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January 24, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

No one’s ever accused the New York Post of being sensible, but, even by those low standards, this article is exceptional (New York Post, 1/22/16).

The piece is entitled “NY Dad Tries to Get Out of Child Support with $150k Check.” Yes, according to the Post, the father, 24-year-old Avery G., tried to avoid paying to support his child by — wait for it — paying for his child, paying far more than he had to and paying in advance. The fiend! I say throw him in the slammer. What will deadbeat dads think of next?

Actually, there are several stories behind the facts of this case, but the Post missed the lot. That’s despite the fact that those stories are every bit as scandalous as any deadbeat dad. But the reporter, Julia Marsh, was too intent on blaming a dad for something — anything — that she failed to notice the obvious. So it goes.

An Ivy League Lothario’s bid to get out of child support by giving his baby mama a one-time $150,000 payment was spanked by a Manhattan judge Thursday.

The 2013 Dartmouth grad offered the woman the pile of cash to “irrevocably terminate [his] parental rights” — because he was mad she refused to get an abortion and didn’t want to support the kid until he was 18.

The man, identified in court papers only as Avery G., 24, actually convinced the woman to take the lottery-style reduced-sum payout — which would be a lot of money up front but less than she would get from taking a monthly support check.

But Family Court Judge Carol Goldstein put the kibosh on the plan, describing it as a rip-off for the young woman, identified as Hope B., and the child, identified as Paul B.

“It’s unlikely that the prepaid support would actually satisfy the father’s future support obligations,” Goldstein said.

Hmm. I think a bit of arithmetic is in order. Hope B. can invest the $150,000 already in hand and safely assume she’ll earn 5% per annum. Assuming she’ll use the same amount of money every year supporting their son, that would mean she’d earn an average of $3,750 per year in interest, dividends, etc. Over 18 years, that comes to $67,500 which, when added to the principle amount, comes to a total of $217, 500 or an average of over $12,000 per year. In other words, what Avery G. paid Hope B. was more than enough to support their child until he goes off to college. And more than she’ll receive under the deal she got from Judge Goldstein

Avery G. will pay $832 a month for support, which over the next 17 years would be nearly $170,000.

That of course brings us to the first story Marsh managed to miss. Goldstein is probably right that the $150,000 paid in advance wouldn’t be sufficient to “actually satisfy the father’s future support obligations,” even though it’s more (with interest) than she ordered. That’s because Goldstein is predicting that Hope B. will be back in the future demanding upward modifications in line with whatever upward modifications occur in Avery’s income.

Interestingly, Goldstein nowhere entertained the notion that the opposite may happen — that Avery G.’s income may drop, that he’ll lose his job, become disabled, be killed in an auto accident, be incarcerated, etc. In those events, Hope B. would have been smarter to take the $150,000 and walk. As with any investment, there’s risk regardless of what you do, but Goldstein didn’t notice. My guess is that she understands all too well how easy it is for a custodial parent to get an upward modification of child support and how difficult it is for a non-custodial parent to get a downward one.

That’s story No. 1 — “$217k + Mom’s Income Not Enough to Support One Child.”

Story No. 2 is that Avery G. thought Hope B. could “irrevocably terminate his parental rights” and obligations. She can’t. He could have paid her millions and it wouldn’t have altered his obligations one whit. She could have spent it all on champagne and cocaine, and gone to court the next day demanding child support. That he paid her at all is simply irrelevant to what he owes in child support. That’s because he paid it to her directly and states take little-to-no notice of that. Fathers do this all the time. They often pay cash on the side or buy items the child needs like food, diapers, clothing, school supplies, etc.

All of that is nice enough, but no one cares. Neither judges nor the state’s child support enforcement authority take no notice of those types of “in-kind” payments. They also ignore any payments made directly to the mother. No, the only thing they recognize as child support is money paid pursuant to a court order to the enforcement authority. Anything else is considered a gift from Dad to Mom. “Only Money Paid to State = Child Support.”

That brings us to Story No. 3. What exactly did Hope B. do with that $150,000? Did she return it to Avery G. in full? In part? Did he pay it to her at all? We don’t know, but again, as with the purchase of a teddy bear for the child, it’s all irrelevant to Avery G.’s child support obligation to Hope B. Indeed, Hope B. made a mistake — a big mistake. She should have taken the money and signed whatever bogus document Avery G. wanted. She then should have gone to court and demanded child support.

That would have been perfectly legal and Judge Goldstein would have issued the same order for the same amount as she did in the actual event. Goldstein may have frowned on Hope’s behavior, but wouldn’t have penalized her for doing what she did. That again would have been because what she did was entirely legal. The $150k would have been considered a gift, just like a teddy bear. “Mom Blows Chance at $150k ‘Gift’ Dad Thought was Child Support.”

And that brings us to our fourth and final story that Marsh missed. How much is enough to support a child? Under our child support system, that too is an irrelevant question, as can be readily understood from Avery and Hope’s situation. Unquestionably, $832 per month is more than enough to support one child. The $1,000 per month Avery effectively offered Hope is also more than enough. And of course whatever higher amounts Goldstein sees fit to award in the future will also be more than enough.

But the child support system cares not a bit about any of that. It only acknowledges what Avery earns and what Hope earns. If Hope earns zero and Avery earns $5 million per year, that’s what the court will consider in arriving at a figure for him to pay. The same would be true if he earns $5,000 per year.

We’re constantly told that “child support is for the child,” but it’s not. If it were, Avery G. wouldn’t be paying $832 per month for his child, or $1,000 or $5,000 or whatever. When non-custodial parents receive such windfall payments, we’re told they’re necessary to maintain the lifestyle to which the child has become accustomed. But Avery’s son is a newborn; he’s aware of no “lifestyle” he’s been leading.

And of course, as I’ve said so many times before, no state child support system requires a non-custodial parent to actually use the money for the child or to account for how it is used.

All that strongly suggests that what we call child support is actually support for the custodial parent. But like all the others, the Post’s Marsh missed that story. “Child Support for Parent, Not Child.”

Indeed, there’s a lot wrong with our child support system and the case of Hope B. vs. Avery G. suggests many of the problems. But the Post has one story — deadbeat dads — so it ignored all the important problems of which any reputable publication would inform its readers.

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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

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