Monday, May 02, 2005

Child support commission: Split custody, costs - New Hampshire

The Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News - 02-May-05 - Child support commission: Split custody, costs


They're getting help from a legislative commission that wants to cut court-ordered child support to the bone, making each parent responsible for only half the actual cost of their children's "basic needs" — food, shelter, clothing and medical care — regardless of each parent's income.

The commission also wants judges to presume custody will be shared, and that if it is, no money will change hands.

Under state child support guidelines, most non-custodial parents pay a flat percentage of their income in child support to parents with primary custody — 25 percent for one child, 33 percent for two children, 40 percent for three and 45 percent for four — although judges can make exceptions for hardship or special circumstances.

That leads to unfair results in some cases and promotes litigation, David Amico told a state Senate committee last week.

"We need to remove this prize of child support. If it were more equitable and fair, there would be more incentive for the parents to work together in the best interests of the children," he said.

"We need to do a major overhaul to our system," Bickford said.

Paying for anything more than half of a child's basic needs should be optional for divorced parents, just as it is for married ones, he said. Otherwise, deciding what extras must be covered becomes a "slippery slope."

However, a minority on the commission, which issued its recommendations late last year, supported a so-called "standard of living adjustment" based on parents' incomes. The minority also said judges should start with no presumptions about custody except what's in the children's best interests.

Everyone on the panel agreed the child support formula can be disastrous for low-income parents and unfair to high-income ones. They also agreed the Legislature should devise child support guidelines for cases of shared physical custody.

House Bill 529 would require judges to start with a presumption of shared physical custody, but it has been shelved in favor of House Bill 640, which requires judges to make the best interests of the children paramount.

Both would change the term "custody" to "parental rights and responsibilities," require parents to come up with parenting plans addressing their children's needs and allow courts to order parents into mediation.

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Anonymous L. Sudak said...

Please know that there are some mothers who share this burden of inequity, and who support these current measures. The injustice apparently strikes at will.

5:01 AM  

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