Written Statement of
John Smith, Research Analyst
Alliance for Non-Custodial Parents'
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
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
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
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.
Its 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 fathers 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
its spent. Economists estimate that
only $1 out of every $5 in child support is spent on the childs 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. Its what kids need. It reinforces each parents 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
Another major problem
with using money is that in todays dynamic, global economy ones
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,
wed 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.
draconian measures passed by Congress now threaten everyones privacy and freedoms. The Financial Institution Data Matching (FIDM)
program scours everyones 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
have hit record levels, but theres 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 DAs 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
Creating programs to improve the employability and
earnings of non-custodial parents is nothing short of slavery. It sounds nice.
Sounds like youre 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 fathers 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 didnt 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
childrens 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
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
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.
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 Kings birthday an official
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
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.
are afraid to enforce rules and discipline as they fear losing their childs love. This leads to kids that respect nobody, feel they
dont have to obey rules (they never had to before) and there are no consequences for
breaking rules. The world revolves around
rights groups are fighting for more responsibility in their childrens lives, while
Womens rights groups are fighting for less responsibility (e.g. govt funded daycare
- We must stop
granting women special privileges, often with reduced responsibilities. For instance, pregnant women can choose to:
- Have the
baby and remain as an intact family
- Have the
baby and charge the father with child support
drop off the newborn at designated centers, without fear of prosecution
- Have an
- Put the
child up for adoption
Why arent men offered any of these choices? This reflects the gender bigotry rampant in our
End gender bigotry. As Dr. Farrell points out, He gets jail; She
gets an array of social services offered to her.
Its time we stopped blaming
fathers (and men) for everything that is wrong in the world. Until we do, we shouldnt expect things to
get any better.