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Fathers and Families

MA Supreme Judicial Court Rules Against
F & Fs Child Support Lawsuit
September 7, 2011
Top Stories
MA Supreme Judicial Court Rules Against F & F’s Child Support Lawsuit

Many Massachusetts child support obligors are being driven underground, out of their homes, and out of their children’s lives by impossible child support demands. Fathers and Families filed and pursued a highly-publicized lawsuit challenging the state’s new child support guidelines–guidelines which actually raise child support levels in a terrible economy. Our lawsuit made it all the way up to Massachusetts’ highest court, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled against us.

Our lawsuit has garnered extensive media coverage, including the recent pieces Dads’ group seeks child-support reform (Boston Herald, 9/2/11), SJC Upholds Child Support Guidelines (WBUR [NPR, Boston], 9/2/11), SJC rejects challenge to child support rules filed by fathers group (Boston Globe, 9/2/11), and Mass. high court upholds child support guidelines (Associated Press, 9/1/11), as well as previous pieces in the New York Times, Newsweek, Psychology Today, CBS radio, WRKO in Boston, FOX 25 TV in Boston, and many others.

The Battle to Reform One of the Nation’s Most Inequitable Child Support Guidelines

In 2001, Fathers and Families was instrumental in winning changes in Massachusetts law which lowered child support by 15%. Our victory saved noncustodial parents over $1 billion—$200 a million a year over five years. That’s $1 billion that non-custodial parents were able to spend on their children themselves.

The opposition struck back by stacking a special committee with reliable votes for increasing the child support amounts. Fathers and Families founder Ned Holstein, MD, MS had won a seat on this committee but it ignored the data he presented showing that the proposed new child support orders were far too high for most obligors to pay. Holstein prepared a Minority Report detailing the problems with the new Guidelines, which went into effect January 1, 2009.

What’s Wrong with the New Guidelines?

The new guidelines are causing substantial increases in child support in the vast majority of cases. Many obligors will see increases of “only” 20%, but some will see a tripling of their child support order, even when they are poor and the recipient is wealthy. In high income cases, the child support order for one child could exceed $50,000 per year.

How much money is legitimately needed to support a child? Far less than the new Guidelines require, in many cases. If a recipient and payor earn the same amount, when all factors are taken into consideration, the recipient will enjoy a standard of living almost double that of the payor. This holds true throughout the broad range of middle class incomes. Instead of the child-friendly “two-condo solution,” the new Guidelines produce a “castle and shack” outcome.

Working with attorney Gregory Hession of Springfield, F & F quickly filed a lawsuit seeking to block the Guidelines’ implementation. We argued, among other things, that the new guidelines were not formulated using the actual costs of raising a child, as required by federal law, and are thus “arbitrary and capricious.” Additionally, the state bypassed the normal legislative process by having a secret committee prepare them and a single judge declare them to be law, in violation of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. To read our original legal complaint, click here. To read the Memorandum of Law, click here.

MA Supreme Judicial Court Rules Against Us

The Court decided to hear our case but ruled against us, writing:

The plaintiffs will have an opportunity to raise their constitutional arguments when their cases are heard before the Probate and Family Court (or other trial court), and to pursue appellate remedies if they are dissatisfied with the outcomes of those cases.

Child support obligors struggling with excessive child support obligations in the worst economy since the Great Depression are hardly in a position to fund long, expensive legal battles as individuals. This is the reason why Fathers and Families’ Legal Defense Fund filed this case to begin with–we know individual obligors can’t afford to fund their own battles, so we’re working to change the guidelines for all obligors.

What Will Fathers and Families Do?

There are several ways Fathers and Families can fight this ruling, including taking a specific obligor’s child support case and appealing it, as well as legislative action.

What Can You Do?

As Dr. Holstein told the media last week, we’re not giving up this fight. We want you to:

  1. Become an F & F volunteer and/or citizen lobbyist to help promote our agenda in the Massachusetts legislature and beyond by filling out our form at www.FathersandFamilies.org/volunteer.
  2. Legal and political work costs money–help fund the group that fights for you by making a contribution at www.FathersandFamilies.org/give.
  3. Write a Letter to the Editor of the Boston Globe at [email protected] about SJC rejects challenge to child support rules filed by fathers group (9/2/11) and the Boston Herald at [email protected] about Dads’ group seeks child-support reform (9/2/11). Also, use the links in the second paragraph above to comment about the issue on the news outlets’ websites.
F & F of Ohio Meets with Senator Bacon on Our Legislative Proposals
F & F of Ohio members Terry Kee, Paul Lee, Matt Johnson, Tom Allen, Senator Kevin Bacon, and Donald Hubin, Ph.D., Chair of Ohio F & F's Executive Committee

Fathers and Families of Ohio members Terry Kee, Paul Lee, Matt Johnson, Tom Allen, and Donald Hubin, Ph.D. met with Ohio state Senator Kevin Bacon last week concerning several of F & F’s legislative projects. These include:

  1. Presumption of Shared Parenting during Temporary Orders
  2. Parenting Time Enforcement
  3. Disabled Parents Protection Bill
  4. Presumptive Child Support in Shared Parenting Cases
  5. Child Support Self-Support Reserve Correction

To learn more, click here.

Cincinnati LGBT Group Holds Fundraiser for Fathers and Families
L-R: out LOUD.s Logan Probst, F & Fs Rick Bell, Susan Takach and Paul Fisher, and out LOUD.s Ghiovanna Lora.
L-R: project outLOUD.’s Logan Probst, F & F’s Rick Bell, Susan Takach and Paul Fisher, and outLOUD.’s Ghiovanna Lora.

The Cincinnati-based LGBT nonprofit project OUTloud. held a fundraiser for Fathers and Families on August 27 as a way to thank us for our work publicizing the injustice suffered by lesbian social mother Michele Hobbs in her battle to remain a meaningful part of her daughter Lucy’s life.

We thank project OUTloud. event organizers Logan Probst and Ghiovanna Lora and the many other activists who helped make this event possible.

What's Happening
Ohio Membership Meetings to Be Held 9/12, 9/15, 9/19—We Want You There

Fathers and Families of Ohio is holding membership meetings throughout Ohio next week, and we want you there.

We’re lobbying for shared parenting and other family court reforms in Ohio, and publicizing the injustices faced by tens of thousands of Ohio noncustodial parents and their children. Find the meeting in your area by clicking here.

F & F’s Franklin Discusses Wyatt Adoption Case on Nationally-Syndicated Lars Larson Show

F & F's Holstein Criticizes MA SJC's Child Support Ruling on The Jeff Katz Show on AM WXKS 1200 in Boston

TV Star Jon Cryer Must Pay Child Support for Son in His Custody

Police Threaten Mom Who Let Daughter Ride Bike to School

Charges Dismissed Against Mom Victimized by CPS

Nebraska SC: Lesbian Social Mother Has Parental Rights to Child She Helped Raise

Michael Sanchez Gets Back His Abducted Daughter After Almost Four Years

Irish Dad Sues Hungary for Child Abduction - Wins!

UK Court Restricts Move-Away

2006 Australian Family Law Amendment Resulted in Greater Parenting Time for Dads

Connecticut Advances Due Process Rights for Putative Fathers

Research Analysis: Shared Custody Better for Kids, Parents

Gay Dad Ordered to Not Leave Son Alone With Any Man

UK: Judges Outraged at Breach of Family Court Secrecy

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