Article Incensed fathers sound off at child-support hearing

By MICHAEL McAULIFFE, Springfield Union News, Wednesday, July 25, 2001

SPRINGFIELD — A fan was no match for the heat in the Hampden County Hall of Justice's jury room yesterday afternoon, particularly that generated by fathers who blasted the state child support guidelines.

The last of five public hearings held around Massachusetts in connection with mandatory review of the guidelines left no doubt dads are upset by the current standards.

"We need to stop viewing and treating fathers of divorce as visitors with a check book," Granby resident Brian L. Candido said to loud applause from an audience of about 100 people who attended the meeting.

Candido, a computer programmer who said he cannot get a mortgage, pays $400 a week in child support and has joint physical custody of his two sons, 3 and 5.

"The guidelines are, in a word, an abomination," said John F. Natale of Winchester, who preceded Candido to the microphone and detailed how, as a result of a court agreement, he pays about $33,000 of his annual income of about $60,000 in child support.

"It's the father who pays. It's the father who almost always gives up the marital home," said Natale, 67, a retired engineer.

"I'm living on personal loans," he said following his formal comments.

"Just treat fathers fairly," said James F. Lenski of Dalton, who belongs to the Berkshire County Fatherhood Coalition

Chicopee resident Norman R. Racine rose to provide some sobering thoughts about parental responsibility.

"You had 'em, you pay for 'em," Racine said.

Holyoke resident Patricia Eagan, who has volunteered at a battered women's shelter for 10 years, said she has seen "very very good men suffer under the current support and child support guidelines." She drew rousing applause when she added: "Maybe bad men are treated right, but good men aren't."

More than two dozen people spoke during the hearing, presided over by a three-member panel led by Judge Edward M. Ginsburg of the Middlesex County Probate and Family Court. Each speaker was limited to three minutes.

Previous public hearings were held in Boston, Brockton, Lawrence and Worcester. Barbara Dortch-Okara, chief justice for administration and management for the Massachusetts Trial Court, will review the existing guidelines. "Please, let's not have this be a dog and pony show and make some real changes," said Paul V. Trimboli, facilitator and founder of the Springfield-based group Fathers and Children Together.

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