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Texas "deadbeat" dads really may not be

The state of Texas makes provision in its laws for child support, ideally to help ensure neither parent must bear the full burden of raising the children of a union alone. However, a new study quoted in Time magazine suggests that general notions of deadbeat fatherhood and the realities of low-income fathers may not be as clear-cut as previously thought, raising questions about typical definitions of deadbeat parenting and what really constitutes a deadbeat dad.

According to the study, which was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, many fathers who were unable to meet their court-ordered financial child support obligations nevertheless tried to help in more tangible ways, such as assisting with every day expenses, clothing and food. The study examined 367 lower-income men in three cities and found that while only 23 percent paid child support as defined by law, 46 percent contributed other forms of support.

Another trend the study turned up was that fathers who are denied time with their children give about half the tangible and financial support of fathers who spend at least 10 hours each month with their children. The author of the study speculates that current child support laws may actually hinder the bonding of fathers with their children and support provision because mothers often deny paternal access until the father has paid all state-required child support.

An attorney asked to assist in a child support dispute may start by reviewing the court order governing the amount of child support and any other relevant information. The attorney might also look at what, if anything, the other parent contributes in terms of medical and extracurricular expenses for the child. Depending upon a number of factors, the attorney may petition the court to assist in recovery or initiate collection proceedings through alternate lawful avenues.

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