Fathers & Families Sues over Sharp Raise in Child Support Guidelines in Face of Recession

There are three key facts with which few on either side of the aisle on family law could dispute:

1) As of December 31, 2008, Massachusetts had among the highest child support guidelines in the United States.
2) On January 1, 2009, Massachusetts instituted guidelines which ratcheted-up child support even further.
3) Massachusetts did this in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

In response, Fathers & Families filed a lawsuit in federal court and in Massachusetts against the guidelines. Fathers & Families’ lawsuit has been covered by the Associated Press, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Newsweek, Psychology Today, and numerous other publications, as well as by CBS radio, NPR, WRKO, and many other radio stations.

The new guidelines are causing substantial increases in child support in almost all cases.

Many payors are seeing increases of 20%, but some will see a tripling of their child support order, even when they are poor and the recipient is wealthy. Newspapers are filled with stories about how difficult it is for child support obligors to meet their payments in this recession, including the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and many others.

Under the new guidelines, in high income cases, the child support order for one child could exceed $50,000 per year.

Under these new guidelines, 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.

In 2001, Fathers & Families won changes in Massachusetts law which lower 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, ignoring the data Fathers & Families founder Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S. presented them showing that the proposed new child support orders were far too high for middle class people to pay. Holstein sat on this committee and prepared a Minority Report detailing the problems with the new Guidelines.

We argued this case in federal court in January and in state court April 13, and are currently awaiting a decision. Fighting this injustice costs money–please support our efforts by clicking here.

Fathers & Families’ Ned Holstein, MD, served on the Massachusetts’ Task Force that recommended the new guidelines, but authored a minority report dissenting from the main recommendations. In his report, Holstein wrote:

Many of the recommendations of the Task Force should be modified or rejected because they:

1) are contrary to the best interests of many children whose parents have separated or divorced,

2) are contrary to the large majority of public comments received by the Task Force,

3) often treat parents inequitably, and/or

4) lack a consistent and appropriate rationale. Thus, no economic model, data or philosophy
supports the proposed formula or justifies why some other formula should not be used.

Holstein”s minority report can be seen here.

Legal Defense actions such as this are an integral part of the success of any social movement, including ours. A blow against Massachusetts” guidelines is a blow against unfair guidelines in any state. Support our efforts with your tax-deductible contribution here.

Together with you in the struggle,

Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director

Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.
Founder, Chairman of the Board

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