Cuccinelli also was the lone Senate vote against legislation to increase child support payments by tying them more closely to inflation. The 2006 measure passed 39-1, but stalled in the Virginia House of Delegates. Baskerville said the bill was an attempt to “railroad through higher child support, though it already is at punitive levels.”
Nix said that “clearly there were problems with the legislation” because the measure did not advance in the House and has not been revived.
The two bills covered the main bases of the fathers’ rights agenda, said Jocelyn Elise Crowley, a Rutgers University public policy professor and author of “Defiant Dads: Fathers’ Rights Activists in America.” Many group members have said they are motivated by their experiences with the family court system.
“Participants in the movement are concerned about two main issues nationally,” Crowley said. “They’re concerned about child support awards, and they’re concerned about child custody laws.”
Violence Against Women Act
A National Organization for Women advisory committee on family law wrote last year that fathers’ rights groups’ “true objectives are to discriminate against, control and punish women by gaining custody of children and to denigrate the personal and economic sacrifices made by mothers for their children.”
Nationally, fathers’ rights groups also have opposed the federal Violence Against Women Act, partly because they think it has fueled false abuse allegations. A group previously run by Grignol, Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting, claimed in a 2007 report that because of the Violence Against Women Act, “over 1 million false allegations of domestic violence are filed each year.” Women’s rights groups and other critics strongly dispute that false claims are so widespread.
This year, 47 state attorneys general sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Cuccinelli was one of three who did not sign it. His spokesman said at the time that Cuccinelli would not support a bill that was still subject to change.
The updated legislation has been law since March, and Virginia Democrats have run ads against Cuccinelli on the issue. He still has not articulated a firm position on the issue, though Nix said he and “other law enforcement in Virginia are highly motivated to do everything in their power to protect women and children within the commonwealth.”
No references to family law
Cuccinelli’s early campaign biographies mentioned that his private law practice included “domestic relations” and “child custody cases.” Since 2007, his biographies have not included that part of his career. His Web site notes he was a “business law attorney” with a “wide range of experience.” It makes no reference to family law.
But Cuccinelli has mentioned that he served from 1998 to 2000 on the board of Families Inc., a now-defunct Fairfax County nonprofit group.
Debra T. Snow, the co-founder of Families Inc., said she and her colleagues “provided supervised visits for non-custodial parents” who were charged with or accused of abusing their children. Cuccinelli was the organization’s attorney, she said, and helped train workers who supervised the visits.
Cuccinelli has cited his time with Families Inc. as he tells campaign audiences about his past work on behalf of “the most vulnerable in our society,” including volunteering at a homeless shelter and battling sexual assault when he was an undergraduate at the University of Virginia.
Snow, now retired and living in Minnesota, recalled that she and Cuccinelli were “total opposites” in their political views, particularly on abortion. And yet, she said, “I thought he was so honest and so loyal.”
McCormick said it would be wrong to narrowly cast Cuccinelli’s beliefs. “He’s not a strong fathers’ rights guy; he’s not a mothers’ rights guy,” McCormick said. “He’s a family guy. He’s for the family.”