In many states, child support payments are a fix percentage of the non-custodial parent income with no bearing whatsoever with the cost of raising a child. If you are a well-off father, you make it, if you are not, too bad. Some states, such as Massachusetts, take into account the income of both parents, custodial and non-custodial but this does not necessarily improve the financial situation of the latter, quite the contrary: Massachusetts has recently revamped his child support guidelines in a sense that is not favorable to non-custodial fathers, who saw their mandatory child support payments triple in some cases.
To make the picture bleaker for fathers, family courts have latitude to do whatever they please with the guidelines. They are machines to produce new “miserables.” Massachusetts family courts follow the mold: non-custodial fathers are dragged into financial despair. What is new in Massachusetts, is that non-custodial fathers do not even have the option – which befalls on them- of being miserable. You are a Massachusetts resident, get the misfortune of being laid off and cannot meet your child support payments, you end up in jail. In a April 13 article from the Boston Globe, Joseph Kahn mentions a fellow non custodial father, working in real estate, whose income recently plummeted. His child support arrears amounted to $23,000. Family court being family court, the $23,000 included the ex-wife lawyer fees, that sensitive support magistrate had added to the bill; to make things worse, the court did not rush to examine his petition to decrease child support. During his next court date, our poor fellow was send to jail for a month. He was in good company: 25% of his inmates were probate cases, incarcerated non-custodial fathers like him.
What the next step in Massachusetts? A jail for fathers in one unprivileged part of the state?
Some folks said that Massachusetts is the “Sweden of the United States.” They ‘ ve got to be kidding. For once, in Sweden, government is supportive, not oppressive. And in social democrat regimes, work tend to be considered as a right, not an obligation punishable by jail if you do not have one.