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Child Support and Fatherhood Proposals
http://ancpr.org/written_statement_of_john_smith.htm
   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[1], 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.[2]
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?[3]  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.[4]  In
Los Angeles County, over 70% of paternity establishments are done on a
default basis.[5]  The DA's office estimates that more than 350 innocent
men are incorrectly named in child support orders every month.[6]  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."[7]
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.
Recommendations
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.
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[1] Farrell, Warren, Ph.D., "Father and Child Reunion," Tarcher-Putnam,
2001, p. 175, from an HHS study.
[2] Comanor, William S., Ph.D., "Child Support Feels Different on Male
Side," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 22, 1999.
[3] 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.
[4] 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
[5] Los Angeles Times, April 12, 1998, B1.
[6] Los Angeles Times, Oct. 11, 1998, A27.
[7] Braver, Sanford, Divorced Dads - Shattering the Myths, Tarcher Putnam,
1998, p. 22.
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