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Sen. Bryan Hughes’ proposed bill would help fill state coffers with federal funds while perpetuating the bogus stereotypes that portray single dads as deadbeats. Courtesy Texas Senate Media Services

Whom exactly Sen. Bryan Hughes was trying to help when he authored SB 590 is unclear. The bill that would require Texas dads to pay nine months of child support for fetuses — retroactively, if needed — appears driven by pro-lifers emboldened by the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Fetuses — unlike, say, children — generally do not attend pricey day care or require endless tranches of Pirate’s Booty cheese puffs. Mothers need prenatal care, but those expenses can be awarded when establishing custody or child support after birth. The bill certainly does nothing for fathers who potentially face nine months of retroactive child support on top of already financially crushing monthly payments.

And that’s to say nothing of the papas who may not even know their one-night fling ended in conception until the attorney general shows up with a $9,000 bill.

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The group that stands to benefit most from this asinine proposal is Big Government. Through the federal Title IV D program, established by the Social Security Act of 1975, state governments rake in 66 cents for every dollar the state spends enforcing child support. The original intent of the law was to lower the financial burden of government welfare programs, but states have found devious ways to monetize child custody.

Based on open records from the AG’s office, Tarrant County family courts earn a cool $3 million a year from the program that disproportionately penalizes fathers who dare to seek access to their children through legal means.

Fathers and mothers face enough hurdles when seeking access to their children through Texas’ family courts. It’s a system keenly designed to bleed parents dry of every last penny of their life’s savings — to say nothing of loans taken out — so attorneys and judges can send their children to top-tier private schools and colleges.

In 2018, Kentucky became the first state to adopt presumed 50-50 custody between parents. The assumption is rebuttable, meaning provable instances of abuse or neglect can sway judges to award custody accordingly. Sounds like the same commonwealth that gifted the world bourbon just hit on another ingenious idea.

Recent reporting by the Washington Post found that mothers gain primary custody of children 80% of the time in family courts. By avoiding 50-50 custody agreements, family courts create winners and losers between parents, which allows Texas to maximize Title IV D income from the feds. Texas Family Code Section 201.107 plainly states the self-serving aims of judges. “The presiding judges and the Title IV D agency shall act and are authorized to take any action necessary to maximize the amount of federal funds available under the Title IV D program.”

Common sense dictates that only in the rare circumstances where the former spouses earn vastly different sums of money should child support be considered, and there shouldn’t be a cap that protects the wealthy as there currently is. Texas’ family courts assume fathers are deadbeats who only deserve to write a check and see their children every other weekend at best. In reality, dads continue to prove their commitment by draining their finances in courts and suffering through the trauma of convincing a judge that they should have meaningful access to their own kids.

Family courts are a multibillion-dollar business that floats the lavish lifestyles of judges, attorneys, and government officials who profiteer enough from the pain and suffering of parents. It’s time to defund family courts as a means of ending financial incentives that unnecessarily prolong litigation. Fighting Sen. Hughes’ bill is a great place to start.

 

This column reflects the opinions of the editorial board and not the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at Anthony@FWWeekly.com. He will gently edit it for concision and clarity.

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