I am not going to mention the name of a the candidate because I don’t give bad actors name recognition. However, one Attorney General Candidate who does not even have enough legal experience to be hired as a starting attorney in the child support division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office, has criticized the way Greg Abbott runs the office and has called the staff horrid things.
I will tell you from first hand knowledge that the staff of the Child Support Division of the Attorney General’s office has improved by leaps and bounds under Abbott. He has not only set forth a higher level of hiring requirements, he has a very detailed training for the employees of that office. They spend several weeks in pretty intense training after being hired, even if they have years of experience.
He also has an advisory board where he has local attorneys give input into how to improve the office. John Clark has been on that board and can probably explain it better than I could.
For those of you who do not know, this division was set up as part of the Section IV-D of the Social Security Act. The United States Congress set this up so that the 50 states could rec over unpaid child support from the noncustodial parent. This is because many custodial parents were on welfare and the state and not the other parent was supporting children. Over the years, Congress has added to this act. Further, the Administrations have added more and more regulations. If the State of Texas does not comply, Texas will not receive Federal funds.
Tarrant County is just one of the 254 counties in Texas the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General’s office must service. We have two courts that run between 50 and 75 cases a day on their respective dockets four days a week. Fridays are reserved for special settings and matters that will take more time. Yes, sometimes the wonderful attorneys at the office make a mistake, but that is rare. If they are 99% accurate with a million cases, there are still a large number of mistakes that an outsider looking in can find to criticize, rather than the millions done right.
More importantly, these courts deal with people who made bad choices in their lives. They expect the courts and the Attorney General to fix them. Guess what? The government can not fix your problem.
If you have five children with five different men, none of whom you marry, you are going to have bad results in life. If you have the child of a day laborer who has had 10 children with 10 different women, you are not going to collect child support. If you have children with an abusive drunk, your children will probably be abused.
It is the law in the State of Texas that every child deserves both parents. The United States and the Texas Supreme Court have both ruled that people have a fundamental right to parent their children without governmental interference absent clear and convincing evidence of substantial harm to the child. Agree or disagree that is the law.
If you have a situation where the mother of your child is a crack addict and the courts are not quick to terminate her parental rights, that is not the fault of the Attorney General of the State of Texas. People need to carefully consider who they make the other parent of their child. Guess what? If you have sex you might have children. So having sex with someone is a choice to make that person the potential parent of your child. If you make bad choices, the government can not save you from those decisions. The government has to deal with the fact that you created a life that the government is supporting. The government is providing you with an attorney that represents the State of Texas, not the individual, who is doing the best it can to collect child support from the other parent because the litigant made a bad choice.
When people tell stories about family courts they tell it from their point of view and they paint themselves in the best light. I have seen cases where people have told others they lost their children because they were homeschooling their children. They did not bother to mention that their idea of homeschooling was doing meth in their bedroom while the children were placed in front of the TV in the den and the children were removed because of malnutrition, abuse and neglect. Attorney client privilege prevents us from defending ourselves. I think homeschooling is wonderful, I just see people using it as an excuse and outright lying about what happened to them.
Yes, the Attorney General spends money on a program to get fathers who have no interest in their children to engage with them. Why? Because study after study shows that fathers who have a relationship with their children are more likely to pay support. Other studies show that children greatly benefit from having both parents in their lives. Does it always work? No. Does it work some of the time? Yes. Is it worth it to try to establish a relationship between a child and an estranged father? I believe so.
Again, the reason classes are necessary is because people are making bad choices about who they make the other parent of the child. So next time you criticize Greg Abbott, a family law attorney or Family law judge for what is happening to you, stop and take account of what you did to get to where you are. It is called personal responsibility.
by Patricia Baca Bennett. Patricia practices law under her maiden name “Baca.”