Cuccinelli’s office didn’t say so then, but the client was Ron M. Grignol Jr., a former House of Delegates candidate embroiled in a custody dispute with his ex-wife.
Grignol is also the former leader of Fathers for Virginia, which seeks to “empower divorced fathers as equal partners in parenting,” and of a second group that contends that men are frequently victimized by false allegations of domestic abuse. Grignol did not respond to requests for comment about the groups, which some women’s rights organizations have accused of distorting the facts about domestic violence.
Cuccinelli’s legal work for Grignol, whom he also knew from Virginia political circles, is one facet of his relationship with the fathers’ rights movement, a loose national network of activists who think the legal system is stacked against men in divorce and custody cases. As a state senator, Cuccinelli introduced legislation on divorce law backed by national fathers’ rights groups, which have urged members to get out the vote for him.
Cuccinelli’s support for aspects of the groups’ agenda illustrates how his personal and religious views have helped shape his political career and continue to affect it as he runs for governor against businessman Terry McAuliffe (D).
His ties to the groups could spill over to the governor’s race
as Democrats have seized on Cuccinelli’s stances on women’s health and abortion. In a state with a stark gender gap on such issues, the McAuliffe campaign could target Cuccinelli’s advocacy of fathers’ rights to further depress his support among women. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed McAuliffe with a 12-point lead over Cuccinelli among female voters.
Fathers’ rights groups have urged states to revise their laws to grant men more time with their children in joint custody proceedings. They have been criticized by some women’s groups for seeking to reduce child support payments.
“We support candidates who support the idea that children should have a full relationship with both of their parents, regardless of their present marital status,” said Michael McCormick, executive director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. “I would say Ken Cuccinelli is a strong supporter of that particular premise.”
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) have both
vetoed “equal parenting” bills this year that would, among other things, increase the minimum amount of time fathers get with their children in joint custody agreements. Critics of such measures say they remove too much discretion from family court judges.