Sun gets it wrong on child support

March 14, 2010

Fortunately I've never been divorced, so I've avoided the pitfalls of Maryland's child support system. Unfortunately, I know other's who haven't.

Based on the Sun's model ("A matter of fairness," March 12), I see many problems with how the system is structured. The Sun assumes in it's model a gross family income of $89,000. Subtract from that income state and local income taxes, Social Security and Medicare, and the number drops considerably. Take the new number, and subtract from that the spending that the custodial parent would have whether or not he or she had children: a mortgage, telephone, cable, gas and electric, automobile, food, insurance and clothing. Then subtract from that number school and certain medical expenses that I believe are calculated and adjusted for separately. Then subtract from that number the percentage of time that the children will be living with the non-custodial parent in a joint custody relationship (the most common). Run the numbers, and I don't think it's realistic to assume that the custodial parent will be spending $1,400 per month on the children.

Once child support is ordered, I think it's imperative that the custodial parent be required to account for the money each month spent exclusively on the children. After all, divorce shouldn't be used as a mechanism to increase one's personal lifestyle at the expense of the other party, or at the expense of the children. The child support payments can then be adjusted to reflect that actual spending that's taking place, not on mom's new boyfriend or dad's new girlfriend, but on the children.

The Sun's editorial (in typical Baltimore Sun fashion) also fails to address the issue of the importance of having a father in the home, or how the current legislation can be improved to enforce and encourage frequent visitation for non-custodial parents. Walk through the Maryland penitentiary and interview the inmates and you will quickly come to realize that having considerable exposure to one's biological father has a much more profound and dramatic effect on the lives of children than does an extra $100 a month in child support.

I'm sure there are many hard-working, custodial parents struggling to get by. There are also many hard-working, non-custodial parents struggling to get by. The fact is, getting divorced is a financially bad situation. It's cheaper to live together than apart, for a myriad of reasons. To assume that there will be no financial fallout for everyone involved, including the children, is ridiculous. It's simply not good enough to say that one parent and both children maintain their current standard of living post-divorce, while the non-custodial parent sees their income drop by 60 percent with nowhere to live.

Michael P. DeCicco, Severn

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