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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Father For Virginia Activites on Current Policy Issues

FFV Activities on Current Policy Issues Fathers For Virginia (FFV) has started preparations for the next session of the Virginia legislature, which begins in January 2013, A major focus of FFV's attention is the re-examination of Virginia's child support guideline. An advisory panel appointed by the governor has been meeting to look at the current guideline, which links CS payments to the incomes of the parents and to the number of children. The advisory panel expects to make recommendations in time for consideration by the 2013 legislative session. The next meeting of the child support review panel is in Richmond on September 20. It is important that as many fathers as possible are present at this review panel meeting. FFV plans to hold a meeting during August to discuss how to handle this issue. The date and place for this FFV meeting will be announced soon. Several FFV members testified to the last meeting of the child support review panel. The points made in FFV testimony were as follows: (1) From comments made by Dr. Jane Venohr, who was hired to help with the review of the CS numbers, it appears that she will recommend substantial increases in the figures in the guideline. The basis for raising CS amounts, she says, are that the cost of raising children has increased, and that adjoining states are raising their CS guideline numbers. FFV, however, has testified that the guideline amounts already are indexed for inflation, because the numbers are tied to parental incomes. To raise the amounts without regard to the incomes of noncustodial parents (almost exclusively fathers) would involve imposing new and unjustified burdens on fathers. (2) The CS guideline SHOULD be revised, but the change should be to remove the present 90-day threshold below which the time the children spend with the noncustodial parent has no effect on the amount of CS he has to pay to the custodial parent. There is no justification for this 90-day "cliff effect," which has had the practical repercussion of ensuring that custodial parents will never agree to more than 90 days visitation per year. Instead, CS amounts should be calculated on a sliding scale. (3) Underlying the CS guideline is the longstanding and pervasive discrimination against fathers in custody awards. According to figures from the Division of Child Support Enforcement, at the end of 2011 fathers were custodial parents in only about 6 percent of cases in Virginia. FFV is also involved in other issues in Richmond that affect fathers. We plan to seek reintroduction in 2013 of a bill that would provide for presumptive joint custody. In addition, FFV is seeking to participate in a policy re-examination started by Social Services Commissioner Martin Brown, the Strengthening Virginia's Families initiative. This initiative is based on an explicit recognition of the costs to Virginia taxpayers -- running into billions of dollars annually -- of family breakdown in the state. We think that the initiative should involve ways of eliminating government programs that have the unintended consequence of providing incentives for the creation of fatherless families. In addition, FFV is encouraging the Virginia Division of Child Support Enforcement to drop the "Ten Most Wanted" list of those who have fallen behind on CS payments. We maintain that this list is disrespectful to fathers, most of whom are unable -- not unwilling -- to pay the huge amounts of money that they owe. There are some signs that DCSE may be willing to drop this list. Kenneth Skilling Fathers For Virginia

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