NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

January 3, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Some articles say a little in a lot of words, but some, like this one, say a lot in a few (TMZ, 12/31/18).  Now, I doubt that the anonymous writer knows how much he/she’s actually communicating, but that doesn’t alter the fact that the piece is a small gold mine or information.  It weighs in at a bantam-weight 140 words, but those with eyes to see and ears to hear know it speaks volumes.

It’s about former NBA journeyman Matt Barnes who played with a number of different teams over his 14-year career, his ex-wife Gloria Govan and their twin sons Carter and Isaiah, aged 10.

Matt Barnes just got a massive reduction in how much he'll have to pay Gloria Govan in child support for their twin boys.
Barnes -- who was paying Govan $20,000 a month -- will now have to pay just $7,500 per month. 
So in this case, the term “child support” sufficient to raise two boys meant $20,000 per month.  Really.  On what planet does it require $20,000 per month to raise two children?  Not on this one, but, if the non-custodial parent makes enough money, on Planet Family Court, $20k per month isn’t an unusual figure.

And that of course is the point.  No one anywhere believes that it takes that much to raise kids and yet courts solemnly issue their orders for those amounts and more.  Should anyone take issue with those orders, the standard retort is “What’s the matter?  You got a problem supporting your kids?  Hey, you brought them into the world, you be responsible for them.”

That would be an acceptable point except that, according to state child welfare agencies it take about $650 - $700 per month to raise one child and of course somewhat more to raise two.  We know this because that’s about the amount states pay foster parents to care for children the state’s taken from their parents due to abuse or neglect.  We don’t believe that states would force foster parents to go in the hole to raise those abused and neglected kids, so we have to conclude that $650 - $700 per month is a reasonable sum.

Let’s say it would take $1300 per month to raise Barnes’s two kids.  So where did the balance - $18, 700 per month go?  Into Mom’s pocket, that’s where.  Now, the standard dodge is that the Barnes/Govan kids are used to an extravagant lifestyle because their dad was a highly-paid professional basketball player.  I’m sure they are.

Bu there are a couple of things wrong with that argument.  The first is the most obvious – by funding the kids’ “lifestyle” Barnes was also funding Govan’s.  I can’t guess at what the cost of the children’s extracurricular activities might be, but I can guarantee that special tutoring in math, a personal soccer coach and the like don’t cost $18,700 per month.  Whatever it takes to support the Carter and Isaiah, it’s not $20,000 per month.

And of course the latest court order renders the matter entirely unambiguous.  The judge lowered Barnes’s “child support” burden by a hefty 62.5%.  So who out there wants to make the case that, on, say, December 20, the kids required $20k to support them every month, but on December 30 they needed “only” $7,500?  Clearly, that makes no sense. 

Here’s what does: at no time before or after the modification of the child support order did it take $20,000 to support Carter and Isaiah.  Truth to tell, it doesn’t take $7,500 although the new order is at least a nod in the direction of sanity.  Each amount mostly constitutes Gloria Govan support, not child support.

The other reason the “we must maintain the children’s lifestyle” argument isn’t viable is that children are able – and need – to grasp the concept that, because Mommy and Daddy divorced, things are going to be different.  On one hand, children need protection from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune as much as possible, but on the other, they’re flexible; they can roll with the various punches life throws at them.

More importantly, we do them a grave disservice when our family courts send the message that, when Mom divorces the family’s primary source of income, things don’t change financially.  The notion that, in some way, Daddy doesn’t live with us anymore but we continue to live as if he did is simply not a good preparation for living in the real world.  A more beneficial message would be that change does occur in life and we must all be prepared for it as best we can be.  Change requires emotional adaptability and the more we allow our kids to experience the vicissitudes of everyday life, the better they’ll be able to do so as adults.

Needless to say, I’m not arguing for some Spartan upbringing for kids.  Again, there are things that can damage their psyches and from those they should be shielded to the extent we can.  But family courts disguising as protection of fragile children what’s in fact protecting Mom from working for a living isn’t the way to do so.

Then there’s this:
The reduction comes on the heels of Barnes getting awarded sole legal and physical custody of the twins last month ... and an 18-month restraining order against Govan.
Say what?  Barnes has sole legal and physical custody of the kids.  Indeed, this article informs us that Govan is entitled to see the kids just four hours per week, supervised by a professional (New York Daily News, 9/5/18).  That’s because she apparently “flew into a rage” back in September, weaponized her Cadillac Escalade and injured one of the boys.

So Barnes has an 18-month restraining order against her and sole legal and physical custody of the children.  Reasonable minds therefore ask “Why’s he paying her ‘child support?”  She never has the children in her care, so how can she possibly be out any money on their behalf?  The answer of course is that she spends nothing on them she doesn’t want to.

So why is Barnes required to pay her a penny?  Indeed, why isn’t she paying him?  After all, the standard excuse for child support is that both parents participated in bringing the child into the world and both should be responsible for little Andy or Jenny’s upkeep.  Fair enough, so the questions remain – why isn’t Govan contributing to Carter and Isaiah’s support?  And why is Barnes paying her?

There is but one explanation – child support is Mom support.  The facts support no other conclusion.

As I said, the writer packed a lot into those 140 words.

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