August 10, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
John Bolch has long been so oblivious to obvious facts about child custody and the law governing it that rarely a week goes by that I couldn’t write something skewering his at once pompously self-assured and wrong accounts of one aspect or another of family courts.
So it’s only fair that, on those rare occasions when he’s right, I say so. And here, he’s right (Marilyn Stowe Blog, 8/7/17). His topic, on which he spends entirely too many words is a simple one: in family law, child support and access by the non-custodial parent are separate issues. A parent who pays child support doesn’t automatically get access and a parent who’s obligated to pay support but doesn’t can still have access to his child. Stated another way, just because Dad doesn’t pay, Mom can’t legally deny access and just because Mom denies access doesn’t mean Dad can stop paying.
As I said, those are simple concepts and my guess is that most people understand them.
Of course Bolch could have just left it at that. But he didn’t. He’d finally gotten a topic that was so simple even he could grasp it and he just couldn’t state his point and let it go. And, if you’re John Bolch, that means the longer you ramble on, the greater is the likelihood that you’ll err.
[I]t is highly unfortunate that the government, in its infinite wisdom, decided that it was a good idea to link the amount of contact that an NRP has with the child with the amount of child support that the NRP has to pay.
So Bolch admits that in fact child support and access aren’t separate issues and never the twain shall meet. He’s right enough that the obligation to provide support and the obligation to give access are separate, but parenting time and the amount to be paid are in no way separate. For once, British law gets something right. The more time the paying parent spends with the child, the lower the amount to be paid.
What’s weird is that Bolch doesn’t agree with that altogether obvious concept. Maybe he should read his own words, however tedious they are.
The basic principle behind child support is that each parent should, so far as reasonable, be responsible for maintaining their child.
That’s right, John. Child support is based on the logical conclusion that, when two people bring a child into the world, they should support it if they can. After all, someone has to. And that very reason underpins the government’s rule reducing the amount paid as the payer’s parenting time increases. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be long before we’d find a custodial parent contributing nothing financially to a child’s maintenance.
Consider an example: It takes $1,000 per month to support little Andy or Jenny. Let’s say Dad pays Mom $500 per month and has no access to his child. That means she pays half of the child’s upkeep and he pays half. The assumption is that, by living with her, she contributes to the child’s support over and above the amount paid by Dad. But Dad goes to court and makes out a fine case for equal parenting time. According to Bolch Mom should continue to receive Dad’s $500 each month despite the fact that she has the child for only two weeks. So all the food she bought, electric bill she paid, the extra time she spent driving to and from soccer practice, etc., is cut in half. By contrast, Dad is now doing all those things half time and still paying the same amount.
Bolch’s point of view makes no sense which of course comes as no surprise.
Now, had it been me writing Bolch’s piece, I’d have pointed out another obvious fact. Yes, the law deems the obligation to pay support and the obligation to provide access as independent issues, but parents don’t. In that way, the law is at odds with science, which is another thing that comes as no surprise.
Twenty years ago, Sanford Braver and colleagues demonstrated quite effectively that, whatever the law may hold to be self-evident, non-custodial fathers whose visitation with their children isn’t interfered with by mothers are far more likely to pay what they owe than are those who have to fight for every minute of access. The law in its majesty says they shouldn’t behave that way and penalizes them if they do, but it’s not hard to see the dads’ point of view. It’s galling to pay an ex who (a) doesn’t allow you to see your child by (b) blithely ignoring the court order allowing you to do so. And sure enough, they tend not to. Anyone with the least notion of human behavior understands that completely.
So, both in law and in fact, there is an intimate connection between child support and access. Bolch tried to keep his piece so narrow that even he would be unable to screw it up. Alas, he failed even at that.
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