Texas Attorney General Touts Support For Visitation, but Don’t Look Too Closely

This sounds about right.

It’s an announcement by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott trumpeting his support for child visitation by non-custodial parents. As the state’s attorney general, Abbott’s office has the job of enforcing child support orders, so I was glad to see his commitment to the other side of the divorce and custody coin – visitation. As anyone who reads this blog very much knows, I’m highly critical of government agencies including family courts that come on like Rambo where child support is concerned but like Mr. Rogers when it comes to visitation orders.

And I’m no fan of Attorney General Abbott who’s always seemed to be more of a self-promoter than a promoter of fathers’ rights to their children. So, as I said, I was glad to see him issuing a publication about his initiative to promote enforcement of visitation orders. After all, since 84% of non-custodial parents are fathers, they’re the ones left out in the cold when courts ignore the rights of NC parents to access to their children. Having the weight of the AG’s office behind fathers would be no small thing.

And Abbott makes clear that he understands the value of maximal parental involvement in children’s lives.

CHILDREN THRIVE ON THE SECURITY THAT comes from knowing both parents love and care for them. That is why the Office of the Attorney General is committed to helping parents stay involved in their children”s lives.

He goes on to say that children do better in many phases of life with two actively-involved parents. Plus, he knows that, when non-custodial parents aren’t denied access, they’re much more likely to pay child support. So clearly Abbott knows what’s best for kids and is going to bat for non-custodial parents, right?

Then I read further.

Abbott’s announcement is about federal money for “Access and Visitation” grants the AG’s Office recently channeled to 10 different agencies and non-profit organizations in the state’s largest counties to promote visitation. Those counties comprise millions of people and deal with who knows how many visitation cases every year.

So what sort of support is Abbott providing for such a worthwhile cause? $500,000. That’s an average of $50,000 per grant. Harris County (Houston) and Dallas County, have over 2 million people each; Bexar County (San Antonio) has over 1 million. So what Abbott is ballyhooing in his publication works out to an average of $50,000 per agency to help enforce visitation orders.

Except, well, it turns out to be not that much. Why? Just go to the website for any of the organizations to which the meager funds are directed and you learn that their missions include visitation support, but are hardly confined to that. Indeed, most of them list as their main concern – can anyone guess? – child support enforcement. So what Abbott is doing under the claim of providing money for access enforcement is mostly going for yet more child support enforcement. If those organizations and agencies did nothing but access support, the $50k would be paltry enough, but they do nothing of the kind.

How much money does Texas spend on child support enforcement? It’s hard to tell, but in this statement, Abbott says that the AG’s Office’s “Child Support Division collected a record $1.8 billion in child support…” in the previous year. Later he says that “Texas collects almost $7 for every dollar spent” on child support enforcement. So it’s reasonable to conclude that the Child Support Division has a budget of about $257 million each year.

That puts the $500,000 Abbott is spending on visitation in some perspective. So as I said at the start, given the usual disdain for fathers’ rights and fathers’ access to their children, that “sounds about right.”

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