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New CA Child Support Guidelines: a Couple Steps Forward, but Problems Remain

January 25th, 2011 by Glenn Sacks

Fathers and Families has submitted its official comments to the Administrative Office of the Courts concerning its Review of Statewide Uniform Child Support Guideline 2010 (Draft Report). Our letter can be seen here and is also reproduced below.

January 24, 2011

Administrative Office of the Courts
c/o Michael Wright
6th Floor, 455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, California 94102

Re: Review of Statewide Uniform Child Support Guideline 2010 (Draft Report)

Dear Sirs and Madams:

Fathers and Families believes that children need to be supported emotionally and financially by both parents after a divorce or separation. We believe that California’s child support guidelines should be reasonable and fair to all involved parties. The new Review of Statewide Uniform Child Support Guideline 2010 (Draft Report) is a step forward in some areas, but also has problems.

Fathers and Families has long expressed its concern, both to the AOC and in the media, that the child support system is unfair and at times abusive to low income obligors. To its credit, the 2010 Review does put an emphasis on making reforms to assist low income obligors.

As the Review notes, child support obligations for low income obligors are often set too high, in part because the appropriate hardship deductions are not being applied. As a result, many of these individuals scarcely have the resources left to maintain their own residences, and their child support obligations can lead to homelessness. This is particularly true in today’s depressed economic climate.

Another positive is that the Review does not call for any child support increases.

On the other hand, there are some substantial problems with the current Uniform Child Support Guideline which the Review fails to address. These include:

1.    California’s K Factor, which requires a child support obligor to pay 25% of his or her after tax income for one child, 40% for two and 50% for three, is one of the highest in the United States. The oft-stated justification for this is that California’s cost of living is high. However, since the Guideline is based on percentages of income, the cost of living is irrelevant. The K factor should be lowered, particularly in the current economy.

2.    The K factor only applies up to a combined income of $6,600 a month–above that it goes to the H Factor, which is 10% higher until a combined income of $10,000, in which case it is 12% higher. This is hardly fair to these child support obligors, many of whom have worked long and hard to become good providers for their families, and are now de facto punished for their efforts and their success.

Yes, in a perfect world, children of divorce or separation would maintain the same standard of living after the breakup as before. In the actual world, when the same income(s) which supported one household must now support two, living standards are inevitably going to decline.

3.    The Uniform Child Support Guideline should be based on the needs of the children involved and should be related to the actual cost of raising a child. The Review glosses over this important issue.

Fathers and Families is a national 501(c)3 not-for-profit charitable organization with offices in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Boston. Fathers and Families improves the lives of children and strengthens society by protecting the child’s right to the love and care of both parents after separation or divorce. We seek better lives for children through family court reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers.

Thank you in advance for considering our comments.

Together with you in the love of our children,

Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director, Fathers and Families

Michael Robinson
Legislative Representative, Fathers and Families