October 7, 2013
By John Clapp, PhD, Member, Executive Committee, National Parents Organization of Connecticut

Will Connecticut policy makers listen to testimony supporting shared parenting?

Tuesday, October 15 is your last opportunity to join near unanimous grass-roots support for important changes to Child Support Guidelines in Connecticut.  People from all walks of life support the effort to have Connecticut change their Guidelines to recognize that both parents share in the financial decision making authority for their children.

On August 1, 2013, Massachusetts changed their Guidelines to actively encourage shared parenting and clarified that up to age 23 family courts have discretion in ordering child support  and/or college contribution.  National Parents Organization and our members succeeded in making these changes through our presentations at the child support hearings and our well written and researched testimony. 

We can make change in Connecticut with your help.  Those testifying for similar changes in Connecticut represent low income, middle and high income. This year there is remarkable agreement on the need for both parents to have financial responsibility because only the parents know how to spend their money in a way that helps their children grow and thrive.

Here is where and how you can testify:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013
2:00-4:00 PM
Department of Social Services
Central Office
Mezzanine 2AB
25 Sigourney Street
Hartford, CT

  • Expect 2-3 minutes for your testimony.
  • Arrive about 15 minutes early in case there is a sign up.

You may also submit written comments on the Child Support and Arrearage Guidelines to the Commission on or before October 15, 2013 at the following address:

Commission for Child Support Guidelines
c/o David A. Mulligan, Chair
Department of Social Services
25 Sigourney Street
Hartford, CT 06106-5033
Or email.

In Massachusetts, a panel composed of judges and judicial officials changed Child Support Guidelines to “encourage the involvement of both parents in the child’s upbringing and to take into consideration the financial support provided by parents in shared custody and extended visitation arrangements (p 69).” Their guiding principle was to be “fair to both parents, and, most importantly, to the children (p 5).”

So far, testimony in Connecticut supports the same idea, with few dissenting views. Testifying in Norwich on September 24, John Dillon, program manager for Child Support Enforcement at the Department of Social Services, gave well-informed opinions about the need to change to family centered goals, including father engagement from birth. He argued persuasively that it is better for low income families to get some consistent and reliable dollar amount of child support so they can adjust their living style appropriately. Unrealistic amounts never get paid and cause a build-up of arrearages, jeopardizing an already precarious relationship of the payer with the child. It forces payers into the underground economy.

At the high income end of the range, testimony reveals that child support payments often exceed $30,000 per year. This is tax free money. Surely such payments go far beyond any need to support the children.

John Clapp, member of the Executive Committee of the National Parents Organization of Connecticut stated their position and the reasons for it:

  • A 2005 Connecticut state law (PA05-258) encourages shared responsibility, decision making authority and parenting time.
  • Current Connecticut child support guidelines make no provision for shared financial responsibility and parenting time. In this way, the Guidelines are not in sync with the law.
  • Consequently, National Parents Organization recommends that child support Guidelines be modified to allow for shared responsibility if parenting time is approximately 50-50, and to make adjustments when time for the residential parent is at or above the 25% minimum (two nights per week) typical of shared custody arrangements.
  • Massachusetts has adopted similar changes to their Guidelines effective August 1, 2013.
  • We do not recommend any reduction in child support, only a reallocation of payments to reflect shared parenting. This change places financial responsibility with both parents so they may ensure the financial wellbeing of their children.

The following questions should be asked:

  • Does Connecticut’s “winner take all” approach to financial responsibility promote high conflict and excessive payments to divorce lawyers?
  • Don’t the parents alone know how best to spend their money to support their children?
  • Are involved parents more likely than others to make financial sacrifices for their children?
  • Why do so many divorcing couples voluntarily agree to far less than the Guidelines require? This was shown by data collected in Massachusetts, and those experienced in Connecticut cases know this to be the case.

Several members of the National Parents Organization will testify in Hartford on Tuesday, October 15. Our Connecticut Chair, Tom Weissmuller, will present our testimony on behalf of National Parents Organization.  We will post on the website after the hearing.

Your testimony is important. It is your turn to join your voice with so many others in order to make this important change for children. 

Let us know you will attend and please copy us on your submission.

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