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Controversial child support ad sparks debate in one U.S. state

From the television news and the morning paper to the car radio and the billboards lining the road, most of us encounter countless advertisements over the course of just our regular morning routine. While we ignore the majority of these advertisements, there are always a few that might make us smile, frown or perhaps even feel a bit uncomfortable.

Interestingly, there is a new advertisement in the city of El Paso, Texas that is having just such an effect on the general populace. However, the advertisement in question has nothing to do with food, clothing, schools, movies or cars, but rather with the issue of child support.

The advertisement in question, the brainchild of a local family law attorney, starts off by appearing to address a female audience by asking if they would like to make thousands of dollars by staying at home. It then proceeds to list a set of instructions that, in summary, include having a baby, getting rid of the father, securing child support and proceeding to spend the child support money on superfluous items.

The advertisement then concludes by addressing a male audience asking them to contact the aforementioned attorney in the event that the scenario sounds familiar.

While this advertisement would understandably appear extremely offensive to many people, the attorney in question claims it is simply meant to raise awareness about a systemic problem with the family court system in his state.

"Generally, the idea of child support is a good thing, people need to take care of their kids, but it's so abused in the state of Texas," said the attorney. "I don't mean to offend people by putting this poster out, but I do mean to wake people up to pay attention to what's going on."

The perceived problem, according to the attorney, is the child support debit card system that has been in place in the Lone Star State since 2007. Here, all child support payments are made to the Attorney General's Office, which issues the recipient a debit card that gives them access to the funds.

The attorney states that this debit card can then be used to fund purchases that have nothing to do with providing for children.

This coupled with the fact that it is very difficult for fathers in his state to secure primary custody, he argues, highlights how the entire family law system -- from child support and child custody -- needs to be changed.

"There's other problems in the law that are serious concerns," he said. "If a woman has a baby, and gets rid of the father, the father has no choice but to pay child support, unless he can win custody, and that is hard, Texas courts are prejudiced against fathers, and I stand by that 100 percent."

For their part, both the Attorney General's Office and state lawmakers have indicated that the debit cards serve the invaluable purpose of ensuring that parents have instant access to much-needed child support funds and that any concerns regarding the misuse of these funds is perhaps a "family conversation."

Curiously, a local news outlet in Texas recently interviewed a cross section of woman to gauge their opinion on the advertisement and a surprising number expressed largely positive views.

"I've seen that happen, it's not good for the kids or the father," said one woman. "I think they should be more aware of people doing that, and go ahead and look at the families, go to the house, and see if they're actually spending that money on the kids."

What is your take on this advertisement? Is it a good idea, a good idea poorly executed or just a poor idea?

If you would like to learn more about child support or child custody issues here in Minnesota, you should strongly consider consulting with an experienced attorney who can outline your options and enforce your rights.

Source: Fox 14, "El Paso attorney uses controversial ad to warn men about child support," Bill Melugin, September 8, 2013

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