Testimony to the Massachusetts Trial Court Child Support Guidelines Task Force
Boston Edward W. Brooke Courthouse, Boston
CPF/The Fatherhood Coalition
February 13, 2007
Dan Grubbs submitted written statement
George Mason's testimony at Worcester
We are fortunate that Chief Justice Mulligan is required by his oath of office and sense of integrity to uphold the constitution.
Are there any constitutional limits on what child support may be set by the state? Does a non-custodial parent have any fundamental rights? Article CVI of the Massachusetts Constitution states that: All people are born free and equal and have certain natural, essential and unalienable rights; including that of acquiring, possessing and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.
Yet the application of these Child Support Guidelines specifically and significantly intrudes upon these rights, not only by taking someone’s property and giving it to someone else, but by intruding upon the happiness they may have obtained by spending that money on their children themselves. Any parent who has successfully raised their children to adulthood may attest to the satisfaction and happiness they have obtained from doing so, yet neither satisfaction nor happiness is the result of having the state seize your property, even if it were to be spent in exactly the same way that you would have spent it yourself.
Article CVI continues: Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed or national origin. We can pretend that all we need do to ensure equality is rewrite our laws in gender-neutral terms, but we all know that the reality is much different. Every lawyer I contacted in my divorce started by pointing out that I had little chance of getting custody of my daughter, despite that fact that I had been her primary caretaker, yet somehow the state sees no discrimination. To pretend that the vast majority of us have been classified as ‘non-custodial parents’ for any reason other than sex is nothing but prevarication.
Then there are parental rights. In Troxel v. Granville, the U. S. Supreme Court found that parents have a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children. There is a presumption that fit parents act in their children’s best interests and there is normally no reason for the State to question a fit parent’s ability to make the best decisions regarding their children.
The large majority of non-custodial parents have not been found to be unfit in any way, yet the guidelines place us in the position of disproving the state’s decision about how we should care for our children. It presumes that we do not have our child’s best interest at heart and infringes upon our fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care of our children.
When setting up the guidelines, we must apply strict scrutiny. While the state has a compelling interest in seeing that all children have their basic needs met, just as it does in intact families, its interest does not extend beyond that. The guidelines need to be narrowly tailored to match that interest. They must have a ceiling.
The current guidelines are politically correct alimony, which act to enforce outdated, stereotyped, and unconstitutional gender roles.We do not take away driver’s and professional licenses, withhold 60% of their net pay, or throw parents of intact families in jail for not buying their children the latest Nintendo set, neither should we do the same to non-custodial parents.
Shutesbury, MA 01072