Texas fathers going through a divorce or navigating the child support system as single dads may often find the situation overwhelming or confusing. However, these problems can be exacerbated when race and poverty enter the picture to complicate factors. “Where’s Daddy?” is a new documentary that aims to explore how the American child support system affects African American families and, more specifically, the relationship between black men and their children. The film also looks at the impact of poverty on family relationships, noting that 70 percent of all child support debt in the country is owed by noncustodial parents who make less than $10,000 each year or have no income at all.
The director of the film looks at stereotypes of African American fathers as presented in pop culture, especially the idea that they are neglectful fathers who avoid child support and do not seek custody after divorce or separation from their partners. He argues that these stereotypes can have material negative effects on African American families and father-child relationships. In addition, the director also looks at the criminalization of child support debt and the use of jail time and driver’s license revocations against parents who owe child support. Individuals who are in poverty and relying on marginal jobs can often lose their employment as a result.
The film interviews fathers, mothers, attorneys and child development experts about the interplay between child support enforcement mechanisms and the involvement of fathers in their children’s lives. It notes that the use of jail time and other punitive consequences can be particularly damaging.
Parents going through a divorce may face a system that presents an array of challenges, especially when dealing with child custody and child support. Family law attorneys can represent divorcing parents to protect their rights and relationships with their children and pursue fair child support and custody orders.