|Alimony Reform: F & F Helps Introduce SB 1482, Provisions Protect Alimony Obligors
Fathers and Families recognizes that sometimes alimony (and alimony increases) are appropriate, particularly when a parent, usually a mother, has had to make large career sacrifices to care for children. This is especially relevant if the children have school-related problems or other special needs. However, Fathers and Families is also concerned about the abuses experienced by spousal support obligors.
Some obligors assert that their exes are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, or are artificially lowering their earning capacity because they'd rather keep collecting alimony. SB 1482, a bill recently introduced by Senator Rod Wright (D-Los Angeles), helps solve this problem by allowing obligors to request vocational examinations for the recipients of alimony payments, and requiring judges to follow the examiner's estimate of the recipient's earning ability when calculating alimony.
Also, current law places no time limit on how long potential alimony recipients have to file for increases after their children reach the age of majority and child support ends. This can create many problems for alimony obligors, who can be hit with stiff increases well after their children have emancipated. SB 1482 solves this by placing a time limit on the obligee.
SB 415 (Harman), passed in 2007, added Section 4326 to the Family Code so that in a proceeding in which a spousal support order exists or in which the court has retained jurisdiction over a spousal support order, if a companion child support order is in effect, the termination of child support shall constitute a change of circumstances that may be the basis for a request for modification of spousal support. The bill had enormous support and sailed through the California legislature. The existing law created by SB 415 sunsets on January 1, 2011. SB 1482 extends this sunset for three years.
The Family Law Executive Committee of the California State Bar is the sponsor of the bill. Fathers and Families' legislative representative, Michael Robinson, helped draft the bill's protections for parents who pay alimony, and was also responsible for securing a sponsor for the bill.
If you are an alimony and/or child support obligor, we want to hear from you—please fill out our form here. To read our full SB 1482 Support Letter to Assemblymember Mike Feuer, Chair, Assembly Committee on the Judiciary, please click here.
Boston Globe Covers F & F's Shared Parenting Bill, Quotes Holstein, Brian Ayers
"I was very upset," said Brian Ayers, 30. "I thought, in this country, you wouldn't have to necessarily fight to spend time with your own child.''
That struggle, according to fathers' groups, is a product of a Massachusetts probate system that they say tilts physical custody of children to the mothers. As a result, they are championing a pending House bill that would begin each custody case with a presumption that fathers and mothers are entitled to equal amounts of time with their children.
"What we have right now is essentially a maternal veto'' over joint physical custody, said Ned Holstein, executive director of Fathers & Families, a national advocacy group based in Massachusetts. "We don't understand why mom should have a veto over what is in the best interests of children.''
Brian MacQuarrie's new story Fathers back bill on rights of parents, Say judges must consider joint physical custody (Boston Globe, 7/5/10) focuses on HB 1400, Fathers & Families' Shared Parenting Bill currently before the Massachusetts Joint Judiciary Committee. MacQuarrie details the problems faced by F & F supporter Brian Ayers, who wants to play a meaningful role in his little son's life but has been relegated to an every-other-weekend dad by the family court system.
We suggest that you thoughtfully and responsibly:
1) Write a Letter to the Editor of the Boston Globe by clicking [email protected] or using their online form here. The shorter the letter, the better chance it has of being published.
MacQuarrie writes that "organizations that deal with women's and children's issues say there is no such thing as a maternal veto." Nancy Scannell of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children says the process already prefers joint physical custody. Yet MacQuarrie also tells us:
2) Comment on the story on the Globe website by clicking here.
3) Commend reporter Brian MacQuarrie for bringing attention to this important issue—his email is [email protected].
[A] 1999 doctoral thesis by Joseph McNabb, the president of Laboure College in Dorchester, found that joint physical custody was awarded at Worcester Probate and Family Court only 8 percent of the time in 501 cases in 1993. Mothers obtained sole physical custody 83.2 percent of the time, and fathers received sole physical custody in 8.8 percent of the cases, according to the study.
If Massachusetts courts award joint physical custody less than 10% of the time and custody to the father less than 10% of the time, it seems pretty clear we do have a "maternal veto"—moms who want sole custody are very likely to get it, and dads who want joint physical custody rarely get it.
According to MacQuarrie, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children opposes the bill. This is terribly misguided. Abuse is less likely to occur when both parents are involved in the kids' lives, as opposed to when dad (or mom) is excluded. And since most child abuse and parental murder of children is committed by moms, not dads, there's no basis for claiming the sole custody to mom norm protects children from abuse.
The National Organization for Women, which has fought tooth and nail since 1980 to protect sole custody for moms, also opposes HB 1400.
James Edwards, a family-law attorney who represents the mother of Ayers's child, said the custody settlement signed by both parents is relatively generous in the parenting time granted to the father. Ayers cares for his son every other weekend and has other sleepovers and meals built into the agreement.
The primary role of mothers' attorneys in child custody cases is often to minimize the father's role in his children's lives, and this case is no exception. But the excuse put forward by the mother and her attorney is a common tactic–the child is very young, so he belongs with mom. This is nonsense—I was the primary caregiver for my baby daughter from the time she was 6-weeks old and nothing I've ever done in my life came as naturally to me. Dads are perfectly capable of caring for infants–all they need is the chance.
But to Ayers, who said he could not afford to go to trial to seek equal time with his son, such a right should be the norm unless evidence shows otherwise...
But in this case, Edwards said, the mother's argument for sole physical custody was aided by the child's status as a newborn, her occupation as a nurse, and third-shift work that enabled her to care for the baby during the day. Ayers, however, insisted he has been treated unfairly.
It's nice that the mother's third-shift work allows for her to be with the baby during the day, but since she apparently works full-time, it's hard to see why there isn't plenty of time when Ayers could provide primary care for the little boy, too. Ayers works two jobs because of the onerous child support he's charged with paying—under a more child-friendly system, Ayers's son would have more time with dad, and dad wouldn't be forced to work the second job.
Read the full article here.
F & F in the News
|F & F's Brasington Criticizes MA. 'Deadbeat Dad' Raids in New Newspaper Column
David Brasington, Board Secretary of Fathers and Families, has published a newspaper column, 'Deadbeat dad' raids unjust (7/1/10), in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Massachusetts' third-largest newspaper.
Brasington wrote the piece in response to Worcester County Sheriff Guy Glodis' recent announcement of what he called "the largest one day roundup of deadbeat dads in Worcester County history," as his deputies marked Father's Day by arresting 16 alleged offenders.
To join the debate on the piece in the comments section, click here. To write a Letter to the Editor of theTelegram & Gazette, a 100,000 circulation newspaper west of Boston, write to [email protected]. To read the paper's submission guidelines, click here.
In the column, Brasington writes:
The [child support] problem is particularly acute in Massachusetts. A published 2004 study by Arizona State University professors Sanford Braver and David Stockburger concluded that Massachusetts' guidelines for determining how much child support an obligor will pay were among the highest in the United States. Since then, the state's guidelines have actually been raised—in January, 2009, in the middle of the worst economy since the Great Depression.
To read the full column, click here.
Moreover, Massachusetts charges 18% interest on child support arrearages—the highest interest rate in the nation. Most "deadbeat dads" are poor, but there are many reasons why even educated middle-class or formerly middle-class fathers can fall behind on child support.
That most of Glodis' "deadbeats" are really dead broke is evident from looking at the "10 Most Wanted" child support evaders list put out by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, who worked closely with Glodis on the recent raids. The list is comprised of blue collar laborers who do low wage and often seasonal work. This is typical of the lists put out by many attorneys general and county sheriffs—the only surprise is that the Massachusetts DOR list actually does contain one educated professional.
F & F Member John Hribernick in Seattle Times: 'Every effort should be made to preserve the existing bonds between parent and child'
F & F Supporter Tells Cleveland Plain Dealer 'Regressive child support measures drive fathers to the margins of their children's lives'