Fathers and Families Introduces 5 Family Law Bills in Massachusetts

Wyoming Seeks to Lower Child Support for Low Income, While Seeking to Suspend More Drivers’ Licenses

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Fathers and Families Introduces 5 Family Law Bills in Massachusetts

Wyoming Seeks to Lower Child Support for Low Income, While Seeking to Suspend More Drivers’ Licenses
January 24, 2013
Top Story
Fathers and Families Introduces 5 Family Law Bills in Massachusetts
By Rita Fuerst Adams, National Executive Director,
Fathers and Families

Colleen Garry
Colleen Garry
Fathers and Families has just introduced five family law bills in the 2013 Massachusetts session. Representative Colleen Garry, D-Dracut, worked with Fathers and Families to submit legislation on presumption of shared parenting, military child custody, removals, parental involvement with childcare, and establishing paternity.

Representative Colleen M. Garry (D-Dracut) is currently serving her eighth term as State Representative for the 36th Middlesex District, representing the citizens in the towns of Dracut and Tyngsborough. A lifelong resident of Dracut, she is a member of the Board of Governors of Saints Memorial Medical Center and the Board of Directors of the Greater Lowell Boys and Girls Club.

According to Representative Gary, ”As far as I am concerned, the most important people in a child’s life is their mother and father. A child should have as much access to them as possible as long as there is no abuse or detrimental effect on the child. Shared parenting is key in maintaining the connection to children by both of their parents.”

Presumption of Shared Parenting, HD1420
Fathers and Families seeks to make the presumption of shared parenting – joint legal and physical custody – the norm. If the courts decide to award sole custody, it must be accompanied by written findings.

This is our lead legislation that we are seeking in Massachusetts and a few new affiliates. A rapidly growing number of children, nearly 30%, are being raised in split households, where the mother and father no longer live together. The majority of these children, 86%, live with their mothers.

The Center for Disease Control, the Department of Justice, and the Bureau of the Census report: the 30% of children who live apart from their fathers will account for 63% of teen suicides, 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions, 71% of high-school dropouts, 75% of children in chemical-abuse centers, 85% of rapists, 85% of youths in prison, 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders, and 90% of homeless and runaway children.

Military Child Custody, HD2495
Fathers and Families seeks to protect our military from changes in their child custody arrangements while deployed. Thirty-seven states now have legislation protection for service men and women and their children. Much of this has been due to Fathers and Families lobbying.

Removals, HD2349
Fathers and Families seeks to allow move aways only as the Court finds the removal results in a direct benefit to the child and that it outweighs any detriment to the child resulting from a loss of regular parenting from the non-custodial parent. Currently, it appears, the courts inappropriately identify the best interest of the child with that of the custodial parent. Doing this may deny the child one loving parent.

Increasing Parental Involvement with Child Care, HD1400
Fathers and Families seeks to make the non-custodial parent the first option when a custodial parent requests childcare services.

Establishing Paternity, HD2357
Fathers and Families seeks to encourage genetic marker testing for putative fathers. This legislation requires genetic testing before the father signs a paternity acknowledgement form; allows the father to waive only if represented by legal counsel; and allows him to challenge the legal paternity for up to five years by use of genetic marker testing.

While Fathers and Families continues to look to the Governor’s Working Group on Child Centered Family Law for progress on family law, we believe we must also work all options. Thus, the Massachusetts Executive Committee decided to introduce legislation to continue the work on family law and shared parenting. Doing this provides us the opportunity to continue to educate our legislators, and perhaps, to pass some meaningful changes while we wait for the Governor’s Working Group.

As part of this work, Fathers and Families is seeking co-sponsors. If you have a relationship with your Massachusetts Senator or Representative, please contact Rita Fuerst Adams, National Executive Director, to ask them to sponsor one or all of our proposed legislation. Legislators must co-sponsor by February 1st.

Wyoming Seeks to Lower Child Support for Low Income, While Seeking to Suspend More Drivers’ Licenses
By Rita Fuerst Adams, National Executive Director, Fathers and Families

Wyoming has introduced two pieces of legislation dealing with child support for the 2013 session. The state House Judicial Committee passed a bill, HB20, which would reduce child support payments for low-income parents in Wyoming. At the same time, Senator Wayne Johnson, R-Cheyenne, introduced legislation, SF58, which would lower the threshold for parents in arrears of child support payments to lose their driver’s licenses.

Wyoming Department of Family Services is recommending the reduction in child support payments for low-income parents. “All the enforcement methods in the world won’t help if the person doesn’t have the money,” said Brenda Lyttle, Child Support Enforcement Director with the Wyoming Department of Family Services.

Parents who fail to make payments can have their driver’s license suspended, liens placed on their bank accounts, or face jail time. According to Lyttle, the penalties seldom lead to payments.

“What we’re seeing nationwide in the child support enforcement program is that lower-income fathers are getting orders that they cannot pay because they’re too high,” Lyttle said. “Instead of paying some, they’re paying none. And they’re hiding from us.”

While this sounds great, at the same time, the Wyoming Department of Family Services is supporting legislation that lowers the threshold for such penalties.

HB20 says that the cost of raising a child dropped from 36 percent of income to 32 percent of expenditures for low-income families. The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services worked with economist Jane Venohr to assess a new payment rate based on the monthly amount families spend on children. The rate takes into consideration costs of food, clothing, medicine and expenses like dance lessons for families with higher incomes.

Families with larger incomes will not be subject to the lower rates. Parents with higher incomes will be obliged to pay more in child support.

As far as SF58, the original law governing driver’s license suspension was adopted in 2009. It is triggered when a parent is $5,000 in arrears and hasn't made a payment in 60 days. The new bill, Senate File 58, lowers the dollar threshold to include a parent who is $2,500 in arrears and hasn't made a full monthly payment in 90 days.

Of courses, this is in the opposite direction of other states, like Ohio, that have determined taking licenses that help keep a parent employed are counter-productive.
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Members have contacted Fathers and Families asking how to make gifts directly from their brokerage accounts. If you wish to make your end of the year gift with securities, you may use this form to transfer securities directly to Fathers and Families brokerage account, or you may contact Rita for assistance at 617.542.9300 ext. 3, or email.

Fathers and Families is a Shared Parenting Organization
Fathers and Families is a non-profit organization that is educating the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents and extended families. If you would like to get involved in our organization, you can do so several ways. First, we would love to have you as an official member of the Fathers and Families team. Second, Fathers and Families is an organization that believes in the importance of using social media as a means to spread the word about shared parenting and other topics, and you can visit us on our Facebook Page to learn more about our efforts. Last, we hope you will share this newsletter with other families using the many social networking sites so that we can bring about greater awareness of shared parenting. Thank you for your support.

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.

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

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"Children deserve both parents. National Parents Organization is committed to making this common-sense concept the norm in the United States. When we succeed, children will no longer be victims of a system that fosters conflict between parents and traumatizes children in the process. No one should have to endure the experiences that I had as a child, or what my daughter has been experiencing for most of her life."

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