Dear readers (80% women, 20% the rest of us), child support does have a positive effect on many households. I am not against child support. I have paid my child support (not always with joy and gratefulness) and will continue to do so for another year, until my daughter turns 18. Child support serves a purpose in our society. But, I don’t think moms simply deserve child support and dads deserve the non-custodial role so they can work more to earn enough to pay that child support. Let’s explore.
The Creation of the Government Child Support Enforcement Program
On January 4, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed into law the Social Security Amendments of 1974. The new IV-D program was designed to accomplish two welfare system-related goals through the enforcement of child support: (1) recover for state and federal governments the costs of public assistance paid out to families (“cost recovery”), and (2) help families on welfare leave the public assistance rolls and help families not yet on welfare avoid having to turn to public assistance (“cost avoidance”).
The mission of the IV-D program that set up our current “enforcement” system is:
Enforcing the support obligations owed by absent parents to their children and the spouse (or former spouse) with whom such children are living, locating absent parents, establishing paternity, obtaining child and spousal support, and assuring that assistance in obtaining support will be available . . . to all children (whether or not eligible for aid under [the AFDC program], for whom such assistance is requested.
Dead Beat Parents
While it is most common for the men to be the dead beat parent in a divorced family, there are women who also take the low road and abandon their children. This is what the enforcement system of the attorney general’s office is for: parents that are trying to avoid their “support obligations” by all means necessary.
The child support system is NOT for punishing divorcing parents by attaching an aggressive and powerful debt collector to your ex-spouse’s financial accounts and credit reports. The system my ex-wife has tossed our family into was designed to capture and punish parents who were trying to opt-out of their financial obligations to their kids and opt-out of their role as a supportive and available parent.
Today, in our modern divorce culture (see: Marriage Story as a great example of how divorce attorneys can “go for it” in divorce) the assignment and enforcement of child support is used as a battering ram in the negotiations between parents. The way the family courts are set up, one parent will WIN and one parent will LOSE. And the statistics show that over 80% of the time, the moms WIN.
Child Support Enforcement
I wanted to give my kids the best divorce possible. In my mind, heading into the divorce negotiations, this meant that their mom and I would share parenting duties 50/50 as we had since we decided to conceive of our first child. I was the parent that found the Bradley Method classes that we attended together, as a way to support the mother during childbirth. I was the parent who agreed to continue my full-time work at a job I didn’t like very much, to provide the funding for our eventual happy family and our happy house in the happy neighborhood. We had an agreement that we would parent 50/50. I don’t think my then-wife would’ve agreed to anything less.
But when our no-fault divorce rolled around it didn’t take my then-wife very long to learn that she could “go for it” and she would be supported by society, by other mothers, and by the state and federal governments, to get her entitlement. She deserved the child support. My kids deserved the child support to assure their healthy futures in the lifestyle they had come to expect. And in one powerfully painful meeting, one month before our divorce was finalized, my then-wife switched from being a supportive co-parent to being a custodial parent with “support” awarded and agreed to in our divorce decree.
What happened one year later, when the company I worked for lost a significant client and I got behind ONE MONTH on my child support, was where my ex-wife turned from compassionate mom into a dead beat mom and antagonistic non-co-parent.
Weaponizing the Child Support System
My ex-wife was not concerned that I was hiding money from her. She was fully-informed of my work situation and I was communicating regularly with her to assure her that the setback would be temporary, and that “I would get caught up” as soon as the company I worked for, landed a new client. My ex-wife was not at risk of losing the house or falling behind on her mortgage. I was also covering health insurance, so there was no risk of our kids going without. My ex-wife was not threatened by my temporary setback. She would get all of the child support money awarded to her in the divorce. (I actually AGREED to the child support financial arrangement.)
However, my ex-wife was still mad at me. She was the one who asked for the divorce to seek greener pastures. She was the one who was “awarded” child support, the custodial parent role (70% of the time with the kids) and the house. (SEE: my book Fall of the House of Dad for the full accounting of this dark corner of our divorce journey.) And she was so mad at me, that she decided to file our CASE with the attorney general’s office for ENFORCEMENT. Again, this is when I was one month late for the first time since our divorce.
I can’t ask her, but it’s my belief that my ex-wife filed with the attorney general’s office to hurt me. She knew I was in the process of requesting a mortgage modification to keep my new tiny house. She knew that filing with the AG’s office would have disastrous effects on my life. And she filed to punish me, and take me and my happiness down a few notches.
When We Focus On the Other Parent
I am at fault for harboring resentment and anger towards my ex-wife. And a good portion of this anger has to do with the 2,000+ days I have lost with my kids. But the primary frustration I have with my ex-wife is her continued belief that holding me down with the AG’s office is good for her and good for her kids. “What’s the advantage to me?” she asked about taking our financial agreement OUT of the child support system. She does not see how her vindictive action is still causing me trouble. And, I’m guessing, if she knew how much trouble it was still causing (with credit reports still showing my “enforcement account” ie: deadbeat dad account) I think she would derive additional pleasure beyond, knowing that she’s hurting me.
When I focus on my frustration about the child support I am the one causing the drama in my own life.
Are *my* basic rules on child support:
- Child support is essential when there is a massive disparity of wealth or earning power between the divorcing spouses
- The child support “enforcement” system should be used when the non-custodial parent is attempting to avoid paying child support
- The current system (giving moms the custodial role and enforceable child support 80% of the time) is unbalanced and unfair to divorcing couples
- Divorce negotiations should start at 50/50 and the states and federal government systems should say out of the pockets of two consenting adults who would like to remain outside of the Child Support Enforcement System.
- Parents that use the child support system to punish their co-parent are dead beat parents (regardless of the gender of the parent pulling the “power and control” card
- If parents agreed to parent 50/50 and they would like to negotiate a fair split of expenses, time, and legal custody, the courts should not interfere
- When either parent goes for the bulldog attorney and tries to WIN the divorce, both the kids and the parents lose
- Child support can be important for the health and the wellbeing of a divorcing family
- Child support and the custodial parent role should be shared or negotiated from a position of equality.
Taking Offense When I Question Child Support
Recently, a woman commented on a Facebook post.
“The writer lost me the minute they complained about paying child support. Bye-bye, Felicia.”
I don’t complain about paying child support, I complain about how child support is assigned as a “given” in most divorces. This appears to be the mindset of many women. Do you think moms deserve child support and the custodial parent role 80% of the time? Do you think the courts should START divorce negotiations giving the mom the custodial role and the “enforceable” child support? And do you believe that’s the case, regardless of the financial situation of either parent?
I understand this is a lightning-rod issue. Moms hate when dads don’t pay child support. My ex-wife felt filing suit with the AG’s office was her best course of action, even when there was no threat, or even perceived threat, that I was trying to avoid paying my financial obligation. In this case, I would define my ex-wife as a dead beat mom. She got the divorce and custody schedule she wanted, and at the first opportunity to file for collections with the AG’s office, she went for it.
There was absolutely no reason for my ex-wife to file against me with the welfare connections system of the state of Texas. She did it specifically to hurt me financially, emotionally, and physically. She knew I would lose my house. (I had to sell it immediately.) She knew it would damage me financially. (For 9, or so, years after my daughter turns 18) And she keeps refusing to even discuss with me, my early payment to her for the purposes of releasing me from the AG’s vicious system.
She does not have time to even discuss it with me.
This is the dark example of a dead beat mom.
What do you think? Your thoughts are welcome in the comments.
As a certified life coach, I’ve been helping men and women find fulfilling relationships. If you’d like to chat for 30-minutes about your post-divorce challenges, I always give the first 30-session away for free. LEARN ABOUT COACHING WITH JOHN. There are no obligations to continue. But I get excited every time I talk to someone new. I can offer new perspectives and experiences from my post-divorce journey. Most of all, I can offer hope.
The article from Fatherly: Divorce for Men Has Changed a Lot in the Past Decade, Especially for Fathers
More articles from The Whole Parent:
- The War on Divorcing Fathers: Deadbeat Dad Accusations Are Abusive
- Dads Are Equal Parents, But Only If They Step Up to the Challenge
- The Pre-Natal Agreement from The Whole Parent
- A Rebirth of the Compassionate Parent & Divorced Dad Advocate
- What Makes a Great Dad? 5 Things I Learned From My Divorce
- The War on Divorcing Fathers: Deadbeat Dad Accusations Are Abusive
- Next-Level Parenting: Being Awesome Even in Divorce
- Asking for Support is Hard for Most of Us, Especially Men
- The Four Simple Rules for Dads Getting Divorced
- Experience, Strength, and Hope After a Divorce with Kids
Here’s a little video I made to show the disparity of typical 70/30 custody agreements.
And check out this video about how the federal government funds our state governments.