Dads Against Discrimination Founder Sues Over Child Support

Claims New Mexico's child support guidelines are unfair.
Don Chavez is a New Mexico father who founded Dads Against Discrimination (DAD). DAD says that it "empowers fathers to take charge of their families through father custody options." For the past fifteen years, Mr. Chavez has advocated for fathers' rights.

But the Albuquerque Tribune reports that now Mr. Chavez is personally embroiled in a legal dispute. He and his wife, Quillon Dayton-Chavez, have separated. Ms. Dayton-Chavez has filed for divorce. Mr. Chavez, a social worker, has the couple's two children, aged three and six, all but three weekends per month. Mr. Chavez has adjusted his work schedule so that he can care for the children.

Mr. Chavez has filed suit to challenge New Mexico's child support guidelines because, he says, they are unfair.

Chavez said he is going to bat for parents who have custody of their children less than 25 percent of the time and must pay full child support to the custodial parent.

He has asked the court to develop new guidelines that will recognize that both parents must pay for the needs of the child and that their share should be based on their ability to pay.

Although it's unclear what relief the court could grant him - neither Mr. Sanchez nor his wife has asked the other for child support - Mr. Sanchez might have a point about New Mexico's child support law. In a recent Santa Fe New Mexican editorial, Josh Gonze (who identified himself as a happily married father of two) and family law attorney David Standridge explained that New Mexico's child support guidelines have no ceiling: "If the payer's gross income exceeds $8,300 a month, child support is 11 percent of gross income, rising to infinity."

Messrs. Gonze and Standridge argue that child support payments in excess of a child's actual needs really is alimony in disguise. Because there are no limits on child support in New Mexico, litigation ensues to try to show high income on the part of the other parent. If there were a ceiling, this problem would be avoided as it is in other states.

Lawsuits attacking the child support system don't often have good results. Mr. Chavez might be better off approaching the legislature. But we'll keep an eye on the case.

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