Perspective on Deadbeat Dads

"D" Is for Deadbeat
“D” Is for Deadbeat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No matter where you turn in our society, you see Single Dads and Single Moms juxtaposed in a very extreme manner.  Single Dads are most frequently identified under the label of “Deadbeat Dads” defined as fathers who don’t have anything to do with their children and most often are behind on child support.  Single moms are virtually always relegated to near sainthood status.  Virtually every drafted NFL or NBA player has a sainted single mom — or at least that is what the media tell you.

For years, I believed this storyline, and looked down my nose at those dads that abandon their kids.  Until I became an alienated father.  Now I’m slowly realizing that there are two sides to every sainthooded mom / evil dad story.   Without a doubt, there are fathers out there who are sperm donors and completely abandon their families.  I have seen that there are moms out there who have done this as well.  We never hear their stories, because it doesn’t fit the media narrative of deadbeat dads.

Two recent stories have caused me to rethink much of this.  Both from my family.

Apparently, an uncle of mine had a child with his first wife.  They divorced and as part of the proceedings (or maybe in spite of them), she took his daughter and wouldn’t let him have anything to do with her — completely alienating him from her.  The mom told her daughter that her dad refused to pay any child support and that her dad didn’t care a wit about her and didn’t want to be involved in her life.  My uncle went on to have 3 other girls with his 2nd wife, but sent checks monthly to his 1st wife until his daughter turned 18. Asking to be in her life, begging to be included, but to no avail.

After she reached adulthood, this daughter sought out her father and was very angry about the way that he’d completely neglected her.  His 2nd wife quietly went into their study and brought out EVERY cancelled check from the 12 years of child support to show the daughter.  You can imagine the scene from there.   A “deadbeat dad” by definition of the 1st wife — and for many years, his daughter, went from evil man to faithful father in the span of an afternoon.  All because the truth came out.

Second story is from my own life.  I set up my child support account with the state recently.  It took me three hours to do and the required certain documentation to set it up that I didn’t have.  I needed a certain kind of number to set it up but couldn’t get that number until I set up an account.  I finally set up the account without the number, referencing my ex-wife’s social security number in the record.  The money didn’t flow to her.  Instead it went to some trapdoor in the state system.  She was irate and kept telling me I wasn’t paying her.  I finally got a hold of the county child support person and gave her my check number and she tracked it down and got it to my wife.  3 weeks after I sent it in.  The paperwork has been set up now where it comes directly from my paycheck with my company, so there shouldn’t be any additional problems.

During this process, I also discovered that I was considered a deadbeat dad by the system because I hadn’t paid child support during the first 2 months of the separation.  Of course, I had paid child support, but the state takes so long to set up the number in the system, I couldn’t automate it until almost three months after the separation date.  I paid the support directly to my wife, copying in my lawyer to every payment.  I owed just under $2000 per month, and paid her over $8000 during that 2 month period, just to ensure she had enough to pay the bills, etc.  I communicated all of this in emails to her.

The state requires a hearing to validate that this is paid (or an agreement between the two lawyers the won’t be final until the divorce is final).  Either way, I will be marked as a deadbeat dad in any reporting the state does until this is settled.  When it is finally settled, I will probably still show up as having been negligent in my child support.

Periodically, we hear states reporting deadbeat dad information, and it is always sobering how many dads are behind on child support and aren’t paying.  I wonder how many of these dads are newly separated, like I was, or negligent because the state has not recognized what was previously paid before it was in the state system.

All this to say, I’m sure there are deadbeat dads.  But let’s be careful in characterizing anyone late on child support in that category.

Final thought on this:

An Alienated dad is a Deadbeat dad.  It depends on your perspective.  From the mom’s, the kids’, and their friends views, he is a deadbeat — not involved in their lives and probably not paying his support as well…  From the side of the alienated dad, he would love to be involved, and would probably pay well more than his share of the child support and alimony, springing for extras as needed at will — if he actually got to see his kids.

A deadbeat dad is not necessarily an alienated dad, he just might be what we commonly think of as a deadbeat dad.  But lets not paint all of us with the same brush.

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