Monday, February 21, 2005

Abandon your children on the cheap!

If I were one of the most powerful politicans in Georgia, I don't think I'd use that power to 1) protect businesses who don't want to pay their employees a living wage, 2) protect country clubs who don't want to adhere to an antidiscrimination ordinance, or 3) protect parents who don't want to pay child support. But then, I'm not Earl Ehrhart. He sees protection of the powerful as his calling.

Here, Ehrhart wants to defend the deadbeats who don't want to pay child support. His bill would change how child support payments are calculated:

"If you are in the lowest income level or receiving support from someone in the highest, your support could be cut in half," Martin says. "For people in the middle like me, it could reduce child support immediately by a third, and a great deal more over time."
While Georgia now relies on a simple percentage of the noncustodial parent's income to determine child support, House Bill 221 introduces an "income shares" model, in which the earnings of both parents are considered. Many people assume that the income sharing model is fairer, and 34 states now use it.
Georgia's current child support guidelines predate the rise of joint custody and are in need of thoughtful and even-handed reform. However, House Bill 221 incorporates the worst aspects of the income shares model and none of the safeguards adopted in other states. The formula, as written into the Georgia bill, would result in lower overall child support payments compared to many other income shares states.
Here's an example cited by former Georgia Commission on Child Support member Deborah A. Johnson, an attorney. It involves a father of two who earns $4,500 a month and a mother who earns $3,500 in three income shares states. In this case, the children spend 120 nights a year with dad and 245 with mom, the custodial parent who pays $400 a month for child care. Under Florida's income share model, the child support from the dad would be $1,108. Under Tennessee's formula, it would be $929. In Virginia, it would be $985.
So what would the custodial parent receive for care of the two kids each month under House Bill 221 in Georgia? Johnson's analysis shows it would be $456.
"This bill does not ask what is in the best interest of the child, which has been the standard in Georgia," says Atlanta attorney Shelley A. Senterfitt. "The standard becomes the best interest of the noncustodial parent."

Which is exactly what Earl Ehrhart wants.