KFOX14 Investigates: Fighting to father, state lawmaker looking at fixes for broken system


    KFOX14 Investigates: Fighting to father, state lawmaker looking at fixes for broken system<p>{/p}

    Fathers across Texas say they're being denied lawful visitation rights to see their children.

    KFOX14 Investigates Chief Investigative Reporter Genevieve Curtis took those concerns to state legislators to see what can be done.

    "I'm stuck in this limbo where I’m just trying to see my daughter,” said Chris Dunphy.

    This is at the heart of the problem.

    KFOX14 Investigates cameras were rolling as Dunphy tried to pick up his 5-year-old daughter Rosie for his court-designated weekend.

    The child's mother -- refused to let her go. El Paso police responded but told him they can’t physically force the mother to turn over the child.

    Even though a violation of the court order is a state jail felony.

    “You can do it, just slap some cuffs on her,” Dunphy told the officer.

    “I'm not going to do that,” the officer responded.

    The officer said he would file a report against the mother for interference with child custody.

    “She says she doesn't care,” the officer told Dunphy.

    The officer said he would file a report against the mother for interference with child custody.

    But KFOX14 Investigates found those reports rarely go anywhere.

    Records obtained by KFOX14 Investigates show there were more than 4,000 reports taken by the El Paso Police department for child custody interference from 2016 to 2018.

    While 229 of those cases were presented to the district attorney's office, there were just 11 indictments -- j

    ust 5 percent of the cases presented.

    "If you have a law on the books and it's not being enforced, doesn’t that make it meaningless?" Curtis asked state Sen. Jose Rodriguez

    "Depends on how you look at it,” he said.

    Rodriguez is a former county attorney and also saw cases like this during his time in private practice.

    "Many parents still deprive the noncustodial parent of visitation,” he said.

    As a lawmaker, he's hearing from parents who just want to see their kids.

    "I am very much aware that across the state, prosecutors across the state, including here in Texas, do not get priority to these kinds of matters,” he said.

    Rodriguez said his staff is now meeting with advocates, prosecutors and family law attorneys.

    "To look at the issue and see if once and for all we can come up with some sort of solution to this growing problem,” he said.

    Rodriguez said, as a former prosecutor, he understands prosecutors can choose how resources are used.

    "We understand your caseload, we understand your discretion, but are we simply going to let this problem fester?” he said.

    KFOX14 Investigates asked district attorney Jaime Esparza about the issue in 2014.

    At the time, he told us it's a gray area.

    In a statement Esparza told KFOX14 Investigates every case is reviewed by a prosecutor.

    “These are complicated cases involving families. All of these cases began in a family court and, in the majority of situations, the family court should decide the best course of action for the families,” he said.

    “They know the parties involved, the families and the children. Disagreements between moms and dads are generally best resolved in family court, not criminal court,” said Esparza.

    Esparza added family law court has the ability to hold a party in contempt of court or jailed for violations of the court order

    Rodriguez says his office is examining ways to make the law and enforcement stronger.

    "We need to look at what incentives we can put in the system to encourage parents to abide by court orders. I'm hopeful we can come up with some proposal,” he said.

    News In Photos

      Loading ...