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Child Support and Fatherhood Proposals
Written Statement of John Smith, Research Analyst
Alliance for Non-Custodial Parents' Rights [ANCPR]
for the Hearing on Child Support and Fatherhood Proposals
June 21, 2001
THE COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS Subcommittee on Human Resources Congressman Wally Herger, Chairman
Mailed to: Committee on Ways and Means ATTN: Chief of Staff (HR-6) U.S. House of Representatives 1102 Longworth House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515
Prepared June 25, 2001
FOCUS OF THE HEARING:
This hearing will focus on child support and fatherhood proposals.
Analysis of the Background Information
A problem cannot be solved until it is recognized and understood. The information presented in the background section contains many misunderstandings, myths and falsehoods.
CSE programs were established in 1975. Year after year, we hear of record amounts of child support that has been collected. If child well-being is proportional to the amount of money one has, then we should be experiencing record-high child well-being. There has been a 100 percent increase in collections from 1993 to 2000. Has child well-being increased 100%? To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, "Are children better off today than they were in 1975?"
The 1996 welfare reform act is all too typical of child support legislation. It's sole focus is on dollars collected, not child well-being. If collecting money is so important for children, then why not amend our laws to grant custody to the higher wage earner - usually the father? This would also reduce the collection problem. Even though noncustodial mothers have by far the worst child support compliance rate, all things being equal, because their orders are systemically set lower than a father's child support order, less money would go uncollected.
The 1996 welfare reform act still promotes the notion that one parent can be replaced by money. Conservatives correctly recognized that sitting at home collecting a welfare check was wrong, but failed to recognize that sitting at home collecting a child support is just as wrong. Child support contains no accountability on the part of the custodial parent, as to how it's spent. Economists estimate that only $1 out of every $5 in child support is spent on the child's needs.
Social science research has been showing us for the past 10-20 years that this is wrong. Kids need both parents. Money is not the solution, it is the problem. Parental involvement is the solution. It's what kids need. It reinforces each parent's responsibilities. We must remove the profit motive from family disintegration.
A common myth is that poverty is the root of all these problems and money is the cure for poverty (no distinction of earned versus unearned money is made - a fatal flaw). Studies show an inversely proportional relation between child support and child well-being. These studies show states with the highest child support and welfare awards rank lowest in child well-being, while states with the lowest child support and welfare awards had children with higher child well-being? The key determinant is family structure. Child support and welfare are single-mother household enablers. And don't use poverty as an excuse. Recent immigrants living below the poverty line had children with better academic performance and fewer behavioral problems than kids living above the poverty line. The reason: the immigrant families tended to be intact families. Poverty doesn't cause broken homes, broken homes cause poverty.
Another major problem with using money is that in today's dynamic, global economy - one's economic stability is unpredictable, as evidenced by the stock market and the economy - last year, the sky was the limit. This year, a constant stream of bad news. Our child support laws ignore this reality, which is why many ignore these laws. If you remove the specific monetary amounts from child support and simply let each parent raise their child according to their own beliefs, we'd be much better off.
By forcing people to pay a fixed amount of their income (based on a percentage, but not allowed to fluctuate with actual income), we ignore reality. By basing child support NOT on what it costs to raise a child, but on what the average person spends (USDA figures), we strip a person of their individuality and force average values down their throats. Since we have the second-lowest savings rate and one of the highest debt rates of Western countries, this goal is nothing to aspire down to. Ironically, it punishes the responsible (frugal) people the most.
The increasingly draconian measures passed by Congress now threaten everyone's privacy and freedoms. The Financial Institution Data Matching (FIDM) program scours everyone's bank account, whether they have been part of this child support system or not. Ditto for the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH). The Federal Parent Locator System (FPLS) is used against fathers, but if the mother kidnaps his children, it will not be used for the father. Blatantly sexist policy.
Paternity establishment have hit record levels, but there's a dark side to this story which is now becoming very public. 28% of DNA tests reveal that men accused of being the father are in fact, not the father. In Los Angeles County, over 70% of paternity establishments are done on a default basis. The DA's office estimates that more than 350 innocent men are incorrectly named in child support orders every month. This means the alleged fathers were not present. Very often, the alleged father was never notified. Paternity fraud perpetrators have not been prosecuted, while innocent men are being driven into poverty and homelessness by child support policy.
Creating programs to "improve the employability and earnings of non-custodial parents" is nothing short of slavery. It sounds nice. Sounds like you're here to help them, but when you see that federal law permits wage garnishment of up to 65% of their pre-tax wages, this program is slavery. Enslaving men to perform labor to earn money which is then blindly handed over to custodial mothers for use at their discretion.
Is the "Child Support Distribution Act of 2001" really seeking to enhance the role of noncustodial fathers or to enhance the pocketbook of custodial mothers? If the purpose is to enhance the father's role, then money will be de-emphasized and parental involvement (visitation) will be greatly emphasized.
The proposals want to promote marriage. This sounds well and good, but when one considers what happens to married men in family courts and child support, this becomes a specious goal. Dr. Sanford Braver of Arizona State University points out the two distinct groups of fathers - never-married and divorced:
"It should be obvious that the two groups should always be separately addressed in any analysis or policy discussions. The distinction, however, has been too infrequently recognized or cited."
If, for the first time in history, this government program (HR 6) works perfectly as intended, we will have solved the unmarried portion of the problem. Men will marry and take responsibility of their children.
Alas, some small flaws exist in this thinking. What do we know about divorced fathers? We know that women initiate the vast majority of divorces. And no, folks, these women are not "trapped in bad marriages" or "abusive relationships" that many feminists with an agenda claim (ironically these same feminists have never been married or raised children). They had simply "grown apart" or "didn't feel appreciated." Dr. Braver questioned the women actually going through the judicial system and they loved it. Why? Because they got whatever they wanted and felt they were in complete control. We know that men are helpless to stop this, thanks to no-fault divorce laws. We know that the judicial system has a systematic bias against including these fathers in their children's lives (known as the tender years doctrine). We know that politicians believe men to be politically impotent and therefore write gender-biased laws favoring women.
Once these poor, irresponsible fathers become middle-class, responsible fathers, they will face the same unfairness of the child support system. In the divorced group, it hurts even more because these fathers were connected with their children, they are educated enough to know they are getting screwed out of their money and children. So while HR 6 is looking for ways to raise never-married fathers up, our system forces divorced fathers into exile by placing into law excessive child support awards and draconian punishments. Then politicians wonder why we have a fatherlessness problem.
1. Shared Parenting
Make equal shared parenting the law of the land. Each parent would get exactly 50% of the physical custody time with each parent, unless the parents reach a voluntary agreement stating otherwise. Neither parent is allowed to move away (outside the school district or county) unless a voluntary agreement is reached. The concept of custody is eliminated - neither parents owns the child. Because each parent is spending equal time raising their children, the need to collect child support disappears. Write the law in such a way that eliminates all discretion from judges, as judges tend to write law from the bench. Any judge that deviates from this statute should be removed without pay until a full investigation is completed as to why she did not follow the law (similar to an officer involved shooting).
2. Paternity Fraud
Prohibit courts and administrative agencies from prosecuting a man whose DNA test results prove he is not the father.
Make DNA testing a prerequisite for opening child support cases.
Paternity will be based strictly on DNA evidence, not on actions such as holding yourself out as the father, written or signed paternity acknowledgements, confessions or statements. Since the man was given fraudulent data to base his decisions on, any paternity decision represents an invalid contract. Exceptions to the strict DNA rule would be 1) when the father has legally adopted the child and/or 2) when the child was conceived through a sperm donor.
Vigorously prosecute perpetrators of paternity fraud.
Allow the alleged father to have custody of the non-biological child and make the mother pay him child support.
No statute of limitations placed on the alleged father for challenging paternity or make the statute of limitation on paternity determination the same length as those used for failure to pay child support. For example, the statute of limitations might be 7 years from the last time the mother or State asked for (not received) child support - which was a fraudulent action.
Provide the victim the ability to sue the mother to recover any and all child support, legal costs, other costs, lost wages, lost interest and emotional damages. [Since the State provide enforcement services for collecting child support, perhaps the State should be mandated to provide for recovering this fraudulently obtained money.]
Allow family victims (e.g. second wives, parents) to sue the mother for damages, including emotional damages.
3. Promoting Marriage
Instead of, or in addition to, creating new programs to promote marriage, eliminate the existing programs that punish married men.
Eliminate no-fault divorce laws. Withhold federal funds to states that do not repeal no-fault divorce laws (I believe the Feds withheld highway funds to Arizona when the State failed to make Martin Luther King's birthday an official holiday).
Withhold federal funding from any and all groups that provide no-cost and low-cost divorce clinics. This is currently being done to groups that provide abortions.
4. Promoting Fatherhood
In addition to making shared parenting law that national standard, we need to recognize that:
* Fathers are much more likely than mothers, to make sure the children spend time with the other parent * Fathers want to spend more time with family; Mothers want to spend more time on their careers * The more money a man earns, the more likely he is to marry. Just the opposite is true for women. * Single-mothers are afraid to enforce rules and discipline as they fear losing their child's love. This leads to kids that respect nobody, feel they don't have to obey rules (they never had to before) and there are no consequences for breaking rules. The world revolves around them. * Fathers' rights groups are fighting for more responsibility in their children's lives, while Women's rights groups are fighting for less responsibility (e.g. govt funded daycare centers). * We must stop granting women special privileges, often with reduced responsibilities. For instance, pregnant women can choose to:
o Have the baby and remain as an intact family o Have the baby and charge the father with child support o Anonymously drop off the newborn at designated centers, without fear of prosecution o Have an abortion o Put the child up for adoption
Why aren't men offered any of these choices? This reflects the gender bigotry rampant in our society.
End gender bigotry. As Dr. Farrell points out, 'He gets jail; She gets an array of social services offered to her.'
It's time we stopped blaming fathers (and men) for everything that is wrong in the world. Until we do, we shouldn't expect things to get any better. --------------------------------------------------------------------------  Farrell, Warren, Ph.D., "Father and Child Reunion," Tarcher-Putnam, 2001, p. 175, from an HHS study.
 Comanor, William S., Ph.D., "Child Support Feels Different on Male Side," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 22, 1999.
 Testimony of Cynthia L. Ewing, Senior Policy Analyst, Children's Rights Council, before the US House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Human Resources, Feb. 6, 1995.
 American Association of Blood Banks 1999 Annual Report. See also "In Genetic Testing for Paternity, Law Often Lags Behind Science," New York Times, March 11, 2001
 Los Angeles Times, April 12, 1998, B1.
 Los Angeles Times, Oct. 11, 1998, A27.
 Braver, Sanford, Divorced Dads - Shattering the Myths, Tarcher Putnam, 1998, p. 22. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- ANCPR Home: http://ancpr.org/index.html
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