Saturday September 22, 2012

I’m writing to express my horror with the Massachusetts family court system. Recently the court awarded my husband’s first wife a substantial child support increase, though he earns only moderately more than she does. It was a complicated case, and I do believe in child support. My outrage arises from the court’s willful disregard for the other children involved.

My husband has one child with his first wife, and we have three young children together. The judge’s decision explicitly states that she gave no credit for the three children of the second family. In other words, the child support amount does not reflect that my husband has four children to provide for. As a result, he now provides enough child support for their daughter to easily cover 100 percent of her care, plus luxuries and extra opportunities, with money left over. Mean while, while we will not go homeless, we will be forced to seriously limit the activities and opportunities that we wish to provide our three children. There is something drastically wrong with this.

In the name of ethics and basic equality, shouldn’t all four of my husband’s children be equally entitled to his financial resources? I love my stepdaughter dearly, but it is so wrong that one child have the lion’s share of our financial resources, far more than is even necessary to raise a child in the Berkshires, at the ex pense of the other three children.

The judge’s decision also stated that I could go back to work. The court has no right to make that personal family decision for us, but the child support increase is so high that I will have to work. I love working but sacrificed that to be home with my children. Now I cannot be home with them because a judge has decided that I should in essence help support my husband’s first family. Regardless, whether I work or don’t work doesn’t change the fact that my husband’s resources should be made available to all of his children equally.

Even worse, my husband has tried for years to get more time with his daughter, yet for 12 years he has gotten less than 25 percent of available time with her. The crystal clear message has been "write the check, have minimal involvement in your child’s life, and we don’t care that you have other children." Despite our attempts to adopt an "it is what it is" approach, it is hard not to feel victimized.

Children of divorce should be provided equal time with both parents as well as the financial resources of both parents. The courts should provide equitable support for the children of divorce without punishing the children of the second family. Massachusetts family court is highly biased and must make some drastic changes to achieve an equitable balance. Until then, it is harming families and children, not protecting them.

JENNIFER WERGLAND LYON

Pittsfield