Republican Senator Introduces Federal Legislation To Increase Child Support Payments And Ties It To Federal Title IV-D Incentives.

Republican Senator Introduces Federal Legislation To Increase Child Support Payments And Ties It To Federal Title IV-D Incentives.

Populism has gained significant traction in the US and all over the world, really, primarily because it seeks to remedy complaints that the will of the People is being ignored by a condescending and self-serving political establishment.

It’s also an entirely rational response, because it’s clear that politicians have become far too accustomed to using people to accomplish their personal political ambitions instead of actually serving the people who voted for them.

And I gotta tell ya’ folks, and regardless of whether you’re a liberal or a conservative, it’s long past time to purge government of legislators who’ve seemed to lose sight of the simple truth that we don’t serve them; they serve us, and they do so at our pleasure.

For well over thirty years family law reform advocates have actively lobbied elected officials to abandon the existing adversarial structure of family law and replace it with a healthier one organized around equal shared parenting. We’ve asked for law that rewards cooperation instead of incentivizing conflict, treats non-custodial parents with respect, and prioritizes the health and well-being of families over and above the harvesting of money for custodial parents, the family court industry, and in the U.S., individual state governments that profit off the administration of child support pools.

Are The Populists Listening?

Indeed, we’ve had some recent successes in the U.S., with Kentucky passing law that requires a presumption of equal shared parenting in family court, and with Iowa needing only the governor’s signature to follow suit. So, are the populists on board with our reform goals?

Well, it seems Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) isn’t.

To wit, I offer you the Child Support Works Act, Federal legislation he drafted and submitted in December of 2020 that amends Title IV, Part D, Section 458 of the Social Security Act (you can learn more about Title IV-D incentives by clicking here) to reward states for implementing mandatory work programs that, in his words “have proven effective at helping non-custodial parents develop positive work ethics and fulfill the requirements of their child-support orders.”

Quoting directly from his press release:

“Fathers have an obligation to care for their children. Child-support orders can help parents fulfill this obligation by requiring them to work. This bill would provide additional resources to state child-support agencies so they can help parents get back on their feet and provide for their family.” 

Three Important Observations About This Absolutely Terrible Legislation:

First, did you notice first word in the above quote? Yep – he’s specifically targeting (and smearing) fathers with this legislation.

Secondly, the very notion of tying mandatory work programs to federal incentives that already encourage states to minimize non-custodial parenting time and assign un-affordable child support orders is beyond ludicrous. This amendment, is in short, just more government abuse waiting to happen.

Thirdly, this legislation and the way he’s characterized it is just patently offensive and insulting; not just to fathers, but to all the non-custodial parents who are literally bankrupting themselves trying to remain in a meaningful presence in the lives of their children.

He is essentially saying: “The only value non-custodial parents hold for their children is to supply the custodial parent with money. Other than that, they’re just not relevant.”



A Familiar Pattern…

It turns out, Tom Cotton, the populist, is nothing new.

Aside from the historically predictable go-to political move of throwing non-custodial parents (and fathers in particular) under the bus, and aside from completely ignoring every positive and healthy reform to family law that is not only needed, but is also polling heavily in our favor (an average of state and national polls indicates a greater than 80% favorabililty for shared parenting), he’s decided to pile additional incentives into the snake’s den that’s the Federal Title IV-D bonus and incentives program.

It’s hard to imagine this legislation just came to Cotton from on high, and I seriously doubt that it has. The truth is, equal shared parenting law encourages parental cooperation and largely removes conflicts over child custody, and this will cost the family court industry a fortune.

So, I offer for your consideration, Cotton’s donor information (2015-2020) as reported by Opensecrets.org:

Yep, you’re reading that correctly. Senator Cotton has taken in nearly $800k from law firms over the last five years, ranking them fifth on his donor list. Knowing this, and also knowing that his bill was also supported by the National Child Support Enforcement Association, are you truly surprised that he would seek to paint himself as a populist while preserving and enhancing the status quo?

Non-custodial parents should expect fair, respectful, and decent treatment from government, and our children need and deserve both parents to have an active and meaningful role in their lives. Politicians like Tom Cotton are still not giving us that.

The Lesson?

To be frank, I seriously wrestled with writing this article at all, because talking about anything to do with politics is tricky. Folks can have a tendency to erroneously conclude that criticism of their party or candidate is both a criticism of them personally and an implicit endorsement of the other side.

That’s not what this post is trying to accomplish, and I’m not asking you or anyone else to change your political beliefs or vote for a candidate, party, or policy that you don’t agree with.

Populism undoubtedly has tremendous potential to affect great changes with respect how government treats people. The lesson here, though, is that neither side’s hands are clean when it comes to callus and oppressive family law that uses and exploits parents for political and financial gain.

It’s perfectly okay to aggressively to stand up for party and oppose the arguments and views of political opponents, but we also have to ensure that the people we voted for respect our vote, and that means holding them accountable when they fail to listen to us or abuse our trust.

If populism is going to work to achieve our goals, we need to take our power back and we need to use it, even if that means calling out the people and the party we voted for, because otherwise, we’ll find ourselves being governed by a bunch of Tom Cottons who’ll tell us anything we want to hear without any concern for being held accountable to the people who voted for him; which obviously, flies directly in the face of what populism is supposed to accomplish.

Sending a clear message to your elected officials that says, “Just a reminder that you that work for me, and not your lobbyists. I like most of what you’re doing, but your stance on family law is unacceptable. This issue is important to me, so if you don’t work for better policy, policy that I want, I’m okay with finding someone else who will.” ….not only forces politicians to respect you, but shows that YOU respect the power of your vote and the trust it entails.

Suffice to say, I hope that at the very least, the good people of Arkansas will have a frank discussion with Senator Cotton (Contact Tom Cotton).


~ Michael

Note: In the U.S., you may find the contact info for your state and federal legislators at openstates.org.

Family Law Reform: Blame-Shifting, Victim-Shaming, and Deception.

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Last year, I was having a discussion with a woman I know who was having an on-going custody and child support dispute with the father of her children.

Just to lay the groundwork, the father gets 4 hours visitation on Sunday afternoons every two weeks and, he gets to walk his child from her mother’s car to the school door every Friday.

I inquired, “That’s crazy. Why so little time?”

She responded, “That’s what the judge gave him. He has to show the judge he deserves more.”

I responded, “What does the judge have to do with it?  No judge is going to complain if you voluntarily give your child more time with her father.”

Her response, “I have to follow court orders.”

Note: There are no issues with this family that might require supervised parenting, etc . The father simply could not afford an attorney.

Fast-forward….

Yesterday, I posted an article to our Facebook page published by Real Clear Politics titled, “Of 27 Deadliest Mass Shooters, 26 of Them Were Fatherless.”

And these are some of the responses we received:

“Wow Love and Iron…..just wow!

I agree the sentiment behind abolishing parental alienation…..BUT to use this? Disgusting!

Did it ever occur to you…..that the fathers abandoned them? Is that ever a possibility with you? Do men NEVER do that? To be taken more seriously you need to acknowledge and separate the fathers….not combine them! Foolish!



“Take a poll!

How many members are actual fathers……and how many are stepmothers following this page?”


“MANY men WALK AWAY on their own or have 2nd lives. Ya may want to do better research.”


“AMEN!! I’m sick.of it!!! Actually….MORE MOTHERS LIMIT KIDS’ TIME ON GAMES also!! We provide the continuety of care and KNOW it causes lack of empathy!!”

So In The Interests of Candor and Credibility, Let’s Lay Out Some Facts.

There is no doubt that the existing model for litigating custody in family court was influenced in part, by societal constructs that existed fifty years ago in which a far greater number of mothers stayed at home with children.

However, a research study conducted in 2015 by the Pew Research center found that dads are just as likely as moms to say that parenting is extremely important to their identity; some 57% of fathers compared to 58% of mothers – a statistical dead heat. In addition, it’s worth noting the study also found that most fathers believe they should be spending more time with their children, but, they also feel pressured to prioritize work and bread-winning over spending time with their kids.

Still, according to a 2016 census report, the percentage of custodial parents who are fathers rose by a mere 2.7% from 16.9% in 1994 to 19.6% in 2016.  In other words, 80% of custodial parents remain mothers.

Understand the Incentives, Understand the Problem:

Much of current custody and child support enforcement law was inspired by sociologist Dr. Lenore Weitzman (a professor of women’s studies), who in a 1985 research report, claimed the standard of living for women declined by an average of 73% after divorce.

The math in that report was later exposed by sociologists and economists to be grossly inaccurate and misleading (some even claimed blatantly fraudulent), and yet, little has been done to remedy the damage done by the political reaction to it.  In fact, the bizarre response to these revelations was to institute Federal Title IV-D bonuses and financial incentives that reward states for creating absent parents so they can maximize, collect, enforce, and administer child support payment pools.

Follow the money, and you’ll find the truth.

If a custodial parent wants to enforce a custody order, he or she can engage a state attorney and bring the full force of state law enforcement upon the non-custodial parent.

On the other hand, if a non-custodial parent wants to enforce a custody order, he or she must hire their own attorney, incur expenses over and above child support and alimony obligations; and do so with the understanding that any substantive enforcement remedies will be both meager and unlikely.

The short story version is: absent parents are being manufactured to harvest money for states, for custodial parents, and for the family court industry.

More specifically, given that mothers are awarded custody 80% of time, and, that child support orders are incentivized and enforced while custody orders are not; it should be apparent that child support and custody law is merely socioeconomic policy intended to redistribute income and other lifestyle benefits from fathers (men) to mothers (women), and in order to make this work, absent parents (80% of which are fathers) need to be created.

The Research Speaks, The False Narrative Begins.

Starting in the mid 1990’s and since, a great deal of research has been done to explore the effect these absent fathers were having on children. And much to the chagrin of many feminist groups, numerous studies about children raised in fatherless households have revealed:

  • A greater likelihood to experience problems with self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • More difficulties with social adjustment.
  • 71% of high school dropouts are fatherless.
  • 85% of youth in prison have an absent father.
  • A greater likelihood of teen pregnancy.
  • A greater likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol.
  • 90% of runaway children have an absent father.
  • At greater risk for suffering physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
  • Children of absent fathers are over-represented in a range of mental health issues, especially anxiety, depression, and suicide.

Of course, this created a problem.

How can Government continue it’s socioeconomic policy, and how can states preserve federal funding revenue if they award more parenting time to fathers?

Well, when you can’t claim innocence, blame the victim.

We still have is a legal system that remains purposefully engineered to create absent fathers and then proceeds to shame them for being absent, even as these dads are bankrupting themselves (mentally, emotionally, and financially) to remain in the lives of their children.

We’re not denying there are fathers who abandon their children, and we have just as much contempt for them as we do alienating parents.

We’ve also said that ninety percent of the pathology built into family law can be corrected by a simple switch to the presumption of 50/50 custody after divorce that is accompanied by the equal and rational enforcement of both custody and child support orders.

However, changes to law aside, and just like conversation with the woman I used to open this blog article, we do have the freedom to make our own personal choices – even today.

If we really care about children, we’ll stop incentivizing the absence of fathers, stop the campaigns of deceit, start treating parental alienation with the seriousness it deserves, and actually act as if this is true.


 

Family Law Reform: Sometimes People Want You To Think It’s About Others, When It’s Really About Them.

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I was reminded of the thought expressed in the title to this post the other day, which provoked me to update some older posts that decomposed and explained Title IV-D bonuses and incentives to states (Federal Title IV-D funds are bonuses and incentives paid to states for maximizing, collecting, enforcing, and administering child support payments).

Certainly the incentive pool portion of Federal Title IV-D program is sizable; $500 million annually split up between states and territories. But, let’s not get hung up on that.

California, for example, received $490 million in Federal Title IV-D bonuses and reimbursements in 2012 (the last year any data was published).

Now, let’s consider the question: What would the presumption of 50/50 parenting after divorce mean to California?

Well, it’s plausible it’ll mean a dramatic reduction in both parental conflict and child support pools to administer, which in turn means funding will dry up, which also means you’ll have a whole lot of government lawyers, support staff, and bureaucrats sitting around with nothing to do and and no federal funding to pay them.

Recently, we’ve been beating the drum that we have to abandon any notion that moral appeals will sway legislators to do the right thing for parents and children.  Granted, when you see the harm done by existing family law, and especially to children, one should expect moral arguments to be persuasive, but after twenty years of trying, it’s clear they are falling on deaf ears.

The short story version: Courts are ordering absent parents (and harming children) so they can use noncustodial parents to fund a system that pays government to create absent parents for money.

That’s some beautiful, circular, self serving logic; and all the while, they have to gall to shame non-custodial parents for being absent even as these NCP’s are bankrupting themselves by fighting to stay in the lives of their children.


 

 

 

 

 

Apparently, Noncustodial Parents Need To Be Encouraged To “Visit” With Their Children.

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Recently, I was updating our breakdown of Title IV-D incentive payments to states, and I came across this little gem in a 2012 budget request from the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families for title IV-D funding.

This is on page 278 (source https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/olab/cse.pdf):

“Child Support and Fatherhood Initiative

The CSE program plays an important role in facilitating family self-sufficiency and promoting responsible fatherhood.  Building on this role, the FY 2012 budget includes a new Child Support and Fatherhood Initiative to encourage non-custodial parents to work, support their children, and play an active role in their children’s lives.  

Ensuring that when non-custodial parents do the right thing and pay child support, their children benefit.  The proposal includes $1 billion over eight years (FY 2014 – 2021) to encourage states to pass through the current child support collections they receive on behalf of TANF families to the families, rather than retaining those payments.  The proposal would no longer require states to reimburse the Federal government for any part of the current child support payment that the state chooses to distribute to the family, estimated to cost $543 million during the eight-year period.  To encourage states to take up this policy, the proposal also includes a short-term five-year pool of funds to offset a significant share of states’ costs in implementing this policy, estimated to cost $454 million between FY 2014 and FY 2018.

The proposal also requires that the child support payments made on behalf of children in foster care are used in the best interest of the child, rather than as general revenue ($370 million) and prohibits the use of child support to repay Medicaid costs associated with giving birth from fathers—a practice that is currently used only by a small number of states.  Recovery of this debt from noncustodial parents can discourage the participation of pregnant in Medicaid and reduce child support payments to the family ($70 million).  In addition, the proposal grants states additional flexibility to discontinue the requirement that child support payments be assigned to the state when a family receives TANF assistance ($122 million), and provides limited resources to help states makes the necessary adjustments to their computer systems ($100 million).  Taken together, these policy changes are estimated to result in an additional $1.9 billion in child support payments reaching the children the payments were intended to support.

Promoting Access and Visitation.  The budget provides $570 million over ten years to support increased access and visitation services and integrates these services into the core child support program.  The first step in facilitating a relationship between non-custodial parents and their children is updating the statutory purposes of the CSE program to recognize the program’s evolving mission and activities that help parents cooperate and support their children.  The proposal also requires states to establish access and visitation responsibilities in all initial child support orders.  The proposal also would encourage states to undertake activities that support access and visitation.  Implementing domestic violence safeguards is a critical component of this new state responsibility.  These services not only will improve parent-child relationships and outcomes for children, but they also will result in improved collections.  Research shows that when fathers are engaged in the lives of their children, they are more likely to meet their financial obligations.  This creates a “double win” for children – an engaged parent and more financial security.”

Let us count the insults:

  • The “fatherhood initiative” is intended to encourage >>non-custodial parents<< to work, support their children, and play an active role in their children’s lives. Last I checked, noncustodial mothers have a child support delinquency rate almost double that of fathers.
  • Apparently, it is a fact that child support payments directly pass through as benefits to children.
  • The Department was asking for $570 million over ten years to support increased access to “visitation”.  Wow, that’s awesome. Out of a $4 billion dollar annual Title IV-D budget, the Department was asking for an additional $57MM per year to encourage non-custodial parents to “visit” with their children (14% of the enforcement budget and $1.1MM per state) because higher involvement by non-custodial parents is correlated to lower child support delinquencies.
  • Oh, but then we also have the obligatory VAWA and “best interests” disclaimers.
  • It is also worth noting that the initiative is intended to “encourage” non-custodial involvement. Not a peep is mentioned about the enforcement of custody orders.

So, the Feds dangled a little extra gravy out there for noncustodial parents (er, I mean fathers) so they’ll “visit” with their children, and what do you know, all of a sudden, states start looking at shared parenting bills that dangle a little extra parenting time for non-custodial parents, while still preserving conditions that maximize and administer child support payments for Title IVD bonuses.

I’ll tell you what U.S. Government. I don’t need “encouragement” to see my children.

In fact, I’m trying to get laws changed so that Government will get out of my way and let me actually do it.

Legit.

 

 

Family Law Reform: The Ugly Truth About Why States Don’t Want The Presumption Of 50/50 Parenting After Divorce

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Note: This is an updated consolidation of two posts made in August/September 2012.

Way back in 2012,  we were having a discussion where I was asserting that states can receive anywhere from $1 to $2 in Federal subsidy payments for every dollar they collect and administer in child support payments.  And it was during this discussion that one of our members asked the simple question, “Do you have any documentation on this?”.

There Is A Bunch Of Convoluted Government Math In This Post If You Want To Run Through The Methodology Of How Stuff Is Calculated, But Here Is The Short Story Version.

Administering child support payments is big business for states:

(1) States get reimbursed for 66% of the hard costs of collecting and administering child support.

(2) States receive bonus funds for the reimbursement of welfare programs using a formula consistent with Federal medical program reimbursements.

(3) States get bonus funds from a shared incentive pool, in which those incentives are driven by the nominal amount of child support collected and the performance in collecting it. In other words, states are incentivized to (a) maximize the amount of child support funds they administer, and (b) maximize the efficiency with which they collect it.

There are three revenue sources for States associated with the collection and administration of child support payments defined under the broad cover of the Social Security Act:

(1) 66% reimbursement for allowable expenditures, which are:

a. Costs for locating parents
b. Costs for establishing orders
c. Costs for collecting child support payments
d. Costs for establishing paternity
e. Any other misc. costs approved by the Secretary for reimbursement.
f.  And exception of 90% matching for the following two expenditures
i.  Improving management information systems
ii. Blood testing

(2) Welfare recovery and matching:

a. Recovered TANF payments are split between the Federal Government and States consistent with Federal reimbursement of medical benefits (I’m still not clear about exactly how this part works in practice.)

(3) Incentive pool (Public Law 105-200, the Child Support Performance and Incentive Act of 1988 ( enacted July 16, 1998 ).

With the incentive pool, states must compete for their share of the funds, which we estimate is currently, is around $491MM.

A. The incentive amount = State Incentive Pool (x) State Incentive Share

B. State Incentive Share = Incentive Base Amount For The State (/) Sum of Incentive Base Amounts For All States

C. Incentive Base Amount = Sum Of Applicable Percentages {defined by paragraph 6 of the Act} (x) Corresponding Maximum Incentive Base Amounts for each bonus category:
Bonus Categories Are:

A. Paternity Establishment Performance Level
B. Support Order Performance Level
C. Current Payment Performance Level
D. Arrearage Performance Level
E. Cost Effectiveness Performance Level

D. Maximum Incentive Base Amount = State Collections Base (as measured in performance categories A,B,C) + 75% state collections base ( performance categories D, E).

E. State Collections Base = Sum ( 2 (x) amount collected in which support is assigned to the State (bonus categories A or E), amount of support collected that was at the time of collection, not required to be assigned), total amount of support collected).

Current data for total Title V-D expenditures is currently unavailable. The last published data (2012) was $3.977 billion.

Title IV-D Reimbursements and Incentives Allocated To States (2012):

Title IV-D % Fed Visitation % Fed
Grants Rel
State $ Received Budget $ Grants Budget To Title IVD
California $490,125,776 12.32% $946,820 9.35% 0.19%
Texas $301,348,139 7.58% $702,147 6.94% 0.23%
New York $266,750,195 6.71% $545,183 5.39% 0.20%
Ohio $243,766,906 6.13% $346,015 3.42% 0.14%
Florida $212,471,610 5.34% $502,438 4.96% 0.24%
Michigan $179,977,527 4.53% $284,554 2.81% 0.16%
New Jersey $170,208,617 4.28% $212,190 2.10% 0.12%
Pennsylvania $150,486,866 3.78% $344,452 3.40% 0.23%
Illinois $125,814,504 3.16% $192,761 1.90% 0.15%
Washington $110,001,353 2.77% $176,274 1.74% 0.16%
Minnesota $106,643,740 2.68% $133,346 1.32% 0.13%
North Carolina $87,725,394 2.21% $279,933 2.77% 0.32%
Maryland $86,096,363 2.16% $160,674 1.59% 0.19%
Georgia $80,546,707 2.03% $295,483 2.92% 0.37%
Wisconsin $75,158,881 1.89% $152,034 1.50% 0.20%
Arizona $74,147,529 1.86% $172,676 1.71% 0.23%
Virginia $70,223,005 1.77% $207,182 2.05% 0.30%
Louisiana $68,945,314 1.73% $145,278 1.44% 0.21%
Missouri $65,754,372 1.65% $169,898 1.68% 0.26%
Kentucky $63,591,310 1.60% $123,634 1.22% 0.19%
Indiana $60,985,048 1.53% $100,000 0.99% 0.16%
Oklahoma $54,640,040 1.37% $103,930 1.03% 0.19%
Massachusetts $51,039,687 1.28% $171,813 1.70% 0.34%
Iowa $49,973,434 1.26% $123,634 1.22% 0.25%
Tennessee $49,377,836 1.24% $181,834 1.80% 0.37%
Oregon $46,717,248 1.17% $100,000 0.99% 0.21%
Colorado $44,275,072 1.11% $121,309 1.20% 0.27%
Connecticut $43,172,897 1.09% $100,000 0.99% 0.23%
Alabama $42,222,415 1.06% $137,856 1.36% 0.33%
Indian Tribes $42,000,000 1.06% $100,000 0.99% 0.24%
Kansas $39,126,333 0.98% $100,000 0.99% 0.26%
Nevada $37,536,710 0.94% $100,000 0.99% 0.27%
South Carolina $32,976,075 0.83% $136,311 1.35% 0.41%
Mississippi $32,474,920 0.82% $107,089 1.06% 0.33%
Utah $27,533,598 0.69% $100,000 0.99% 0.36%
New Mexico $27,209,782 0.68% $100,000 0.99% 0.37%
West Virginia $26,634,714 0.67% $100,000 0.99% 0.38%
Nebraska $25,263,754 0.64% $100,000 0.99% 0.40%
Delaware $23,737,900 0.60% $100,000 0.99% 0.42%
Puerto Rico $22,709,422 0.57% $100,000 0.99% 0.44%
Maine $18,090,754 0.45% $100,000 0.99% 0.55%
Idaho $17,506,554 0.44% $346,886 3.43% 1.98%
District of Columbia $16,855,375 0.42% $100,000 0.99% 0.59%
Arkansas $16,377,999 0.41% $100,000 0.99% 0.61%
Hawaii $15,469,849 0.39% $100,000 0.99% 0.65%
Alaska $15,385,076 0.39% $100,000 0.99% 0.65%
North Dakota $12,662,484 0.32% $100,000 0.99% 0.79%
New Hampsire $12,028,516 0.30% $100,000 0.99% 0.83%
Montana $9,835,041 0.25% $100,000 0.99% 1.02%
Vermont $9,016,968 0.23% $100,000 0.99% 1.11%
South Dakota $7,296,020 0.18% $100,000 0.99% 1.37%
Rhode Island $6,452,335 0.16% $100,000 0.99% 1.55%
Wyoming $4,016,126 0.10% $100,000 0.99% 2.49%
Virgin Islands $3,664,589 0.09% $100,000 0.99% 2.73%
Guam $2,986,321 0.08% $100,000 0.99% 3.35%
Total $3,977,035,000 $10,123,634

Source: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/olab/cse.pdf

Access and Visitation Grants:

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) created the Access and Visitation Grants program.  Funding for the program began in FY 1997 with a capped entitlement of $10 million.

Each governor designated a state agency which uses these grant funds to establish and administer programs to support and facilitate non-custodial parents’ access to and visitation of their children.

The statute specifies certain activities which may be funded including:  voluntary and mandatory mediation, counseling, education, the development of parenting plans, supervised visitation, neutral drop-off and pick-up, and the development of guidelines for visitation and alternative custody arrangements.  This funding is separate from funding for federal and state administration of the CSE program.

Incentive Payments to States:

“While the federal government provides most of its funding for the child support program through matching payments to reimburse states for their expenditures for allowable expenses, it also makes incentive payments to reward states for strong performance on a range of measures, such as cost-effectiveness. Section 458(f) of the Social Security Act allows states to use their incentive payments to either “carry out the State plan” or “for any activity (including cost-effective contracts with local agencies) approved by the Secretary, whether or not the expenditures for the activity are eligible for reimbursement under this part, which may contribute to improving the effectiveness or efficiency of the State program operated under this part.”

~ Source: Office of Child Support Enforcement

(1) IN GENERAL- The incentive payment for a State for a fiscal year is equal to the incentive payment pool for the fiscal year, multiplied by the State incentive payment share for the fiscal year.

(2) INCENTIVE PAYMENT POOL-

(A) IN GENERAL- In paragraph (1), the term `incentive payment pool’ means–

(i) $422,000,000 for fiscal year 2000;

(ii) $429,000,000 for fiscal year 2001;

(iii) $450,000,000 for fiscal year 2002;

(iv) $461,000,000 for fiscal year 2003;

(v) $454,000,000 for fiscal year 2004;

(vi) $446,000,000 for fiscal year 2005;

(vii) $458,000,000 for fiscal year 2006;

(viii) $471,000,000 for fiscal year 2007;

(ix) $483,000,000 for fiscal year 2008;

(x) $496,000,000 for fiscal year 2009*;

(xi) $490,000,000 for fiscal year 2010*;

(xii) $496,000,000 for fiscal year 2011*;

(xiii) $490,000,000 for fiscal year 2012*;

(xiv)$490,000,000 for fiscal year 2013*;

(xv) $486,000,000 for fiscal year 2014*;

(xvi) $490,000,000 for fiscal year 2015*;

(xvii) $492,000,000 for fiscal year 2016*;

(xviii) $492,000,000 for fiscal year 2017*;

(xix) $491,000,000 for fiscal year 2018*;

Source: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cse/pol/related/3130.htm

* Data after 2008 for incentive pools is unavailable, so these are estimates using the government formula for establishing the incentive pool: for any succeeding fiscal year, the amount of the incentive payment pool for the fiscal year that precedes such succeeding fiscal year, multiplied by the percentage (if any) by which the CPI for such preceding fiscal year exceeds the CPI for the second preceding fiscal year.

(B) CPI- For purposes of subparagraph (A), the CPI for a fiscal year is the average of the Consumer Price Index for the 12-month period ending on September 30 of the fiscal year. As used in the preceding sentence, the term `Consumer Price Index’ means the last Consumer Price Index for all-urban consumers published by the Department of Labor. (Note: the government uses an average cpi figure from sept-sept; we’ve used the typical published values from dec-dec. This may create a small discrepancy with the estimates, but it should not be significant)

(3) STATE INCENTIVE PAYMENT SHARE- In paragraph (1), the term `State incentive payment share’ means, with respect to a fiscal year–

(A) the incentive base amount for the State for the fiscal year; divided by

(B) the sum of the incentive base amounts for all of the States for the fiscal year.

Now, here’s where it gets important, because this is where the base value figures are established:

(4) INCENTIVE BASE AMOUNT- In paragraph (3), the term incentive base amount’ means, with respect to a State and a fiscal year, the sum of the applicable percentages (determined in accordance with paragraph (6)) multiplied by the corresponding maximum incentive base amounts for the State for the fiscal year, with respect to each of the following measures of State performance for the fiscal year:

(5) MAXIMUM INCENTIVE BASE AMOUNT-

(A) IN GENERAL- For purposes of paragraph (4), the maximum incentive base amount for a State for a fiscal year is–

(i) with respect to the performance measures described in subparagraphs (A), (B), and (C) of paragraph (4), the State collections base for the fiscal year; and

(ii) with respect to the performance measures described in subparagraphs (D) and (E) of paragraph (4), 75 percent of the State collections base for the fiscal year.

Skipping some stuff here…

(C) STATE COLLECTIONS BASE- For purposes of subparagraph (A), the State collections base for a fiscal year is equal to the sum of–

(i) 2 times the sum of–

(I) the total amount of support collected during the fiscal year under the State plan approved under this part in cases in which the support obligation involved is required to be assigned to the State pursuant to part A or E of this title or title XIX; and

(II) the total amount of support collected during the fiscal year under the State plan approved under this part in cases in which the support obligation involved was so assigned but, at the time of collection, is not required to be so assigned; and

(ii) the total amount of support collected during the fiscal year under the State plan approved under this part in all other cases.

(A) The paternity establishment performance level.

(B) The support order performance level.

(C) The current payment performance level.

(D) The arrearage payment performance level.

(E) The cost-effectiveness performance level.

**So, you can see two important things here.

First, the reimbursements, payments, and bonuses are NOT determined by a reimbursement of State expenses incurred. In fact, the minimization of State Collection Costs is a bonus item.

Secondly, and this is really important, the figures used are the child support funds that States have under administration.

And here is something interesting. Check this out:

(c) TREATMENT OF INTERSTATE COLLECTIONS- In computing incentive payments under this section, support which is collected by a State at the request of another State shall be treated as having been collected in full by both States, and any amounts expended by a State in carrying out a special project assisted under section 455(e) shall be excluded.

***i.e. If two States are working together to collect funds, they both get credit for the purposes of establishing bonuses – this is pure gravy.

Note a couple of things here.

First, the bonus values are doubled for the categories of paternity test performance and cost performance.

So why would the Feds care about State costs? Because this is the bonus and incentive program, and States already receive a 66% dollar for dollar reimbursement for administrative costs (and I’m not sure, I’ll have to check, but i think there is a way they can finagle the remaining 34% to get even dollar for dollar match) under a different section of the Social Security Act.

So, In Summary:

States can get up to 100% reimbursement for administrative costs plus up to two times the bonus pool share for two categories along with the rest of it.

Now add to this, the fact that Courts often charge fees for posting these certified payments, and may assess additional fees and fines for enforcement, and you’ve got a very lucrative incentive for States and Courts to maximize child support payments.

Think of it is a pie. The objective for each state is to maximize their share of the pie (incentive base amounts relative to other states). And in this regard, you’ll note that the Fed’s apply a 25% penalty to the maximum incentive base amounts for two categories: (1) Support collected in arrears, and (2) Support Costs.

Secondly, you’ll note that the Fed’s place double the weight of state administered child support payments assigned to the State for collection; either by order or agreement.

So, with respect to incentive pools:

(1) An incentive to maximize the amount of child support ordered.
(2) An incentive to maximize the amount of child support collected.
(3) An incentive to avoid high collection costs.
(4) An incentive to assign collections to the state for administration.
(5) A penalty to incentive base amounts for child support amounts in arrears.

In other words, the name of the game here for states is to generate the biggest number possible (incentive base amount) constrained by the maximum incentive base amount. Once these numbers are in for the year, shares are created and the pie is split up.

Note: We would like to get current data. More specifically, we’d like to the Federal Government to post its expenditures on an annual basis.

We’d also like to get an accounting from states as to how they spend the incentive money they receive.

We’ll keep plugging away at the problem….

Caution: Shared Parenting May Not Be What You Think It Is.

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Is shared parenting legislation a win?

Sadly, probably not.

In truth, it’s mostly political deception intended to manufacture the appearance of change, when in fact, there is nothing that is substantively different from existing law.

To test for yourself if this statement is true, ask yourself a few questions about your proposed or existing shared parenting law:

  • Does it enable an environment of conflict?
  • Does it provide for the presumption of 50/50 custody?
  • Is there a financial incentive to minimize or eliminate noncustodial parenting time?
  • Is the problem of parental alienation addressed with the legislation?
  • Are there reforms to the enforcement of child support orders?
  • Are there reforms to the enforcement of custody orders?
  • Are there measures to remedy false allegations of abuse made during custody proceedings?

Probably, not. Mostly likely, there are “guidelines” judges are encouraged to honor with the intention of providing noncustodial parents with more parenting time, but the legal environment is not substantively different.

Politicians are still legislating unequal custody divisions, presumably to preserve their Federal Title IVD revenue streams, and, the nebulous and overly broad “best interests of the children” doctrine is still the dominate feature of law; meaning that at the end of the day, judges are free to do whatever they want, just as they are now.

To put this in perspective, ask yourself two more questions: (1) Under existing law, are judges free to award 50/50 custody, and (2) Are they doing it?

These bills are largely theater.

With our recent open letter to legislators, we noted a few sensible features that are necessary for healthy family law.  Most notably:

  • Prioritize the interests of children above the interests of those who seek to profit because of them.
  • Recalibrate the legal environment to encourage and reward cooperation, not conflict.
  • Recognize the relationship value of both parents to children, and move the reference point to a presumption of 50/50 custody.
  • Assign equal importance and the rational enforcement of both child support and custody orders.
  • Child support and custody orders should reflect the needs of the children, and not the lifestyle demands of the custodial parent.
  • Provide judges with resources and remedies to quickly and credibly identify legitimate instances of abuse and fraudulent allegations of it.
  • Recognize that parental alienation is a form of child abuse, and should be treated with the seriousness it deserves.

The truth about the substance of shared parenting bills moving through various legislators at the moment is they are still 100 percent about the stimulation of conflict and the creation of absent parents for money, and they continue to leave the problems of parental alienation and false allegations untouched.

In a recent blog post, we talked about what’s been missing from the family law reform effort, and what’s needed to put an end to the political gaming and motivate legislators to make substantive and healthier reforms to family law, and within that spirit, we’re making some changes here at The Love and Iron Project as well.

We’ve been more than patient, and in the end, what were getting from politicians are manipulations that, quite frankly, assume we’re too dumb to understand what they’re really up to.

We’re not fooled, and we’re not stupid.  In fact, it’s long past time to put an end to all this nonsense, and it doesn’t matter if they’ve just passed new legislation this year; that’s not our problem. We’ve been letting them know for the last twenty years what’s needed, and if they have to turn around rework what they’ve just passed, well, too bad.


 

 

Family Law Reform: The Failure Of A Moral Argument

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Consider the following story from one of our members:

“My son testified in the state capital when a proposal was made to adopt 50/50 custody.

He did not care about money, he pays his support by living home with me. What he wanted was more time with his sons and he petitioned for an extra overnight, and waived child support reduction. 

The mother’s lawyer asked why if he was only putting the kids to bed?

He told the her, I want to lay in my bed and listen to my sons breathing in their sleep knowing they are close by me.

At the state hearing, a legislator told him the proposal would not get much support because: We don’t care about you, its all about the money.”

~ Susan

This story, in a tragic and powerful way, illustrates everything thing that’s vile about family law. Even the mother’s attorney couldn’t understand why he would waive his child support reduction to get one more overnight when “he was only putting the kids to bed…”

Um, maybe because he loves them?

Sadly, it neatly sums up and presents the heart of the problem with respect to existing family law: politicians have legislated the creation of absent parents so that other can profit from it. The focus is not on people, it’s on the money to be made and they’re brutally throwing both parents and children under the bus to realize their goals.

Why Isn’t The Moral Argument Working?

Don’t allow yourself to be fooled. It is easy to rest under the misperception that a strong moral appeal is enough to motivate action.  For some it is, but for most? Nope.

You’ve probably seen this yourself.  There are things people say publicly that are inconsistent with their actions, and thus the old axiom: attach little credibility to what people say they will do, and attach a whole lot of credibility to what you observe them actually doing.

Which is sort of a polite way of saying, people will manufacture a public image that is different from what they really care about, i.e. people will lie or misrepresent when it serves their interests.

In economics, we use a crafty little strategic tactic called a screen to get people to reveal themselves.  With a screen, you mindfully construct a choice for the target, and let his or her actions speak for themselves.  Of course, you don’t have to go through the process of constructing a screen, you can also utilize natural screens which only requires observing what people choose to do in response to events that happen naturally.

Which leads us to an important insight: If politicians were motivated by morals, they would have rewritten these laws 20 years ago, which also means if we’re going to solve the family law problem and deliver change, we’re going to have to change our approach to the problem.

Family Law Reform: Failure Of Political Influence

For more than thirty years, family law reform advocates have been working like crazy to persuade legislators to build a healthier system of family law.

And after all the time and effort spent engaging with state legislators, next to nothing has been done to address the problems of child abuse by parental alienation, false allegations of abuse made in family court, and the grossly unequal and irrational enforcement of custody and child support orders.

Just one state (Kentucky) has adopted law for the presumption of 50-50 custody, while a handful of the others push “shared parenting legislation” that is in truth, not substantively different than existing law.

In other words, we’ve been witnessing theater intended to make it appear as though politicians are enacting progressive law, when in fact, these laws are not substantively different from what already existed.

They’re playing games.

If you want to influence politician behavior, it helps to know three important things:

  1. What they care about.
  2. What their goals are.
  3. How they like to go about getting things done.

Additionally, and with respect to goals, it’s important to keep in mind the difference between means goals and ends goals.

For example, a politician may tell you what you want to hear (manipulative action) to appease you (means goal) when in fact she intends on doing something else like satisfying a lobbyist so she can harvest money for an election campaign (means goal) to win an election (means goal) because she cares about harvesting power (means goal) in order to accomplish legislative goals (ends goal).

Of course, some politicians will be guided by conscience, but sadly, a few legislators are not enough to get something done. And for most politicians (despite what they tell us) moral conscience is not in the equation.

The good news is, when you understand how someone operates and why, you can discern what they’re up to and outmaneuver them.

Change The Incentives, Change The Game

The father in the Susan’s story simply wanted to be a parent. He advocated to his elected officials for the presumption of 50/50 custody, and was told by a legislator that he, his relationship with his children, and his children are not important.

I can’t even begin to describe the anger and loathing I feel when I see politicians, judges, lawyers, family court investigators, and custodial parents prioritize the harvesting of money over and above the well being people, especially children.

For many of us, parenting is all we’ve every wanted from life. And no parent should be forced to bankrupt themselves to stay in the lives of their children, nor should they be forced to choose between paying child support or hiring an attorney in a desperate attempt to enforce ignored custody orders.

Our family justice system is absolutely corrupted by greed, and the foxes are ruling the hen house.  There is no excuse for using children as leverage to extort money from a parent, and there is no excuse for creating absent parents so that states can harvest money from the Federal Government.

This. Is. Ludicrous.

I know there are noncustodial parents reading this blog post who, like me, have been immeasurably and irreparably hurt by how our they’ve been treated.

I know there are extended family members who’ve been painfully alienated from their grand children, their nephews, and their nieces.

And I know there are children suffering immense emotional and psychological damage because they’ve lost a parent due to a legal system and a family court industry that more concerned with making money than protecting children.

We have every right to be angry – No one should be treated the way.  However, we also have the responsibility to take ownership of the problem, because sitting around feeling sorry or waiting for others to do the work is not going to result in a solution.

In short, we need more horsepower to win, and actually, we have it. We’re just not using it effectively.

Our job at the Love and Iron Project is to make it easy for small, individual actions on your part to have big, powerful effects to family law. Because it’s not one person doing giant, heroic things that’s going win this.  It’s all of us doing small but highly effective things that when pooled together change the game.  That’s guiding philosophy of everything you’ve seen from us in the past, and everything you’ll continue to see from us in the future.

The key thing that stories like Susan’s reveal is that purely persuasive efforts with politicians have not been enough.

Recalling the motivational pattern noted above regarding politicians, if we want to impose our legislative goals for family law reform on them, it’s not difficult to see that we have numerous leverage points from which to work, and we can actually stress all of them simultaneously. Most notably:

  • Utilize skepticism and sentiment.
  • Make it difficult for them to raise money.
  • Make it difficult for them to get elected.
  • Threaten their power.
  • Disrupt the achievement of their goals.

We’ve built a road map (which we’ll unveil next week-ish) to accomplish all those things.