Friday, February 4, 2011

Deadbeat Dads

I remember the day(s) when my husband's guilt over not being able to be a constant figure in his children's lives would overcome his normally logical mind and he'd throw his fists in the air, rend his clothing and cry out, "Oh why did I become a deadbeat dad!" 

OK, not really, but there were many many a day (and occasionally we still revisit this issue) when he feels like maybe he could have done more, fought harder, spent more money, found a better lawyer, agreed to his ex-wife's demands, done a double back flip, found the magical unicorn or develop the cure for cancer...and in that way could have provided a better life for his children instead of being a "deadbeat dad."

And then I gently rub his shoulders, pull out the dictionary and read for him...


The definition:  A father who willfully defaults on his obligation to provide financial support for his offspring

The Wikipedia definition:  Deadbeat parent is a term referring to obligor parents of either gender that have freely chosen not to be a financially supportive parent in their children's lives.

The Wiktionary definition: A man, especially one who is divorced or estranged from his partner, who fails to provide monetary child support when he is legally required to do so

The legal definition:  A father who ignores a Court order to pay child support more...This one from the "Deadbeat Dad Forum":  In my definition a deadbeat dad is a man that has fathered children either in a marriage, or any type relationship, and has denied his parenthood to that child.  This man does not feel he needs to be in the child's life in any manner. Or does not pay his court assigned child support. Thus leaving the full responsibility to the mother.

Are you a deadbeat dad?

Are you willfully and purposefully walking away from your children?

Are you an immoral person who does not care for their offspring?

Are you refusing to pay child support?

Have you denied your parenthood?

I'm willing to make a wager on the fact that if your are here, reading this blog, you do not fit the definition of deadbeat dad...and yet, I know so many divorced men who walk around with guilt oozing out of their eyes, ears, fingertips, sweat glands, and air follicles. 

You may be one of them.  I know my husband is (thankfully not as frequently as he used to be, but...) occasionally still one of them.  They belittle their contribution to their children and blame themselves for not having been given the same opportunity as their ex-wife and mother of the child to be a part of the child's life.

They feel guilt for having "given up."  They feel guilt for having "failed."  They feel guilt for not seeing their children more often.

(Hum the Jeopardy countdown song with me here...)

Sorry, I was just going back over those definitions to try and find the one that says a deadbeat dad is a dad who pays their child support and has been court ordered to not access his children more than..._____(fill in the blank with your visitation allowance here)____.  Who spends every last dollar he has on a long line of lawyers promising THIS time it will be different...and continues this journey until his child(ren) finally reach an age where they voice their own opinion or become adults.

I don't see you?

We'll visit the societal requirement of divorced dads being gluttenously full of guilt in another blog post, but what I hope you dads that are out there reading this blog now will understand is this:

1.  There is a bias in family courts against awarding a father custody and/or more parenting time.  You not receiving custody or more parenting time does not make you a deadbeat dad.

2.  More money spent on a lawyer is rarely/if ever going to change the judges mind.  Choosing to not spend that money does not make you a deadbeat dad.

3.  Your ex-wife will continue to make demands on you as a parent outside of the court ordered agreement.  She will try to make you do and agree to what she wants.  Sometimes you will think she is right.  Sometimes you will think she is wrong.  When you refuse to comply with her demands or agree with her this does not make you a deadbeat dad.

4.  Your ex-wife will not suddenly realize that you should see your child more frequently.  Your inability to convince her of this does not make you a deadbeat dad.

5.  At some point the fight is no longer worth it.  When you realize that you no longer want to fight, THIS DOES NOT MAKE YOU A DEADBEAT DAD.

Yep...I said it.  At some point, fighting the ex-wife for custody or more time or even for the time you've got on that court document, but that is being denied to you, is no longer worth it. 

In a five year period of time my husband went from an every other weekend arrangement to 50/50 shared custody to having the two youngest full time then back to every other weekend then to only on holidays and a month in the summer to custody of one child and summer/holiday visitation with the others.

Did reading that make your head spin in a circle?  Tell me what judge in their right mind can look at that progression and say, "Yep...I definitely did what was best for those kids!"  It looks to me more like a case of, "What mood is the judge in today?  Does she/he like fathers or mothers today?"

I think the hardest thing my husband ever did was admit to me he didn't want to fight anymore.  He just wanted to accept what was given and move on the best he could.  He struggled with depression and anxiety from that decision.  He worried his children from his first wife would feel like he was choosing his second wife (and I was pregnant at that time) over them.  He wondered if they'd ever forgive him.

Take a minute and reflect on where you are at in your journey through the divorce/custody/courtroom battles.  Are you just starting out full of hope and determination to win your fight?  We (the collective we) are your cheerleaders and hope you succeed. 

Are you in the middle of your journey and feeling the wear and tear of constant court battles, unreasonable rulings but still forging on ahead?  We (again - that collective group of us) offer you all the virtual strength that we can. 

Are you at the point where its time to say enough is enough and I'm ready to move on? 

You are not giving up or giving in.

You are simply accepting what is. 

You are not forgetting your child(ren).

You are agreeing to let other priorities back into your life.

This collective we...well, we're behind you...applauding your strength to make this decision and want to remind you that this does not make you a deadbeat dad.


  1. Hear, hear! I know that there are some people who will moan and whine, "But the chiiiiiildren! You can't EVER give up on your chiiiiiildren!" If you choose to step away from the fight, you're not giving up on your children. You're giving up on the idea that your ex will ever be reasonable and actually act in the best interests of the child. You're giving up on the hope that maybe *this time* the court will actually punish her for violating the court order.

    You can love your children to heaven and back, but if outside circumstances (i.e. their mother and the court system) won't let you express that love to them, then at some point, you have to accept reality and love within the boundaries that have been put up. As I've said time and again, it's sheer maddness to keep running full-steam ahead at a brick wall that isn't budging.

  2. "Giving up" might be rephrased as "recognizing reality." When a child's mother discourages or prevents a child from maintaining a relationship with his or her father; the courts become unwitting allies by either doing nothing, not enforcing their own orders or giving bio mothers "one more chance to do the right thing," ad nauseum, as precious relational months and then years slip away; and the child in question becomes complicit in rejecting his or her father, "recognizing reality" gives fathers permission to abandon a hopeless, lost cause without compromising their souls.

  3. A further thought is that defining "willfully withholding financial support" is greatly influenced by perspective and expectations.

    In a case well-known to me, the dependent adult daughter of a multi-millionaire--having never worked in her life--expected her ex to pay for alimony, child support, private school tuition, costs associated with expensive after school enrichment activities, high end summer camp expenses and, as is customary, medical insurance and medical expenses. Never satisfied with the level of child support ordered by the court and bitterly disappointed when this now impoverished man couldn't meet her insatiable financial demands, she hauled her ex to court several times a year, for over a decade, and brandished him a "deadbeat" to whomever would listen--including their children. Her father paid her legal expenses directly, so no motivation existed for her to seek win-win solutions or stop her exploitation of the court system as a weapon of vindictive warfare. The consequence was that large, regular legal fees consumed what little her ex had left, after child support, alimony and his own living expenses, forcing him to plunder the equity of his very modest "divorced dad duplex" and go into debt.

    In the mind of this woman, a middle aged adult who has literally never paid a single bill with money she herself earned, her ex really was a deadbeat because he "withheld" money that she wanted to spend on their children by the mere fact that he didn't give it to her because he couldn't. Her reality was, and still is, a world of endless pockets at no cost to herself.

    So, is this man a "Deadbeat Dad"? Who decides?

  4. Early in the visitation/custody battles in my divorce, I remember a friend saying to me, "Your children are priceless." A quarter-million dollars later, the expenditure of my entire legacy, I was left with the immutable truth that this wasn't true, that everything has a price on it.

    I paid every cent of every bit of child support imposed on me for all the years, yet I never received any visitation after the first year. In effect, in my opinion, my minor children become scofflaws with the active assistance and encourageement (manipulation) of the coterie of "professionals" my ex-wife surrounded herself and the kids with. You can read about it here.

    Yet for 4 more forlorn years, until my youngest turned 18, every holiday and every other Friday I went to their house 2 miles away, stood on the sidewalk, phoned, left an always-unanswered message on the voicemail, and after a few minutes drove away without my court-ordered visitation again. No amount of money, which I no longer had, spent for any further court order after more months of hearings, tests and evaluations, was going to induce my children to come with me.

    After a few months these minor children even dispensed with the charade of coming out of the house to announce to me, "Mom sent us out ready to go with you but we don't want to go with you so we're not." They would then scamper back into her house and close the door.

    Then until the youngest recently turned 22, every holiday or birthday I would announce to them in letters or cards and on voicemail that I would be at a nearby restaurant that day at noon and ask them to join me for lunch. After the phone was disconnected and the house sold, I would invite them to join me for lunch on those special days via the Internet, on my blog or on FB. Their Mother refuses to give me the addresses of my three sons, and I haven't seen nor heard from any of them since 2007 although they all live within the state.

    But I moved on through finding inside myself forgiveness and the strength to always be there for them, though they always scorned me. I always acted like a man and that was the only example that I could give to them. I hope someday that they grow into men, and live long and prosperous lives.

  5. My fiance goes through this (his kids are teenagers). His ex chose to move out of state (before the divorce was filed) without consideration of his relationship with his children and her entire family has enabled her crazy behavior. She's lied, played games, and generally done whatever to get her way and get attention. He finally came to the conclusion that all this fighting was not good for the kids so he told them he respected their decision to remain with their mother and he agreed to her demands so they wouldn't be drug into it. His family is very critical over his decision to stop fighting...his mother even said he doesn't love his kids and doesn't care about them. That hurt...he went from being in their lives every day during the separation to having to pull teeth to talk to them on the phone. He's been unfairly labelled as deadbeat although he pays child support and does make an effort.

  6. I'm not sure my son could do this. He sent me this blog because I keep encouraging him to fight. His girlfriend set him up from the beginning, lying that she wanted to get married, lying that she wanted to be a family, and then when he gave up everything to move to another town because "that is what would make her happy" she left him within two months - he comes home one day and everything including the baby girl is gone! He fought hard and did pay thousands of dollars for nothing. The burning question I always have is why does the mother always get the child, even when she basically kidnapped the child and lied to him about even wanting to be a family, she just wanted a baby, not a father, yet the court let her be the custodial parent. The child is now 3 and they continue to fight, she calls him a deadbeat dad every chance she gets even though he pays his support on time and sometimes "extra". She works for Child Protective Services and knows how to play the game. The child loves her daddy which is the only thing going for us but when he returns her after his short visits she screams and cries and holds out her arms to him because she wants to have more time with him - is that a deadbeat dad? I sometimes think instead of giving up he should continue to fight and try to change the system not only for himself but for the other fathers who truly want to be fathers but are not able to because of the unjust court system. Maybe the fathers need to band together and demonstrate and figure out a way to make the system more fair instead of "giving up" because that is exactly what the mothers want - they want the money but they don't want their children to love their fathers or have any type of relationship with them - it's just not fair and I am not sure giving up is the answer.

  7. Why should the care and financial responsibility of my children make me think suicidal thoughts?

  8. OMG! I cannot believe all the stories so grossly similar to my husbands.unfortunately for us we got a double bonus,the ex is a social worker.She is crazy,spitefull,selfish and bitter.She lies about everything from her income and medical reimbursements to allegations of drug abuse,alcoholism and physical abuse.Mind you I have been with my husband for 10 years and seen no evidence of any of it.He apparently has some other personality I know nothing about that just happens to have all these horrible faults noone else knows knows about.She even tried to have the courts make me move out of our home when we first moved in together.Since that time she has had numerous boyfriends sleep over and live with her and she has even taken the child to move into a boyfriends house.Each time telling my husband he was nolonger needed that his son had a new dad that was better.The relationships never lasts more that 10 months or so and the guy is gone.So apparently we are not the only ones she cant get along with.I cant believe the total bs that goes on in court everytime she takes him.Which seems to be every 4 months or so.So basically we go to court quarterly like taxes.This seems to be almost the norm it feels like.She goes so far as to send typed 4 to 5 pages letters to our home every few months or so.Insulting us,our parenting of thier son as well as our son together,blaming us for anything bad his son does while always taking credit for the good he does.They are so rediculous I laugh the entire time im reading them.My husband onthe other hand has never read any of them.He says its pointless cuz she is crazy.Ugh! women do this to hurt the father but the one they are hurting the most is the child.The best quote Ive ever heard is "You need to love your children more than you hate your ex".Ive recently come to the reality that nothing he does will ever be good enough Period.So all you can do is follow your end of the court order to the best of your ability,pay your child support,take whatever time the Ex will give you,make sure your kids know you love them and last but not least count down to thier 18 birthday.Then the only rules you have to follow are the ones you set.Good Luck to you all.I now have a new found respect for all the not so deadbeat,deadbeat dads out there.You have my sympathy.