timeframe is up.
This system manufactures "deadbeat dads", drives father out of the state and country and even to suicide (9.9 times that of mothers after divorce). The fact is this system is harmful to children as a result. Dad lives in a dump and is unable to spend quality time with the children to balance out the female side of childrearing.
We need to take the money motivation out of divorce. This polarizes parents and hurts children.
We need to have more time for fathers and shared parenting responsibilities, allowing the mother to earn more and set a good example for their children, not a "welfare" example.
We need to allow fathers to survive financially and save for retirement too.
Lawyers are the only ones who gain from the current system and this is at a huge cost to children.
It is an impossible and ridiculous goal to think that the standard of living of a family will not go down after divorce. Especially when mothers are encouraged NOT to work. This fundamental flaw in the expectation of this system is a root problem.
I understand that the legal services people only work with poor women, but child support is not a solution to poverty and high percentages for all do not help here. This just forces fathers away, underground and into under the table cash jobs, exacerbating the problem further and harming to children even more.
I encourage you to rethink this entire system. It is clear that the people that originally implemented it did not understand the repercussions on fathers and children that are now clear. Child support guidelines MUST be change downward in steps that phase out the disincentives that encourage capable mothers not to work and live off the indentured servitude of an ex-husband.
Fathers are banding together everywhere now to fight this system. Next year you will see many efforts to implement shared parenting, eliminate the abuse of restraining orders as an offensive weapon in divorce, a court watchers system and other initiatives. These are not symptoms of a successful system but a symptom of an oppressed class of people. Non-custodial parents are not treated just as second class citizens, but are often treated as criminals when they can not afford to live at a minimal level and pay the amounts ordered.
I trust more time and thought will go into this process this time than four years ago. The results are very clear when a close look is taken. The judicial system is encouraging divorce and making it a very desirable avenue for mothers. This is ripping the fabric of society apart and will hurt generations of children. The family courts need major reforms.
Sincerely, Robert A concerned father whose children have been kidnapped by the state
The relative standard of living of the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent caused by the current child support guidelines
is way too high. In fact it exceeds the actual cost of raising children when there should be an equal burden on the custodial parent.
  All other 49 states have a lower percentage of income than Massachusetts!          
Scenario Number: 1 2 3 4    
Mother's Income $20,000 $20,000 $20,000 $20,000 Large incentive NOT to earn (or disclose) more
Father's Income $40,000 $60,000 $80,000 $100,000    
Child Support Payments (26%) $10,400 $15,600 $20,800 $26,000    
Federal, State & FICA Taxes (32%) $12,800 $19,200 $25,600 $32,000 < --- ALL taxes paid by father
TOTAL PERCENTAGE OF FATHER'S INCOME: 58.0% 58.0% 58.0% 58.0%    
Take-home Pay of Father $16,800 $25,200 $33,600 $42,000    
Take-home Pay of Mother $30,400 $35,600 $40,800 $46,000    
Mother's Taxable Equivalent Income $45,600 $53,400 $61,200 $69,000 <== Multiplied by 1.5 to gross up for a 33% tax rate.
Standard of Living of Mother Higher By: 81.0% 41.3% 21.4% 9.5%    
When father earns: 2X 3X 4X 5X    
This does NOT even take into account potential alimony payments, college costs/savings or the fact that the NCP also has the children and those costs sometimes!
During the divorce process if the father is paying for the marital home, and is not living there total costs can easily exceed 100% of his income.
In this common scenario (40,000 restraining orders issued per year and it seems most without good cause) nothing is left for the father to live on! Literally $0 without savings or borrowing.
Minimal living costs in Massachusetts: Monthly          
Apartment rental $        1,000          
Auto, insurance, gas $          200          
Food $          400          
Clothing $            50          
Utilities" Heat, electric, phone $          140          
Other, Miscellaneous $          150          
Total Monthly: $       1,940 Father can only afford this minimal living costs when earning $60,000 per year, far above the average income.
Annual:  $      23,280 <== Father pays over 50% of all living costs of mother in most scenarios, not 50% of children's living costs.
The current "Child Support" Guidelines in Massachusetts are effectively a welfare system for mothers that
places the entire financial burden of children on fathers. Many fathers would prefer to have more time with their children and this has been proven to be better for the children now.
"Child Extortion" would be a better description of this system, as the children are kidnapped by the state and the father is
then threatened with jail if he does not pay outrageous amounts to the mother for this unconstitutional act in robbing the father of his FUNDAMENTAL constitutional right to be a parent.
We want to SUPPORT our children with more than just money.
Please take the MONEY motivation out of the divorce process with Shared Parenting and equal rights for BOTH mothers and fathers!
We are harming GENERATIONS of children with this horrible system.  Good intentions are failing to produce a system that helps children, and in fact is harming them.
Eliminate or phase out the $20,000 disregard completely as it is an incentive NOT to earn a living for the mother.
Phase down the percentage of child support to half the current amount once all children are of school age and require the mother to work at least part-time.
Increase the time fathers can spend with their children to help them grow in ways that mothers cannot, giving mom more time to earn a living and be fulfilled and independent.