Still others fear that parents eager to modify their court orders will flood court dockets, only to be rebuffed because they do not qualify. The changes won’t actually affect most people until 2008, and then only if there are significant changes in financial circumstances. But there is wide agreement that it is time to prepare for change. Family law lawyers have been crowding into classes to learn about the intricacies of the new rules.
Hennepin County held an informational session last week to go over the new law. One Illinois company, Child Support Savings Co., offers a Lowering Child Support Manual (Minnesota edition) for $24.99 for people who believe they are “viewed as just a paycheck by your ex that is holding grudges against you.”
The most significant change reconfigures how child support is calculated. Previously, Minnesota was one of only 13 states that did not consider the income of both parents in determining child support. That has changed. Under the new law, child support will be based on the gross incomes of both parents and the amount of time each parent spends with the child.
Nationwide and in Minnesota, the move toward such changes has been generated by fathers’ rights and noncustodial parents groups who have long felt the system was set up against them. Some suggest it is an evolution away from traditional beliefs in the roles of mothers and fathers in raising a child.
“I don’t know if you can ever make a responsible parent by making a new law or a new order. But I think the law is going to be more accepted by a lot of people who felt they were getting an unfair shake,” said Maury Beaulier, a family law attorney with Hellmuth & Johnson who has done work in the past for the Father’s Rights Center and the Men’s Defense Association.
Relief, worry for poor parents
Once it may have been regarded as acceptable for noncustodial parents to shirk their responsibilities for child support, say those in the system, much in the same way that drunken driving once was considered a minor infraction. But child support obligations, like drunken driving, are now taken more seriously.
“It’s not, ‘Why should I pay the other parent anything?’ I think we’re kind of past that. We’re down to paying $50 more or $50 less for a lot of people,” said Jodie Metcalf, a child support magistrate in Minnesota’s court system, who has been conducting classes for family law lawyers on changes in the law.
One provision of the new law is expected to have a significant impact on low-income parents. It allows a noncustodial parent, usually the father, to have what has been called Self Support Reserve. The reserve permits the parent without custody who is earning at or below federal poverty levels to keep a base amount of money, usually around $950 a month.
Such a parent can be ordered to make a minimum payment of $50 a month or nothing at all. Impoverished parents are often the ones who have the most difficulty paying court orders and the idea is that limiting the payment might encourage greater participation.
“They were losing their driver’s license, ending up in prison. That wasn’t helping anyone,” said Paul Masiarchin, director of Minnesota Fathers and Families Network, a professional development and networking organization that focuses on how fathers can have a positive impact on the lives of their children.
Others are concerned that the support reserve will simply shift the costs of raising the child from both parents to the custodial parent, increasing chances of families falling into poverty.
“If that child support is not coming in from him, he still has his money, and the family is left without and left suffering,” said Jen Peterson, of the Minnesota chapter of the Association for Child Enforcement Support, which fought many of the new laws.
The new formula will take some time to play out, but legal advocates for poorer families say a preliminary test raises some flags for custodial parents. Noncustodial parents who make about the minimum wage are likely to have their child support payments considerably reduced. “Those orders are going to go down precipitously and those are the cases I’m most worried about. I think whether or not the outcome is going to be good for the kids, I’m concerned,” said Jayne Barnard McCoy, a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis.
Mark Brunswick â€¢ 651-222-1636 â€¢ email@example.com
Powered by Facebook Comments