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Child support obligations and arguments

Family law in Massachusetts is full of hot-button topics and very personal issues, but perhaps no subject leads to more angry arguments more often than child support. Recently, two writers argued online about the theories underlying child support obligations and whether they lead to a fair result.

The first writer wrote a feminist argument against mandatory child support obligations. In her view, reproductive freedom means that motherhood should be considered optional. Therefore, she wrote, fatherhood should be considered optional as well. Under the child support system, she wrote, when a woman becomes pregnant and decides to keep and raise the child, the father has no choice but to help support the child. This, she argued, creates an unfair system.

The second writer criticized this argument, pointing out that while single fathers can't legally opt out of child support obligations, they can and often do opt out of visitation, companionship and all the other duties of fatherhood. Also, while it's more common for a single mother to raise a child, there are custodial fathers who receive child support payments from the mother.

Fundamentally, the purpose of child support is not to conscript either parent into parental responsibilities, but simply to make sure that the child's financial needs are met. This means making sure the custodial parent can bear the costs of raising a child. The government wants to make sure that the primary responsibility for meeting those needs rests with the parents, not the taxpayers.

If the custodial parent is not getting the payments he or she needs, that is cause for an enforcement action. If the paying parent has run into financial difficulties and can't pay, he or she should request a child support modifications. Whatever the issues at work in a child support dispute, a family law attorney can help parents come to a resolution that puts the child's needs first.

Source: Salon, "No, child support can't be a choice," Carolyn Edgar, Nov. 7, 2013

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