Dated: Dec. 7, 2001 On Sept. 20, 2001, the Child Support Guideline Committee of the Massachusetts Bar Association submitted its Report to the Chief Justice of Administration and Management. This Report contained the preliminary findings and recommendations of the Child Support Guideline Committee, submitted prior to the September 30, 2001 deadline established by the CJAM, for consideration by her in making a determination as to changes to the made to the Child Support Guidelines.
As part of its Report, the Committee recommended the appointment of a multidisciplinary Commission to study in depth the existing Guidelines, and determine changes, if any, to be made. Subsequent to the deadline of September 30, 2001, it has come to our attention that other interested organizations and special interest groups have arrived at a similar recommendation, independent of our efforts. Our Committee has therefore met to offer suggested parameters and makeup of such a Commission, in the hopes that the CJAM will consider and implement these suggestions.
Specific Recommendations for the Child
Support Guideline Advisory Commission:
The study of the Child Support Guidelines is of tremendous importance to not only the legal community, but to the public. It is an issue of great social significance and deserves serious attention from dedicated members possessing the requisite skills and background to get the job done thoroughly and quickly. Parents receiving support, lawyers, judges and others have expressed real and serious concerns about many inequities arising out of application of the existing child support guidelines. The people of Massachusetts and our judicial system need and deserve a careful and comprehensive review of our child support guidelines”. The Massachusetts Bar Association Child Support Guideline Committee recommends the following:
1. Appointment. Appointments to the Commission should be made by four individuals working together: the Chief Justice of Administration and Management, the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court, the Chief Justice of Supreme Judicial Court and the President of the Massachusetts Bar Association.
2. Membership. The Committee should consist of fourteen (14) individuals, (13 individuals with voting capabilities and 1 adjunct non-voting member), as follows:
- An individual representing the interests of recipients of support
- An individual representing the interests of individuals paying support
- A member of the Massachusetts Bar Association Family Law Council or Committee
- A member of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
- A member of the Boston Bar Association Family Law Committee
- Two Certified Public Accountants
- An Economist with expertise in family and children
- A representative from Legal Services advocating retention or increase in the existing Child Support Guidelines
- A representative of a group advocating abandonment or decrease in the existing Child Support Guidelines
- No fewer than three (3) Probate and Family Court Judges representing different geographical and economic areas
- A Labor Statistician Expert (adjunct non-voting member)
The appointing authority should be careful to appoint members who will fairly represent diverse interests and points of view, in order to assure that the voices of all will be heard.
. The Commission should consult with and draw from all available persons and resources to aid in its efforts, including but not limited to the following:
- The American Bar Association Family Law Committee
- The Department of Social Services
- The Probation Department (Family Services) of the Probate and Family Court
- All existing studies and articles examining the Child Support Guidelines, including but not limited to the USDA Report on Expenditures on Children by Families, the studies completed by David Weden and the Reports and results of recent work on the Child Support Guidelines undertaken by the Massachusetts Bar Association, Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and Boston Bar Association.
- The public
- Media articles and journalists who have written extensively on this subject
- The Child Support Guidelines in the other 49 states, and reports and studies on the application of each
- Any other person(s), group(s), organization(s) or resource that would aid the Commission in its important work. No input or voice should be ignored.
. No later than one year following appointment of the Commission, the work should be completed and a full discussion held with the CJAM and her designees to discuss the proposed Recommendations. Recommendations and implementation of those recommendations should occur within six months following such discussion.
5. Other Recommendations:
a. No assumption should be made that the existing Guidelines are fair and equitable; instead, critical examination of the problems and unfair results the Guidelines produce should be studied fully. The commission must take a clear and unbiased look at the strengths and weaknesses of the existing guidelines. The Commission should make full use of the benefit of the historical application of our existing Guidelines which is now available and make an independent determination of whether changes, or a complete overhaul, is in order.
b. While we await the work and recommendations of the Commission, we urge requests for deviations from the Guidelines by members of the Bar where appropriate, and granting of deviations by our judiciary where rigid application of our Child Support Guidelines would produce an unfair result.
c. All existing problems with the Guidelines raised by all individual and organizations should be considered and addressed by the Commission in its work, and none should be ignored.