Deadbeat Dads and Texas Family Law

One of the most pejorative, unpleasant terms in all of family law is that of a deadbeat dad. Whether you are a father who has gone through a divorce and or a child custody case or the mother of a child who co-parents with a deadbeat dad, it is not a fun situation to find yourself in being attached to this term. There are all sorts of connotations connected to being a deadbeat dad and none of them are good. The term deadbeat dad is so well known in our culture that I would offer to you that every adult is familiar with the term whether they know anything about Texas family law. In short, nobody wants to be known as a deadbeat dad.

However, the unfortunate reality of parenting in a family law environment is that there are examples of fathers who do not take their responsibility seriously and are less than stellar parents. There are many reasons why a father may be known as a deadbeat dad or may not be the dad that his children need. If this is a situation that sounds familiar to you, then today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is for you. We are going to talk about deadbeat dads and how their actions are treated within the world of Texas family law. 

Whether you are a mother who used to be married or in a relationship with a deadbeat father or are a father who has not always lived up to his end of the bargain when it comes to parenting, we think today’s blog posts will be especially relevant and important for you to work with your family on. We know that there are a lot of competing interests in your life. However, your children or at the top of your list in this blog post can go a long way towards helping you understand what is at play when it comes to deadbeat dads and parenting as well as how you as a mother or father can parent your child successfully even in the face of adversity.

What responsibilities do parents have in Texas? 

This is one of the most crucial and fundamental questions that a parent can ask themselves. All parents have an idea of what their responsibilities are concerning their children. However, the state of Texas has specific rights and duties that almost every parent in this state must live up to. The major difference in understanding these rights and responsibilities is before becoming involved in a family law case you may never have seen these rights and responsibilities spelled out specifically for you. Now that you have been through a family law case these write some responsibilities should be clearer for you.

For those of you who are just beginning your family law case experience, you should understand that one of the most basic responsibilities that a parent has to their children in Texas is to financially support that child and their basic needs. This does not necessarily mean that you as a parent must allow your child to live up to a certain standard or have a certain quality of life that is beyond your means. Rather, supporting your child financially just means that you must support him or her to the extent that she needs basic food, clothing, shelter, education, and medical care.

Beginning a family law case means planning for all these needs and figuring out how you are going to be able to your child achieve stability in each of these areas. Undoubtedly, it is difficult to plan for the financial needs of your child during a tumultuous and ever-changing time like you are experiencing during a family law case. As a result, it is the responsibility of both parents to be able to support a child. You and your co-parent each have responsibilities when it comes to the financial support of a child. However, just as both you and your co-parent contributed differently when it comes to the finances in a home, so too will your roles and responsibilities differ slightly as you get into your family law case.

Very rarely do both parents of a child contribute equally to that child’s care from a financial perspective. Certainly, depending upon your situation financially and that of your co-parent each of you may find yourselves in different positions as far as your willingness and ability to provide financially for your child. All the family court will do in your family law case is attempt to establish consistent and stable orders when it comes to the support of your child. That could be support from a financial standpoint and it could be support from a caregiving or even health insurance perspective. Whatever ends up happening in your family law case, the court will want to ensure that you and your co-parent have worked out an agreement on how to handle matters related to the finances of your shared parenting with your child. If you are unable to do so as a team then the court will step in and establish those orders for both of you.

For many people, this sounds like a terrible alternative. Being able to determine how you and your co-parent can provide for your children is a hallmark of the Texas family court system. Rather than putting yourselves in a situation where it is a foregone conclusion that a family court judge will determine the outcome of your case, the reality is that both of you have every opportunity in the world to settle your case rather than to go before a court. The key to this discussion is how the two of you can work together to eliminate the possibility of in court battle and instead can shift the focus of your case to your children in what is in their best interests.

All of this, of course, is made more difficult when you are negotiating with and trying to work as a team with a father who is anything but reliable or consistent in the type of care that they give to their child. In a circumstance like this, it can be challenging to remain positive and work with your co-parent despite your differences. Resigning yourself to a certain fate when you’re co-parent does not meet your expectations in negotiations is a mistake. Rather, if you can work with your co-parent to the greatest extent possible during negotiations you may find that you can come to a resolution on more matters than you would have thought possible.

Given that you and your co-parent no longer live together this presents a very real challenge when it comes to determining the parental rights and duties of both you and your co-parent when it comes to raising your child. For example, you probably found that it was hard enough trying to raise a child with your co-parent when you both lived together under the same roof. Now, the same circumstances related to your child exist with the only difference being that the two of you are no longer living together. This means coordination of your efforts to parent and communication of your goals is crucial.

Child support and deadbeat dads

When we talk about child support in Texas, it is important to acknowledge that there are guideline levels of support that are talked about and codified in the Texas family code. These guideline levels for support applied to the non-custodial parent of your child. Being the non-custodial parent of a child means that you do not have primary custody of that child, but rather, have visitation rights to that child. What this means is that while you do not have the right to determine the primary residence of your child, you are still provided with periods of visitation in your court orders.

Those court orders truly do allow for a parent to define their role in the lives of their children. When we think about the term deadbeat dad what we are talking about is when a father simply fails to take advantage of the time and opportunities afforded to him when it comes to several different areas in the lives of their children. For instance, if your ex-husband fails to pay child support in full and on time then that means that he does not take responsibility for the financial well-being of your child all that seriously. Not only does this put your child in a bad situation but it also puts you in a bad situation as far as determining how to budget the limited resources you have with your child. This is one example of how your co-parent could be called a deadbeat dad.

Child support is its responsibility in and of itself. That monthly child support figure, if based on the guideline amounts for child support, typically involves your co-parent paying a percentage of his net monthly income towards the support of your children. The percentage of his net monthly income that is used to pay child support is determined by how many children you have before the court. The more children you have before the court the higher the percentage of his net monthly income that will be used to pay child support.

There is also a responsibility to pay for health insurance on behalf of your child. Either you, your co-parent, or the state of Texas will need to provide health insurance for your child. If your child is on Medicaid through the state of Texas, then your co-parent is responsible for reimbursing the state for paying for your child’s health insurance. Uninsured medical costs of your child will need to be factored into this equation, as well. It is up to you and your coparent how you divide these costs between the two of you, but they must be divided up in some way. A judge will not allow you to continue with your case under any court orders that do not account for uninsured medical costs.

Being able to contribute to the care of your child as far as being in physical possession of him or her is a key part of this equation. Not only are you as a parent responsible for the financial upkeep of your children but you also are responsible for caring for your child in a physical sense. This means that when you are with your child you are responsible for their care and safety. The same applies to your co-parent when he or she is with your child. However, you can encounter problems when it comes to this subject if your co-parent does not take this responsibility seriously. If your co-parent is a deadbeat dad then almost surely he will not take these responsibilities very seriously. 

A deadbeat dad values his time more than your time or that of your children. He may miss periods of visitation on the weekend, for example, and not provide you with enough notice to allow you to choose to take possession of the children even though it may not be your weekend period of possession. What this does is place your child in a situation where he cannot rely on his father to see him consistently. It also puts you in a position where you have to provide for daily care of your child much more regularly than you would have anticipated. It isn’t that you do not value the extra time with your child but when you are trying to live on a custody schedule you come to rely upon that schedule and plan around it.

How do Texas family courts treat deadbeat dads?

Ultimately, when you talk about holding a deadbeat dad responsible for his actions or inactions in a family law case the most frequently used tool in the toolbox of an experienced family law attorney is that of an enforcement lawsuit. An enforcement lawsuit seeks to do exactly what you would think. Namely, you would be filing the enforcement lawsuit to enforce the terms of your court order that your co-parent has violated. Regardless of whether it is a violation regarding visitation, possession, or child support you can be aware of what the different requirements are what enforcement case, and how they can apply to your situation.

You would need to allege specific instances of violations. It is not enough to simply tell a judge that your ex-husband needs to pay you more child support. Rather, you should do your best to keep accurate records of each violation that your co-parent has accumulated. For example, if you are alleging violations of the child support orders in your child custody case then you need to be able to tell the judge the date on which payment was missed, the amount missed, and the total arrearage. The more detailed you can be the better off you are at proving your case in court but also being able to settle your case in mediation with your co-parent.

If there is any silver lining to a child support or child custody enforcement case, it’s that oftentimes you and your co-parent can begin to develop a dialogue together perhaps for the first time in your lives as parents. It is not uncommon to see two parents who have adverse interests come together because of a child custody enforcement case. You may not think that this could happen to your family, but I am here to tell you that it is possible. However, you need to be diligent about how you approach the case and attempt to negotiate with your co-parent.

Being a deadbeat dad does not have to be your defining moment as a parent. Having a history as a deadbeat dad can indeed be something that taunts you now and in the future. However, you can use the lessons learned in a child custody case and then approach your life as a parent much differently moving forward. Many people do not know that even if a divorce or child custody case does not go your way you can come back and attempt to modify those court orders in the future. If you can prove that there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances for you, your co-parent, or your child then a modification is possible. However, before you could arrive at that point you would need to be able to show that you have taken seriously the court orders and not been in violation of any of them. Redeeming yourself and benefiting the lives of your children- No matter what you have been called in the past.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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