California Senator Rod Wright (pictured) and his legislative director Stan DiOrio held a phone conference with two dozen of Fathers and Families’ California leaders on Wednesday.
Beginning in 1996, Senator Wright has taken up the cause of family court reform and fought to bring justice to a very unjust system. He sponsored four family court reform bills last year, all of which passed and were signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, and he’s introduced three more this year. Last December we gave him our “California Senator of the Year Award 2010.”
Both Wright and DiOrio praised Fathers and Families’ work and said that we’ve helped change the political balance of power on family court issues in Sacramento. However, they both made it clear that there is much more to be done, and they want to see F & F continue to grow and build its organizational strength.
Some of the issues that came up during the call included:
- A Visitation Enforcement Bill. We looked to do such a bill in 2011 and it is still a possibility for 2012. Wright pointed to this as one of the major inequities of the system, noting that “fathers are assigned little value as parents.”
- Alimony “Double Dipping.” Wright discussed inequities in the alimony system, particularly “double-dipping,” which his SB 481 is designed to address–to learn more, click here. Wright said that despite media and public perception, alimony abuses aren’t a gender issue, as successful women business owners and entrepreneurs are increasingly finding themselves being exploited financially by their ex-spouses. One of our members on the call is a talented businesswoman who currently faces being “double dipped” in her divorce.
- In response to a question from Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S., Founder and Chair of the Board of Fathers and Families, concerning how Wright’s family court reform advocacy impacts his political career, Wright lamented the fact that endorsements from groups such as the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood carry a lot of weight but that there is no corresponding equivalent for family court reform advocacy.
- Paternity fraud. This is an issue which is clearly near and dear to Senator Wright’s heart. He talked about his disappointment in 2002 when he got a paternity fraud bill all the way through the California legislature, only to have it vetoed by Governor Gray Davis. (To learn more, see our column Preserving Paternity Fraud, Orange County Register, 10/3/02). Wright noted that some of the problems in the system were subsequently changed via legislation and court cases. However, much needs to be done, and he pointed to the Schwarzenegger paternity case as an example. (To learn more, see our column Bill would give ‘duped dads’ some fairness under the law, Los Angeles Daily News, 6/2/11).
- Wright praised the Colorado child support system, which he said is based around social workers, as opposed to enforcement agents. Under that system, fathers who are concerned that their child support money is not being used for their children can instead pay direct costs for their children, such as child care or into a college fund, and have it count towards their child support obligation.
- Welfare reform/paternity fraud. Wright explained that the 1996 Welfare Reform led to a widespread attack on men who were often inaccurately accused of parentage. (To learn more see our column Changes Opened a Paternity-Fraud Trap for Men, Baltimore Sun, 8/20/06).
- Wright emphasized the importance of father involvement for children and said he also wants to do more to promote shared parenting.
- Wright discussed the COAP program, which he helped create to assist low income parents struggling under the weight of artificially-inflated child support arrearages. To learn more, click here.
We are grateful to Senator Wright for his time and efforts and look forward to continuing to work with him on family court reform.
Together with you in the love of our children,
Glenn Sacks, MA
National Executive Director,
Fathers and Families