Indifference in Post-Divorce Parenting

musinggypsyParenting23 Comments

I recently read the article “Why I’m Glad My Ex Stopped Paying Child Support“ and was intrigued to read that someone else shares my opinion on the child support conundrum. I have been harbouring the impression that I am a bit warped because after too many years on this road I don’t always agree with the prevailing thinking on how one is supposed to behave post-divorce when children are involved. 

Then, to compound the synchronistic trend of my recent reading material as I was flipping through the latest edition of O magazine I read the following sentence: “The thing I got rid of and never missed… an ex-boyfriend.” Here, too, full understanding and empathy.

I did not marry young. I did not marry in haste (although there are moments when I’d like to pretend I did as an excuse for the aftermath). When I married I truly hoped that it would last forever. I will admit, I had a few nagging doubts but, as I’ve said recently, “To err is human, to worry is a 21st century pastime,” and as such, having doubts was part of the natural order of making such a decision and commitment in one’s life. My son too was completely wanted and planned. There was no decision that we made that was not discussed and mutually agreed upon (or so I thought). The level of our communication would lead one to believe that we were on a solid path to marital harmony, if not bliss.

As most know though, it is possible to speak and say very little or nothing at all. By the time the end finally came we’d given up any pretense of communication and were existing in a silent, heavy truce. At the time, my son was almost two and I spent many a day trying to reconcile the situation I found myself in with the hopes and plans I’d had for my life and the reality, which was nigh unbearable. I can still recall actually taking out a calendar and doing the calculation to determine how long I’d have to stay married until my son turned 18 in an attempt to “stay together for the sake of the child(ren).” The hardest decision was to acknowledge that the situation, no matter how I looked at it, was, in its current state a lose/lose equation. The only means of somehow reversing the existing trend was to end it and attempt to build a new foundation that could lead to harmony if not outright happiness.

In the years since, my ex-husband has waged his own personal war against me and, by extension, our son. I have read all of the well-meaning advice on how divorced parents should deal with each other “for the sake of the children.” I’ve heard how important it is for the children of divorce to maintain contact with the absent parent as a means of ensuring their own sense of well-being and self-esteem. I have been told how important it is for my son to respect his absent father because respecting his father plays an integral role in the self-respect he will develop and hold for himself.

Sadly, his absent parent has not received that memo or perhaps he has decided not to read it because he’s determined that “father knows best.” I say that tongue-in-cheek but, after sharing information that I hoped would improve our situation he actually said, “I don’t need to read any of that stuff. I know all I need to know.” And so the untenable became sustainable.

It is pretty common knowledge that it is usually the single/divorced mother who bears the financial fall-out when marriages end both in terms of the oft compromised standard of living and the additional financial responsibilities that come from raising children alone. When the now absent parent sees it as their life mission to make that financial burden as hard is it is humanly possible for them to do, it leads to nothing but resentment and animosity. Usually at this point, all manner of logic is used to explain the mother’s behavior which may be completely and totally divorced from the reality of the situation.

I acknowledge that I am no saint, but I have tried. I have made sacrifices and decisions which can only be described as downright insane as I chased the elusive phantoms Peace and Harmony. I have accepted injustices because I thought, in the long run, it would be in the best interest of my son’s future development and his relationship with his absent parent.

I cannot, however, escape the thought that children growing up watching one parent consistently and methodically take advantage of another parent does not lead to: 1) a strong relationship with the other parent, nor 2) a better sense of self. Granted this is my couch psychology but, I cannot believe that a child growing up watching another parent being bullied is healthy either for their own individual development or for the relationships they will later have either with their own partners or their children.

The sweet twisted irony is that they don’t realize that every retributive action they take actually confirms the reasons why their relationship ended. As in the article I cited earlier, the support paying parent seems to be of the opinion that by using their support as a leverage they will somehow show the offending parent how powerful and needed they are when, in reality, the opposite is true. I know for a fact that my son’s absent parent tells people that he believes I haven’t gotten over him. He honestly seems to believe that after all that has transpired he could still be found attractive. Pardon?

What is not considered is that there comes a point when the money being paid to care for the child loses all tangible value and, conversely, you would rather forgo the monies to end the basis for the ongoing conflict. And therein lies yet another conundrum; what are we teaching our children when we effectively say, not all responsibility is created equal and you don’t have to be held accountable for your actions because, if you kick, scream and essentially make enough of a nuisance of yourself, you can be released from your obligations?

Prevailing theories on post-divorce child rearing seems to hew on the side of shielding the child from the truth and reality of the situation that caused the relationship to collapse and keeps the acrimony going. I fully agree that telling a child the intricate details on the collapse of a relationship is wrong; however, I am hard pressed to plausibly communicate that my child should respect a parent who is doing their level best to make his life as difficult and uncomfortable as he possible can”¦ because he can. Children are not stupid; they know when they are being lied to.

A friend once admitted that he too had played the child support game with the mother of his children. Nickel and diming her for every cent simply because he could. He said it wasn’t until he finally asked himself what would he want for his children if they were living in his house full-time that he realized the futility of his actions and changed his behavior towards their mother. The irony, however, is by the time he had his epiphany he had so destroyed his relationship with her that it was already irreparable and his relationship to his children suffered correspondingly.

I myself am at the point that I would willingly PAY to legally end the child support payments as a means of ending the destructive dynamic at play. That willingness goes hand in hand with a desire to have nothing to do with my son’s absent parent. It is truly sad and unfortunate that a mechanism that is intended to keep the other parent involved in the lives of their children and maintain the relationship and bond that they had is what so often leads to the continuing acrimony that the couple was trying to end (at least that’s what I’d like to believe) when they ended their marriage in the first place.

I have a fair number of friends who have managed to eke out a functional relationship with their child’s absent parent. In each case though, the foundation of that relationship appears to be predicated on them turning a blind eye to the fact that the other parent is not supporting their children, on whatever level, as they should or as agreed. Meaning, the absent parent is getting a free pass, on some level, in exchange for a peaceful life.

I know there is no magic bullet to solving the dilemma of what happens to families when the core relationship ends, be it through divorce or an unmarried couple choosing to separate. What I have experienced is that the mechanisms that society has put in place to support families have been more destructive and can exacerbate an already difficult situation.

When the parent with whom the child lives gets to the point that they are willing to forego support for their child, the absent parent has not won, as I’m sure they would like to view it but rather they have lost and profoundly since, the hallmark of reaching that milestone is when there is a significant rupture in how the relationship as parents is viewed. To my mind, it is at this point that the emotional thread that connected them as parents snaps and, isn’t that precisely what was being preserved, the concept of these two people as a “parental unit” for the child(ren)?

In the throes of divorce and rebuilding our lives, it is all too possible to forget that our children will only be children for a limited time. Hopefully the years they have after they become 18 will be many and it is those years that we should be focusing on. What will happen to them after they leave our homes? Have we provided them, within the context of a difficult situation, a foundation on which they can build happy, loving and productive lives and families of their own? I do fear that when the situation reaches a point of such exasperation that it leads to indifference and disengagement from one parent towards the other, it’s not a good place.

Mini battles and outright war are definitely not good, but is resignation or indifference really any better? On some level, I fear it may be worse.

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musinggypsyIndifference in Post-Divorce Parenting

23 Comments on “Indifference in Post-Divorce Parenting”

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  1. Avatar of Norma Desmond
    Norma Desmond

    As a child raised by divorced parents, I have a lot of feelings about this.  To start with, you can’t make a general rule about a situation that varies so widely.  There’s a huge difference between non-custodial parents who deliberately withhold support as a means to control, or because they’re stingy and don’t care about their kid(s), and non-custodial parents who just aren’t very good at managing their finances and barely make ends meet for themselves.  That was my dad.  He was kind of a broken guy, and as much as he loved us and wanted to be a good father, he wasn’t capable of it, for all kinds of reasons.  He didn’t have a mean bone in his body, but he was a major fuck-up.  I know my mother was making more money than he was, and this was 40+ years ago, which really tells you something.  But he showed up to see us every weekend, and he wanted to be involved in our lives.

    I’m really glad my mother didn’t burden me with information I wasn’t old enough to deal with and wouldn’t have understood, and just let me have the best relationship with my father it was possible for me to have.  I’ve always assumed she thought (she died when I was still too young to discuss this with her) that we would find out who our father was soon enough, and it would be a sad day, but that it was better to forestall that until we were old enough to handle it.  If that’s indeed what she thought, she was right.

    As I said though, that’s very different than someone who’s being deliberately cruel for the sake of hurting their ex-partner, or who just doesn’t give a damn about their children.  Kids in that situation need to be able to tell the truth about how they feel, because they’re going to figure out what’s going on and sooner or later they’re going to need to talk about it.  How that discussion will need to go will vary widely according to the particulars of the situation, the kids’ ability to understand, and a lot of other factors.  The only thing one can say for certain is that the kids need to be reassured that this is not about them, that they didn’t do anything to cause it and that they’re going to be taken care of no matter what.

    Okay, I got that off my chest.

  2. Avatar of KitzyKid
    KitzyKid

    Sometimes I wish that my mom had cut contact with my dad. My mom tried to keep the child support issue from me, but he typically brought the money with him on weekends when I was supposed to see him, and he would just no show on that weekend of the month. After enough times of him not showing up, it got to the point where I would start feeling sick to my stomach on weekends when I knew he was coming, and sometimes would cry and refuse to go.

    Last year he told me I was a “real little bitch” to him over it all when I was a kid. I wouldn’t see him at all, but now I have a little sister from his new marriage and I can’t bring myself to abandon her too.

  3. Avatar of Jesse
    Jesse

    We do not have to pretend things are hunky-dory for our children, but we must all realize that we wear filters from our experience, and truth thus is not always as it feels.  So sometimes the “lie” that is not telling your child everything is not a lie at all, it is showing restraint in which emotions and thoughts you choose to share, something you likely do in other aspects of life.  Like with the yamas of yoga, satya (non-lying) is never correctly used until ahimsa (non-violence) is practiced: truth can be as inhumane a weapon as any.

    As a cisgendered male feminist, I often find myself in an interesting position in these discussions. As a father, one who supports his son and tries to be amicable with his mother, I take offense to blanket attacks on male non-custodial parents. In most cases, the actions of the men are as dictated by the outdated societal norms as is everything else: they are products of an old patriarchal message in the context of a changing society. Many of us pay our support and make all of our visits and do everything we can to be involved in our children’s lives.

    What I am trying to get at here is that sometimes I am disappointed that we continue the same worn-out dialogues in a different format. Yes a lot of former husbands are assholes, as are a lot of former wives. What we should avoid is letting our personal experiences translate into a broader idea that continues separating the sexes and propagates messages we are trying to defeat. We cannot fight gender-typing and sex-based policies only when it is convenient for us. To me, feminism is about equality, and finding it not at anyone’s expense but for the betterment of all.

    Note, we should not mix the terms “absent parent” with “non-custodial parent”: an absent parent is an uncaring ass who has given up on their child. A non-custodial parent, like me, can be everything but absent.

    It’s tough trying to get this all straight, but I think the best thing we can do is present messages of peace and each of us simply be the best parent we can be. The worst thing we can do is continue to propagate stereotypes between the sexes or support policies or actions which take from our children in any way, including the financial support they receive from their other parent.

     

    1. Avatar of musinggypsy
      musinggypsy

      I am so glad to have a male voice join the discussion.  Also, thank you for pointing out the difference between ‘absent parent’ and ‘non-custodial parent’.  In my article I was referring to my son’s non-custodial parent and, you are right, there is a difference.

      Contrary to how my article may have read, I am not actually invested in continuing the worn-out circular dialogue portraying men as low-down dirty bastards who abandon their children at the first opportunity.  I have been lucky to meet men who are the prime custodial parent for their children and I have met women who have chosen to leave their children in the care of their Fathers.  My personal experience informs my perspective but I am fully aware that there are variations on how the story goes.  That said, neither the men I have met who are the prime caregivers nor the women who have willingly left their children appear to deal with the same level of issues that many women have to contend with with a non-custodial male parent.

      The sad truth is that more often than not it is the male non-custodial parent that lives outside the home and is obligated to pay child support to the custodial parent with whom his child(ren) lives.  It is also a sad truth that this constellation is often abused as a means of continuing the acrimony that existed in the adult relationship to start.  The comments that have been left here speak to the trail of heartache and pain that is left in its wake and, beginning with my own son, I am keen to find a solution not only for his longer term future but also for my own.

      I may be wrong but I truly believe that our societal view and attitudes around money play a fundamental role in why the dynamic post-divorce becomes so difficult.  Since these attitudes are not going to change overnight it is imperative that we try and address the issues from another angle.  At the risk of being provocative, a non-custodial parent who pays their monthly support and makes all their visits should not automatically be considered an exemplary parent if they are simultaneously wreaking havoc through those payments and between visits.  It is to be clearly understood that paying support and terrorising your family through the payment is not okay.  Because non-custodial parents can so easily chose to not pay, we as a society are so grateful for those that do – and, rightly so within limits – that we are almost willing to completely ignore whatever tangential effects exist around those payments.

      We speak openly about dead beat Dads who don’t accept their responsibilities but we don’t speak, openly and honestly, about those who do what they should and still destroy everything.  As in the original article I cited, the emotional stress and drama around child support payments can be more damaging to the family structure than the stress caused by a parent who doesn’t pay at all.  I am not advocating that non-custodial parents not pay child support, they absolutely should, but when those payments are leading to stress which affects the parent with whom the child lives and, by extension, the child(ren) as well we need to be creative on how to potentially address the issue.

      As much as I’d love to present messages of peace and be the best parent I can be, my story and those of others I know tell me that this is not enough.

      1. Avatar of Lurkerina
        Lurkerina

        I definitely agree with both of you. But like I said earlier, in my opinion, the child is better off if they don’t know how awful things are and how terrible one parent (or both parents) are being to each other. Now, it isn’t always possible to shield them from a parent’s behavior, but I definitely agree with @gurujesse‘s realization that your perspective has a particular filter, so even if your perception aligns with what outside observers would see, it is still best to refrain from discussing the issue with the child, or to use language which refers to your feelings.

        To elaborate more on my own position, my male parent was an absent parent, then a non-custodial parent, then an absent parent again. That indicates, which as an adult I later confirmed with my mother, that he was not in fact interested in providing the best support for his children, but rather that he wanted what made him look the best. So in that case, the manner of his involvement actually made things worse than him not being involved at all. I think this is where @musinggypsy is going. Some non-custodial parents may technically do everything ‘right’ but their goals are not for supporting their family and they actually end up damaging them further.

        1. Avatar of Jesse
          Jesse

          Alright, first I want to say that I actually don’t take offense to anything here.  I made the mistake of writing at midnight, and I know better, so I know my passion for the subject also came across a bit accusatory and pompous.  That is not the case: if I were actually offended by the article or comments I would have said nothing as I have learned many times over that there is no point in commenting or arguing in such situations.  Truly I am thankful to @musinggypsy for writing the article and bringing the topic up.

          Now, I agree that the cases of non-custodial male parent neglect, absence, or lack of support (or all three) far outnumber similiar issues from female parents, but I also do not suppose that to be an inherent trait of the genders themselves but rather a part of the societal construct.  Though there are some progressive fathers out there (the Rad Dad ezine and book feature some great stories of such), most men are still stuck in the old idea that man’s only purpose in life is to work and provide.  That whole dynamic as a social requirement (beyond what individual families choose to do) is as old as the idea that women should only worry about finding an appropriate mate who can let them stay barefoot and pregnant, along with knowing something about cooking and knitting.  The problem is that the messages take longer to change, so we will see at least another generation of it before post-modern family ideals begin to really express themselves as a majority condition in the public sphere.  That is why I focus on redirecting conversations about post-divorce dynamics toward peace and understanding: not to recriminate someone talking about deadbeat dads, but to hopefully open up the space in the dialogue to allow the constructive messages room to grow such that our children can be better parents than we were.

          This last is hugely important to me.  I agree that more needs to be done to the system to make it so neither support nor visitation can be used as weapons of malice, but I honestly have no clue what changes we can really make when focusing on the post-divorce situation.  We can definitely make more changes in the development of people, though, by taking care to not pass on static ideas about the sexes with regard to poor or good parenting.  That is what I meant about the worn-out dialogue: this topic is not worn-out, but the idea that men or women are inherently anything with regard to parenting is.

          I know that most of this is preaching to the choir: I enjoy myself here in P-Mag because the people here are neither backward nor dull.  We’ll kick the shit out of old ideas yet. :)

          1. Avatar of Alex
            Alex

            I just wanted to say I completely agree – I think the only way we’re going to win over a lot of men reluctant to commit to feminist ideals (and I say this as a male feminist) – is to point out just how much patriarchal ideals affect them as well. And fathers are no exception. I’d actually go as far as to say that a perceived lack of willingness to listen to the problems men do have is a big reason that the MRA movement took off at all. It’s bizarre, because most of the issues MRAs bring up are mirror images of feminist issues, but handled much more aggressively and prejudicially. I tend to think they’re “one pain away” from engaging with feminism, if it was understood more popularly.

  4. Avatar of Lurkerina
    Lurkerina

    I’d just like to chime in as another child of divorced parents. My male parent was absent from before my 3rd birthday. I later learned that my female parent was waging war on my behalf to get child support and to prevent me from being separated from my brother (who being older was less impressionable and therefore less desirable).

    But she didn’t discuss this with me. Unlike others who have spoken up, she was very careful about not influencing my perception of my male parent. She kept things neutral, tried not to place value judgements on my male parent’s actions. And when she got shafted on child support, she never let us know. While some people may criticize her for shielding us and lying  by implication, I really respect her choices and feel they allowed me to come to my own conclusions with regard to how and if I wanted to approach my male parent, both as a child and as an adult.

    The result is that I have no ill will toward either parent, but have chosen not to have a relationship with the male parent. My brother has made a different choice and has since decided to tentatively open communication with our male parent.

    While my mom went through hell, she didn’t let us know the extent of it and by keeping that knowledge from us until we were adults, she kept a potentially damaging and poisoning issue out of our formative years. Some may say that truth is utmost and you should never lie to your children, I truly believe that no good can come of being completely open with your children regarding perceived (even if that perception is accurate) ill will by one of the parents; especially if the children do not ask.

    1. Avatar of Monica
      Monica

      There was a lot of stuff that my mother never told me about my biological father until he died. I wasn’t a big fan of his beforehand, but the stuff that she said completely blew my mind away. He became 10x worse. Some things she actually didn’t tell me but my half-brother overheard and he told me.

      I admire my mother for dealing with such a difficult man/situation, and not trying to persuade me to hate him growing up. Of course, she didn’t have to try – I was a smart kid who could figure out my father’s personality on my own.

      1. Avatar of Lurkerina
        Lurkerina

        Yep. I already was distrustful because of the way he came into and out of our lives; but after I was an adult and asked about a few things, I dislike him even further, but in a detached sort of way. Yeah, he was a shithead, but the damage he did is in the past and I’ve mostly recovered from it; plus I have no contact with him whatsoever. So I don’t actively dislike him as a person, just sort of what he represents and the hurt he caused. She still hasn’t told me everything, but I’m not going to ask. I don’t want to know how bad things truly were. And like you, I really admire how she tried not to poison me toward him.

  5. Avatar of amicusdiptus
    amicusdiptus

    I loved your article – so candid and well-articulated about the many, at times contradictory thoughts that you have.

    Let me add from the perspective of the child, as ist were. I was a lot older than your kid when my parents divorced, and being the oldest, I had a luxury front-row seat to the absolute shitstorm that was the dissolution of my parents’ marriage.

    Our father actually used child support (and any other kind of alimony) as a weapon against my mother, who had the audacity to take him to court and fight for as much as she could. She (and by extension we, the children) were in a desperate place, suffice it to say we absolutely needed the payments in order to support ourselves and complete my and my sister’s education.

    As soon as financially possible, I cut off all ties with him. Yes, he also treated his children badly, but the absolute venom he spewed at my mother tipped the decision towards: I am never speaking to this man again.

    So no, your children realise what is going on. And I think it was better to salvage what little self-respect and autonomy we had all left by cutting ourselves off. It’s better than being bullied around for all eternity.

    Of course, as far as he is concerned, we are the ungrateful ones.

  6. Avatar of Cesy
    Cesy

    Yes. My ex’s parents relationship ended on a terrible note. The mother left the relationship with no skills, having lived off her husband for nearly 20 years. She found it hard to find work. The husband was left with the very successful business. He was also a very clever man, so he found ways to ensure that while he was loaded, he didn’t have to pay child support. This lead to extreme tension between the parents, the kids acting out because there was no cohesion in the parenting, and a very weird situation. The youngest boy ended up with separation anxiety from his Mum any time he saw Dad because of the fucked up situation. It does no one any favours, and its so hard to watch.

  7. Avatar of bambalice
    bambalice

    I know that child support is often the most convenient weapon to use, but I would be afraid that ending that obligation would not end the acrimony.  The unfortunate reality is that you share a child with this person, and absent some extreme circumstances, he’s likely to be involved in the child’s life.  That ties you to him, and if he wants to make things tough, he’ll find a way.  I guess I just don’t see the benefit in giving up the support and letting him off the hook in such a major way unless you are absolutely sure that doing so will cut the tie in a big way (i.e., the man is so uninterested in parenting that once the child support obligation is gone, he will be too to a great degree).  Sorry to be so negative and hopeless sounding, but from what I’ve seen, if the father has an axe to grind with the mother he’s going to find a way to do it,  support obligation or not.  My father was an ass about child support (paid only the bare minimum, and expected to be sainted for doing so despite constantly complaining about it), and my mother (and by extension us kids) really suffered for it.  It did not escape us that our father apparently felt it was OK to hurt us to get back at my mother.  While that was tough and I definitely ended up scarred in some ways, I truly believe that i learned a lot from my mother’s experience and it helped me find a really loving and equitable partner.  So there’s that…

  8. Avatar of Monica
    Monica

    I have been told how important it is for my son to respect his absent father because respecting his father plays an integral role in the self-respect he will develop and hold for himself.

    Fuck that shit. There is no reason to respect a purposefully absent parent.

    Just knowing, from offhand comments from my mom growing up, that my biological father didn’t pay a lot of child support made me hate him. It was one of the big issues; there was a lot I could have been ‘whatever’ about, but not that. You consciously bring a child into the world and then you make the decision not to help support the raising of that child? There is no redemption.

  9. Avatar of Alex
    Alex

    I really appreciate your candor here. I find it difficult to make a judgement; my dad has been very absent in my life but my mum also made it her goal to poison me against him; she used to get annoyed if I so much as mentioned him positively around her. He, on the other hand, never spoke at all about anything relating to the divorce. They both really do have things to answer for, and neither of them have been particularly emotionally mature parents. In the end, I have to say that I don’t have much faith in parental relationships; I don’t trust either of my parents, I don’t feel close to them, and I certainly don’t feel that they’ve always kept my best interests in mind.

    It’s very painful as a child to be aware of those games. In my case both parents were at fault, whereas in your situation it seems you really are the wronged party. I suspect it would’ve been easier for me to rationalise if I could hate my mother or my father, or at the very least find refuge in certainty about the goodness of either of my parents. I’m 17 now and I don’t feel particularly defensive of either of them – I think they were children.

    In all honesty, I don’t have faith at all in family groups. My experience has been one of petty rivalry, emotional manipulation and pain. I don’t think that derives from the divorce, I think that derives from how my particular parents dealt with the divorce. It’s weird, because I don’t really think it has anything to do with how much you tell your child — my mum shared almost everything — but the quality of it. My mum didn’t tell me about how she felt because she wanted me to understand why stuff was happening, she did it because she wanted catharsis and to rant about my father, and while I can understand that I certainly don’t think she was right to do it. My father shared nothing at all, which is just as bad.

    Money isn’t special, I don’t think; it’s another weapon that parents can use against each other. Without wanting to be presumptuous about your situation, I really really really hope that your child’s favour isn’t a weapon you use (however unwittingly) in return against your spouse. Having been that child, I can tell you it feels like the worst thing in the world. In the end, you don’t understand whether the resentment you feel against your parent has anything to do with actual emotion or manipulation. Which is fucked up.

    It’s difficult to be able to judge situations like these. My parents have always been outwardly civil, “resigned” as you put it, but that didn’t make it better, as you also say. It’s all extremely extremely shitty. Extremely shitty.

    1. Avatar of musinggypsy
      musinggypsy

      I cannot tell you how heartbreaking I find your comments and I thank you for making them.  Your comments are precisely what I want to shield and protect my son against.

      Parents are people with all manner of flaws and idiosyncrasies. I truly hope that soon you’re situation is no longer ‘extremely, extremely shitty’.

      1. Avatar of Alex
        Alex

        Yeah, I think sometimes all of us forget that divorcees, and parents, are still people. It’s easy to sit here and come up with first and final principles, especially if you’re a ‘wronged party’ for whatever reason, but honestly, it’s difficult. Even if you really want to do the best for your child, sometimes it just doesn’t work like that.

        I think you’re right to question how we define an “involved” parent. Bothering to send off a cheque is not the same as raising a child.

        1. Avatar of Jesse
          Jesse

          And sending off the check does not warrant any rights in the home of the other parent, one of the huge points of @musinggypsy‘s article.

          I also get sick of the people who want to try and create legislation requiring the custodial parent to present proof of expenditures.  I understand there are some people who make gross misappropriations with that money, but it is impossible to separate individual member expenses in the house.  If the child is actually not being taken care of that is a separate complaint to the court, and the misappropriation then just becomes evidence of misconduct.

  10. Avatar of
    CorinaDee

    Interesting. This is the first article I’ve read in a long while about child support that doesn’t come from a place of “all women are sperm-stealing thieves who are bent on having babies in order to steal money from men”. Who, you may ask, is spouting such idiocy across the internet?

    I’m not sure if you are familiar with the generally vile and profoundly stupid groups that call themselves MRA (men’s rights activists), but they constantly blather on and on about how men are being “unfairly taken advantage of” when they are forced to pay child support. They for some reason honestly believe that every ex-wife ever who is raising children is living in a lap of luxury, eating bon-bons and wearing ermine cloaks all paid for on the backs of their former-husbands. They are honestly super-revolting and I’d rather not waste my breath (or fingers) bringing them up, but this article stirred up images of these kind of people. Your former-husband strikes me as this type of person, a person so utterly detached from the idea of being a good parent and so hell-bent on making your life hell that it is nearly inconceivable that someone like this could exist. I’m so sorry that you’ve had to deal with his childish bullshit.

    Clearly, there are real negative effects from having to deal with reluctant paying-parents. How much of a digusting human being do you have to be to deny your own child financial support just out of spite? And how do you deal with it? Do you give in to their tantrums and let their abandon their child? I have no idea. I don’t have the answers. But your article is a good place to start a real discussion. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    Also, I’d be interested to know if men are more likely than women to pull this kind of shit regarding child support.

    1. Avatar of musinggypsy
      musinggypsy

      Interestingly, I saw men walking down the street yesterday holding signs (like picket signs) saying:  “Children need Mamas and Papas.  More rights for fathers (or men, can’t remember exactly which word was used).”  Fact is, I agree, children do need their mothers and fathers but not when either parent is going to be a destructive force in the child(ren)s life.

      Fact is, this is a really difficult situation to address because there are so many points of view that need to be considered and accounted for.  Currently, the focus of many discussions are from the point of the children and what is in the best interest of the child.  While I agree that the children should be front and center, it is also possible that we are not balanced enough in looking at the needs of the adults in the situation.

      I do know of a father in the UK who, I was told, after his support payment was calculated for his children, he was left with 10 pounds at the end of the month.  Whether this is true or an exaggeration I do not know for sure.  Fact is tho, if it is true and, it is surreal because there is no way a person – male or female – can be left with 10 pounds and they not feel anger and resentment towards all parties involved, children included.  I know too, that there wasn’t a very close relationship between this Father and his children.

      Some non-custodial parents feel they pay more than their fare share and others hide their earnings so they can pay as little as possible and all parties feel they are getting shafted.  Family dynamics are complex and difficult when everything is supposedly functioning.  It only gets more so when the bonds of family are stretched taut or break.  When I look at my own situation and those I’ve heard of, it seems to me a real honest discussion needs to take place and fast because these issues are detrimental for all parties involved.

      I’d be interested as well to know how much women who have to pay child support play these games.

      1. Avatar of Jesse
        Jesse

        Interestingly, I saw men walking down the street yesterday holding signs (like picket signs) saying:  ”Children need Mamas and Papas.  More rights for fathers

        I do support the organization American Coalition for Fathers and Children, which may have been the people you saw.  They fight for the rights of non-custodial parents regardless of sex, but as we have discussed this is primarily men.  They aren’t one of those groups which sprout up just to combat groups for legitimately hurt parties (like a “white” version NAACP or “Men’s Rights Groups” as an attempted mirror of women’s rights organizations).  They are truly seeking to create balance in the family law system, and find ways to hold custodial parents accountable in the same ways non-custodial parents are, and to ensure there is as limited gender bias as possible.

        I do know of a father in the UK who, I was told, after his support payment was calculated for his children, he was left with 10 pounds at the end of the month.

        This does happen, though not usually to this extreme.  How it works is that there are clauses or precedents in most family law statutes which allow the court to make child support determinations based on the earning potential of the non-custodial parent rather than their actual income.  This started because of individual cases where people tried to hide money as you said or purposefully obtained a lesser-paying job just for spite.  But, because the court really can’t rule on the intent of the parent (i.e. malice or good will, as a person who would join the Peace Corps might be), the precedent has been used by custodial parents to suck the non-custodial parent dry and even get them thrown in jail, making it so they can’t see their kids at all (I wouldn’t be able to have my son if I couldn’t afford diapers and food for him, and jail is another story) and throwing them into a cyclical trap of inability to provide support and jail.  Go to jail enough times and you will be so far behind on child support (it doesn’t stop just because you are incarcerated) you will never get another pay check again.  Another organization called Save the Turnips tries to help situations as these where the non-custodial parent is now unable to meet any conditions of the court because they were so wronged.

        So there are legitimate concerns and violations of rights toward (usually male) non-custodial parents.  And yes, there are people who try to take advantage of the system to pay less or get more.  As for the discussion, you started one @musinggypsy :) We change the world one P-Mag article at a time.

  11. Avatar of [E]SaraB
    [E]SaraB

    Ugh. I feel for you. I have a policy of “Don’t talk shit about the absent parent” because I remember hearing that sort of thing when I was young and it made me nervous and slightly ill, but we also don’t lie about things. If something crappy happens, we try to present the facts without prejudice and let the kid take it as he will. In our case, things could be a lot worse. My ex is everything you could want in an absentee parent. We have had moments of friction, but I really have no complaints. My husband’s ex on the the other hand… Well, she’s the reason I had to make a “don’t talk shit about the absent parent in front of the kids” policy.

  12. Avatar of Silverwane
    Silverwane

    This is a really interesting perspective. Thank you for sharing this.

    I’m not sure what I feel like the answer is…but I DO know that there needs to be more support for families in the US. Maybe if there was, child support wouldn’t be as big a deal in the first place.

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