By Linda J. Gottlieb Kase, LMFT, LCSW-r
March 18, 2015
Despite the abuse and neglect suffered by the 3000 foster care children who had been under my care, it was extremely uncommon for those children to refuse contact with a parent—even with an overtly abusive parent. Rather, abused children tend to protect and cling to the abusive parent. Moreover, in the rare cases in which that did appear to happen, there was always some evidence of indoctrination or programming (typically by foster parents who had the surreptitious goal of adopting the child). Thus, it is counter-instinctual for a child to reject a parent—even an abusive parent. When a professional observes a child strongly reject a parent in the absence of verified abuse, neglect or markedly deficient parenting skills—which should never be assumed based on the child’s self-reporting—one of the first thoughts should be that the other parent is an alienator. Moreover, one should never assume that, because a child has rejected a parent, the parent must have done something to warrant it.
Having observed thousands of genuinely-abused children during a period of 24 years, I have concluded that a child’s innate desire to have a relationship with his or her parents is one of the most powerful of human instincts, surpassed only by the instinct for survival and the instinct to protect ones young; among normal children, in the absence of an alienating influence, that instinct is seldom suppressed because a parent exhibits relatively minor flaws, deficiencies, or idiosyncrasies.
The SPC advocates amendments to Connecticut’s HB 5505 to reduce conflict by giving each parent an incentive to support the other parents. This implements CT’s 2005 law – other states (MA, MD and others) are implementing shared parenting. Here are the proposed amendments:
Purpose: establishing the presumption of behavior encouraging parental involvement
Sec. 4. Section 46b-56 of the general statutes is amended by adding subsection (j) as follows (Effective October 1, 2015):
(new) (j) In cases involving an existing Parental Responsibility Plan (PRP), or any existing custodial order, statutory factors (6) and (7) of Conn. Gen. Sats 46b-56(c ) shall determine the resolution of any dispute. A pattern of noncompliance with existing custodial orders, or with an existing PRP provides evidence of unwillingness to foster a good parent-child relationship (violation of factor 6) and/or manipulative or coercive behavior (factor 7). Such pattern of noncompliance will result in a finding in favor of the other parent.
Note: the relevant factors:
(6) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage such continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent as is appropriate, including compliance with any court orders;
(7) any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents’ dispute.
Rationale: to reduce litigation by establishing the primary role of behavior fostering a good relationship with the other parent.
On January 27, 2015 the Legislative Regulation Review Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly meets to consider the child support recommendations submitted by the Commission on Child Support Guidelines. We call on the Committee to reject the Commission’s recommendations. Show your support! Attend the session on Tuesday, January 27, 2015, at 10:00 AM in Room 1E of the Legislative Office Building, 300 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, CT.
Connecticut needs family-friendly child support guidelines. Connecticut’s Commission ignored Connecticut’s 2005 law defining the Best Interests of the Child, which says that Best Interests include strong and continuing connections with both parents.
In a 2014 letter to Connecticut’s Commission on Child Support Guidelines, Department of Social Services Commissioner Rodrick L. Bremby writes: “emotional, social and educational support as well as financial support is imperative to the growth of a well-rounded child.” He further states that the Guideline percentages of income for low income obligors are unrealistic and “counterproductive to fostering the parent-child relationship as it may lead to uncollectable child support orders and drive noncustodial parents to underground economies and alienation from their children.”
Call to action
We call on the Committee to reject the Commission’s recommendations because the recommendations:
- Price poor obligors out of the family equation. The Commission rejected proposals to lower percentages for low income obligors, cherry-picking data prepared by their own expert to arrive at this conclusion.
- Increase Guideline percentages for middle and high-income obligors. This is contrary to evidence indicating that the actual, marginal costs of raising children is significantly below, not above, Guideline amounts.
- Put those paying alimony at a significant financial disadvantage. The Guidelines would in future ignore income from alimony when calculating child support.
- Ignore the fact that the totality of court-ordered payments necessary to hire court-ordered professionals (e.g., GALs, AMCs, therapists), plus court-ordered child support, is putting individuals, many of whom are women, into a situation where it is impossible for them to meet the court-ordered obligations.
- Fail to adequately consider substantial data collected in Massachusetts on this subject, data that resulted in the adoption of Guidelines with the rebuttable presumption of shared parenting in that state in the summer of 2013.
Connecticut’s Commission is proposing family-unfriendly Guidelines, perpetuating a winner-takes-all system that is in no child’s interest. Massachusetts recognizes the interconnection between child support, parenting time, and financial responsibility and, as such, actively encourages shared parental responsibility, both emotional and financial. Other states have adopted a similar model, or are close to. Connecticut’s Commission has not considered the substance of the reasoning leading to the changes in Massachusetts but certainly must do the same.
Patrick Glynn is walking 400 miles from Boston to Washington DC, taking every step for family law reform. He’s looking for walkers to join him on part of his journey, or simply provide a couch to spend a night, and is passing through CT this week.
to sign up and learn more.
Connecticut’s Commission for Child Support Guidelines has been meeting for over four years without seriously considering this issue or even proposing any revision to the Guidelines. They have ignored substantial evidence showing that Guidelines should be revised to reflect shared parenting. They have ignored shared parenting Guidelines adopted in Massachusetts in 2013.
Should the legislature intervene now that the process is clearly broken?
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On Friday, June 27, 2014, Connecticut’s Department of Social Services (DSS) sponsored a one-day conference. This conference focused on the relationship between child support and effective parenting. It emphasized the importance of co-parenting and of father involvement with their children. The judicial branch, Support Enforcement Services (Charisse Hutton) and Family Support Magistrates Division (Norma Sanchez-Figueroa) emphasized the importance of parental involvement and the negative influence of excessive support orders.
- The keynote speaker was Vicki Turetski, Commissioner, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement.
- She emphasized that regular child support payments increase with parental involvement.
- She lauded the Fatherhood Initiative, a federal program that began in 2000.
Brief Summary of Conference Themes
The themes of the conference centered on the connection between parental involvement and financial support for children living with one parent. Even in cases with past domestic violence, a structured program and a commitment to change behavior can lead to successful co-parenting. There was general agreement that parental time and decision making responsibility are at least as important as child support dollars. The dollars can interfere with parental involvement when support orders are unrealistic or when arrearages build up due to illness, unemployment of incarceration. The conference proposed specific remedies such as in-kind child support payments and easy ways to reduce support orders after illness or unemployment. Child Support Guidelines in Connecticut are unrealistic at low income levels, but currently the Commission has failed to appreciate the damage this does.
Possible conclusions with respect to root causes of excessively high child support orders
The root cause of the problem addressed by the Conference is, in my opinion, the economic studies used to justify excessively high support orders. The studies are flawed in many ways, including: 1) The assumption that percentages should be based on an intact family; 2) the assumption that only one parent, the “custodial parent,” is capable of making financial decisions on behalf of children.