October 31, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
As you’ll perhaps recall, this past Monday I posted a piece on the Massachusetts woman who’s currently bouncing back and forth between childhood and adulthood. One day she’s a child, the next she’s a woman. It’s all a figment of the legal imagination of course. At age 20 she decided to get married, so she became legally emancipated, meaning that her father no longer had to pay “child” support. But a year later, she divorced, rendering her a child again and therefore requiring support.
I failed to point out that such a thing could go on for years. Just imagine: let’s say a 16-year-old decides to marry. She goes from child to adult overnight. Then she realizes what a terrible mistake she made. She sees that she’s too young, too inexperienced, can’t earn a decent living, etc., so she divorces and becomes a child again. But then high school is once again none too appealing, so she joins the army. Presto! She’s an adult again. She could go on like that for years while Dad would be doing handstands trying to figure out when to pay for her support.
Connoisseurs of irony take note: when she made the irresponsible decision to marry at age 16, she became an adult. When she made the responsible decision to divorce, she became a child. Such is the way of the law, at least in Massachusetts.
But crazy as that may seem, it’s actually downright reasonable compared to what can happen in Spain as this article amply demonstrates (The Local, 10/29/14). Yes, the situation in Massachusetts can be strange and ironic, but at least there’s a law that presumably people can read and understand. In Spain it seems that who is a child for the purpose of child support is entirely arbitrary.
A Spanish judge in Cadiz has ordered a father to continue paying “child” support to his daughter who is now 29 years old. That’s right, she’s a child according to the judge. How’d the judge figure that one? Well, it seems the Spanish economy is in the dumps with the overall employment rate at almost 24%. Therefore, according to the judge’s “reasoning,” the father must support his daughter via child support laws despite the fact that no one would describe her as a child.
The judge ordered the man to continue paying her until she completes her education “in two years.” But she’s managed to stay in school this long, so why not longer? As long as el padre is supporting her, why shouldn’t she go for more degrees in subjects that have hitherto proven uninteresting to her? Why not study indefinitely? Most people are out of school by age 31, but not this woman (child?), so why shouldn’t she gild the lily?
Speaking of support, is la madre also being made to support her daughter? If the daughter lives with her mother and doesn’t pay rent or her share of the food, utilities, insurance, etc. bills, then her mother is already supporting her. But the article mentions none of that, so clearly if Dad must pay, so must Mom.
But I suspect that’s occurred to no one. I suspect that the daughter lived with Mom who had custody of her and, when she moved out of the house, that was that — no more support from her mother. But Dad always paid child support and, because of that, he’s the one who’s still ordered to do so. Such at any rate, is my guess.
"(The daughter is) 29 and still hasn’t finished her studies, " a lawyer for the man told 20 minutos.
"These rulings are surprising, crazy and not normal. It’s absurd. The normal thing is that he (the judge) would have said that’s enough freeloading," the lawyer said.
But no, there as in Massachusetts, when it comes to transferring wealth away from non-custodial parents via child support orders (90% of which are paid by fathers), pretty much any excuse will do. Do we need to indulge in the fantasy that a child can become an adult and then a “child” again? We can do it. Or are we more frank about the matter as the judge in Spain was? After all, to arbitrarily rule that a father must support his daughter until she’s 31 is about as blunt as it gets. Why not 41, 51 or 61? Why not just let “child” support become a lifetime obligation? If the “reason” is that the woman is still at the university and the economy is hard on everyone, why let anyone grow up?
There are good answers to those questions of course. Good answers like – if we encourage people to not work by paying them to stay out of the workforce, we’ll end up with an economy of people not working. And sure enough, that’s what’s happening in Spain. If we do that long enough, there may not be enough daddies to pay everyone who “needs” it.
And, needless to say, this 29-year-old woman is a child according to the law only for this purpose. In no other situation would she legally be considered a minor. She can purchase alcohol, make her own medical decisions, be treated as an adult in criminal court, buy a house, a car, etc. But when it comes to the state asking her to support herself, all of a sudden, she’s a child.
What began as a sensible recognition of parents’ obligation to support their children has morphed into an all-purpose entitlement for custodial parents and children far beyond anything that was ever contemplated.
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