What is a “Deadbeat” Parent?

What is a “Deadbeat” Parent?

On a daily basis, I hear so much talk about one of America’s most prevalent, yet least favorite topic, “deadbeat” dads. However, I’ve noticed that in many (not all) cases, once you scratch beneath the surface, the dads are often not actually deadbeats after all.  So many people, including those who wrote the legal dictionary, define a “deadbeat” as a  “parent who fails to pay child support.”

And while I understand that finances are important, considering the fact that being a parent requires much more important characteristics than “having money,” I find this to be an absurd definition that is completely unfair because the definition is extremely broad and insensitive of specific circumstances.  In my opinion, the term “deadbeat” is overused and misused.  There are so many different circumstances that can lead to one’s failure to pay child support.  Specifically, and most commonly, Stuff Happens!  Life is not perfect.   Sometimes a parent may genuinely, temporarily be unable to afford to make substantial financial contributions to their child’s life.  With the economy the way it has been over the last few years, even those with higher education and a lot of work experience are finding themselves unemployed and struggling to make ends meet.  Does this mean that parent should be labeled a “deadbeat” or not able to see their child because of their financial situation?  Absolutely not!  If that were the case, there would be a ridiculous increase in the amount of children who are parentless because financial problems affect both mothers and fathers.  Automatically deeming one who does not pay child support (irrespective of specific circumstances, including any other contributions made to their child’s life) a deadbeat is shallow and ridiculous.

Let’s look at it another way, what about the dads who do contribute financially, but that is all they do?  Is that enough?  People tend to forget that it takes much more than money to raise a child.  A man can pay all the money in the world  in child support and still be a deadbeat.  Society has us so wrapped up in riches and material things that we often disregard what is more important.  Yes, it does take money to raise a child: children need food, clothing, shelter, and other necessaries of life.  However, a child who has the necessaries of life, but does not have the time, attention, love and support they need from their parents is a lost child. Even if a parent is unable to provide financially, they should be able to contribute to their child’s life in other aspects without being labeled as a deadbeat.  There are plenty of parents who may be struggling financially, yet are phenomenal parents.

I believe that we should all  re-define the word “deadbeat.”  My definition of a “deadbeat” is: one who deliberately fails to provide financial support for their child and/or refuses or fails to make reasonable efforts to be involved in their child’s life as a parent.

And as a sidenote: if you are not allowing your child’s father to be involved in your child’s life simply because he is not providing for him or her financially, please stop!  So many moms make the mistake of thinking that because their child’s father will not or is unable to pay child support, that he should not be allowed to see his child.  This is one of the biggest mistakes made by mothers.  If he is not paying, there are remedies for that and there’s a proper course of action that you should take in order to resolve that issue.  Child support and child custody/visitation are two separate and distinct issues.  Child support  has nothing to do with whether your child’s father has a right to visitation.  In fact, failure to allow your child’s father to spend time with his child could actually hurt you in the long run.   How?  Because your child’s father will have a valid argument against you claiming that you do not make  the best interest of your child a top priority and therefore are not the parent deserving primary custody.

 

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