Frustrated by a Deadbeat Parent? Try Invoking the Dog Law
by Judge O.H. Eaton, Jr.
Family practitioners occasionally run into the deadbeat parent who simply refuses to obey the order directing payment of support. These cases are frustrating for several reasons.
True deadbeats have no money or assets. They live off of the income of others, usually day by day, or they rely upon the generosity of friends for assistance through the hard times.
Deadbeats believe they have nothing to lose. They have no job. They have no status. They have no property. They perceive themselves to be creatures deserving of sympathy due to their pathetic state which was caused by the custodial parent who now is to blame for the whole thing.
The usual civil remedies such as income deduction orders and writs of execution or sequestration do not produce needed monetary support. To add to the frustration, the custodial parent is usually destitute, or nearly so, and cannot afford counsel.
Sometimes the court files in these cases are voluminous because the deadbeat is pro se and is making a career out of dragging the custodial parent to court over trivial matters, thus jeopardizing employment and putting the custodial parent even more at the mercy of the deadbeat. How should the family law practitioner and the courts approach these cases?
One approach is to apply “dog law.” Now, I do not claim this concept to be original with me. I learned the concept during a lecture by Professor Calvin Woodard of the University of Virginia College of Law several years ago.
According to Professor Woodard, there are two kinds of law: “human law” and “dog law.”