A deadbeat dad, as defined by most states, is a biological father who does not pay child support. There are some tough laws in place to make sure that they pay. In the state I live in, deadbeat dads can even spend time in jail for not paying. What deadbeat dad laws do not enforce is visitation. That is, although they can mandate that you pay for your kids, they do not enforce that a father actually spend time with their kids. This is a very convoluted situation wherein courts are very much in favor of children having relationships with their fathers (whether they are deadbeats or not) but do not enforce them having relationships with them. This conundrum of complications often leaves mothers feeling frustrated, angry and defeated.
As a mother, I believe that the laws for deadbeat dads should be much more stringent and specific to reflect the well-being of children. First, I would redefine a deadbeat dad as a biological father who abandons his children physically, emotionally, and financially. Children are not only a financial obligation as state laws indicate. They are human beings who need to be raised and, yes, their relationship with their father is important, and it shouldn’t be up to mothers alone. I have learned through my own experience that there is no way to make a father be a good one. “Good” is very subjective, but when it comes to raising children, they ideally need both parents willing to work together to make the children feel safe, loved, and most importantly that they are both parents’ first priorities.
Deadbeat dads are not just fathers who do not fulfill their financial obligations. They lie to their children about not being able to visit, they let their children down by choosing new partners’ needs over their own children’s, and most upsetting, children learn from these men that that they are not unconditionally loved. If the men have “something better to do,” “other responsibilities,” and/or are focused on being single and having fun, their kids are pushed aside and this leaves them feeling devalued. Bottom line, the definition of deadbeat dad is a biological father who does not put his children’s needs above their own. When fathers walk away from their family and are unable to co-parent effectively with their children’s needs at the forefront, I consider them a deadbeat dad.
Moreover, what is the point of setting up custody agreements and court ordered visitation if the men don’t have to be accountable for actually seeing the kids? But, if the mother or kids try to alter the schedule based on the kids’s needs for whatever reason (i.e., illness, family events, time with friends) then we are held accountable for not following the custody agreement. This is essentially a double standard. Luckily, in my particular custody agreement with my not soon enough to be ex husband, there is a clause of, “If the Defendant Father and/or the children are unavailable for scheduled visitation then each parent will notify the other accordingly.” This leaves a gray area that he wanted to put in there so that he could take days off as needed to spend with his girlfriend and her children.
However, when I let him know the kids are not available on a certain date, I am told that I am taking his time away. Luckily, due to that one statement, he has no leg to stand on in the court and I just always remind him that he “can’t have it both ways.” The worst part is that he will not reschedule if time is missed (for either his needs or the kids needs) because his schedule is so tight due to his “other responsibilities.” This is the epitome of my definition of a deadbeat dad. They cannot be there when the kids are sick, they don’t drive them to school, they don’t pick them up from school, they spend all their time on the phone, computer or technological devices while they are visiting with them and just don’t give a shit in general. This is so hard for a mother to witness her children go through, but unless there is blatant abuse going on, there is nothing she can do legally. Therefore, I believe a deadbeat dad is a father who has turned his back on his kids to suit his own selfish needs, not just someone who does not pay child support.
So, what can be done? I guess that’s where I am stumped and frustrated. The courts would never allow me to have sole custody because my children’s father is not abusive physically. There is no evidence of drug use, etc. However, he is a narcissistic, selfish human being who, when it comes down to it, doesn’t give a rat’s ass about his first born children. The courts believe that any relationship with their father is a positive one, but I want my kids to have a good father, not a jerk. There’s nothing I can do about that and that is where the court system is failing me. If he doesn’t pay child support though, he could go to jail.
Does anyone else have their own definition of a deadbeat dad? I would love to hear from you.