Open letter to Virginia Senators, Delegates, House Courts of Justice

The formula for the Virginia Child Support Guidelines is excessive and flawed in my opinion. Excessive child support orders are the result in part of archaic way of thinking, namely, the wellbeing of the child is solely bound upon the wellbeing of the custodial parent and their home. And that the circumstance of the non-custodial parent matters little or not at all to the wellbeing of the child. The existing Guidelines are also bad for the children because they diminish parenting time by the non-custodial parent. In many cases the non-custodial parent finds that the only lodgings he can afford are quite distant from where the children are living. Much time is then spent by both the non-custodial parent and the child in commuting.

Moreover, the non-custodial parent is frequently forced to work two or three jobs, or substantial overtime, simply to survive in the face of an excessive child support order combined with the effects of taxation. I think it is critical for the wellbeing of our children that we consider the financial effects of the Guidelines, together with the tax law, on both households.

The system treats dads as no more than ATM machines, incapable of making financial decisions for their children. Dads may have shortcomings, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good dad, capable of making financial decisions for his kids. Dads made competent decisions on behalf of their children before divorce, so why is it that the state deems men incompetent after divorce, empowering only the mothers? Deciding what to spend on our children should be every parent’s right, not just mothers. The state of Virginia has taken away that parenting right from fathers by giving mothers complete financial control with no accountability.

The moms are the heroes, which further alienates the kids from dad because all they know is that mom spends all the money on them and dad is always broke. That dad lives in a dump that they are embarrassed to visit and never enough money to do things with them They have  no concept that the money that mom spends is coming from dad. The monetary gains that mothers achieve under these guidelines, coupled with free legal aid, encourage mothers to demand full custody in our court system. I am confident that there would be a significant decrease in this disturbing trend if the guidelines were adjusted to reflect fair child amounts for each party. What is more important to a child, designer boots, clothes and smart phones or a loving relationship with their dad and mom? What will do more emotional damage to a child, having to move into a smaller home or having to witness the deterioration of their dad’s pride and well-being, and having little time with their exhausted dad because they have to work two jobs to stay afloat? I am insulted that the state of Virginia allows mothers to bleed these fathers dry under the COP-OUT of doing what’s best for the children, with absolutely no requirement that the money is actually being spent on the children. In my opinion child support guidelines should encourage parental responsibilities for child support in proportion to as a percentage of the parent’s net income.

It is my understanding that weekly health insurance, dental and vision should be considered and subtracted from available income, if the non-custodial parent is paying this, which has increased dramatically in 2014. This is not considered nor is his work-related expenses, he ends up with less than half of his pay. This is so wrong.

It should be noted that the country is perilously close to posting a median household income number of less than $50,000 (Virginias average Annual Income State Ranking List $45,225) for the first time since 2002. Almost every group is worse off than four years ago, and some groups had very large declines in income. We’re in an unprecedented period of economic stagnation. (Source U.S. Census Bureau and 23/7 Wall Street).

Richer states, Maryland, New Jersey, Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii and Massachusetts, guidelines have not been raised. In Massachusetts Support Guidelines Panel passed effective August 1, 2013 - 11 percent decreased for one child – 6 percent for two children.

Today, I ask you to pause a moment, put yourself in some of these dads’ shoes, How would you feel if you didn’t have enough money to take your children to the park, to a movie, out to lunch, skating, or to buy that one toy that they may have asked you for?

Helen Gregory
North Chesterfield