On Saturday, I got a notice in the mail that Ex has initiated a review with the child support recovery unit to have his financial obligation to the children re-examined. (I am quite sure he isn’t pursuing this action to increase his share.) He is required to pay around six hundred a month but hasn’t in years. The amount is dictated by state statute which takes into account the incomes of both parties. By law, because he is seriously delinquent, Ex must make a child support payment every sixty days, or it’s bye-bye driver’s license. So, every two months I get a payment, usually of exactly $25. That’s right, Readers, $25 every two months.
That’s one tough wad to swallow.
As long as we’re looking at this thing, I’ll do what I did with my newest admirer, Hobert the hobgoblin. I’ll recognize something in Ex which one might identify as a manifestation of the Divine: I believe Ex earnestly wants to be a stand-up guy he just… can’t. Well, perhaps it would be better to say I believe Ex wants to be seen as a stand-up guy though I’m not so sure he wants to actually do any real standing. (I guess I’m not so good at recognizing the Divine in Ex. I’ll keep working on that.)
Where Ex falls short, it’s about his limited capacity and quite likely some illness. It helps to have compassion, to view his character flaws as, well… they aren’t entirely willful. Perhaps it’s alcoholism or other substance abuse problems, perhaps it’s narcissistic personality disorder, or just garden variety clinical depression. Everyone seems to have a different theory and I don’t really know. Frankly, it doesn’t matter that much. Sadly, he isn’t getting the help he needs and that is nothing if not tragic, for him, for the children, for everyone. (Thankfully, we are getting help.)
As you might imagine, I used to spend a lot of time thinking about why Ex is the way he is. He grew up in a dirty little river town in a chaotic and sometimes violent home. He quite likely has serious psychological problems or a mental illness but none of that robs him of free will. He does know right from wrong and he makes choices. Letting one’s kids down is quite obviously wrong, as is defying the law, especially when one is an officer of the court. Thinking folks and the courts will not excuse him from the consequences of his choices any more than he can excuse himself if he takes a good hard look at things. (Sadly, in the end, the children may not excuse him either.)
More than a year ago, Ex was held in contempt of court and sent to jail for willful non-payment. We had his bank statements which evidenced his spending habits, like blowing the child support money on excessive bar tabs at the local liquoring hole. Since then, Ex has abandoned paper trails and has moved to a cash economy. What better way to keep money from the IRS and your children?
A friend sent me some insightful comments about the matter in an email earlier this week. He had tripped across the Answerology site where the question was posed: Why do men resent paying child support? The page had a lot of child-support-paying-wronged-father rage but also some insight as I turned over the question of why Ex doesn’t support his children. (He sharply reminds me that they are his children whenever he fires off an angry email.)
One commenter responded to the question with:
…Heck, now that you mention it having your kids taken away and living in poverty to support the person who teaches them to hate you sounds like a privilege. -bailarenfuego
I have no doubt that Ex feels just that way. There were numerous commenters who expressed similar sentiments. One made the point that it wasn’t paying support that was necessarily objectionable, but the fact that it had to go through the ex to get to the kids. They didn’t object to spending money on the children directly but to having to pay it to she-who-is-purely-evil. My girlfriend put in, “Yup, the bastards still want to control their ex-wives.” Another friend wrote: Child support money is not an issue between former spouses. It’s a transaction between a providing parent and (his/her) children facilitated by the receiving parent and overseen by the court. It’s about the kids here, remember folks?
One commenter took the time to outline 20 reasons men feel frustrated by having to pay child support. The highlight of his list was number 10:
I hate my ex. She is mean and vindictive, telling me if I don’t pay then I will go to jail or poisoning my son and saying bad things about me… yet I still pay HER because again the award is so high she does not need that much money. -leavemealoneplease
Ex surely feels that way.
Then there was this woman’s comment: (Suck in a breath, your gonna need it.)
I think they never WANTED to have a child in the first place. SOME women will not say NOTHING and stop taking their pill, shot, whatever their [sic] on and NOT mention it! ….
I can empathise [sic] with guys whose woman got knocked up ‘cause SHE wanted a baby…
Maybe HE never did!!!
its an 18 year curse he never asked for…
Now, If the pregnancy was planned, yeah, hes screwed into paying it…
stupid bitches gettin’ knocked up!!!-discotrash
Yes, there really is someone out there, someone calling herself discotrash, who really did write that. I am sure the sentiment occurs to Ex, too. He didn’t want all those kids in the first place—that was my idea, like everything else.
Lastly, this answer:
Because it doesn’t come with sex.
If we could get the sex we used to, I bet a lot of men would be right up to date on the child support.
It is bad enough how much sex costs you as a married man, but no sex, no marriage and still have to pay through the nose? Nope, most men are not willing to do it!-rafiki910
Now that is interesting. Why would any man support his children when he ain’t gettin’ laid? Hmmmm, I thought prostitution was illegal? Someone ought to call the vice squad on that guy. (You can be sure, it will be a sub-zero day in H-E-double-hockey-sticks before I’ll be caught in Ex’s bed again.)
I am sure Ex’s perception is that I deny him the benefit of contact with the kids by interfering. (Um, frankly he doesn’t need my help alienating them, he does well enough on his own.) Even if it were true that I deny him what he feels are his rights—it’s as one of my best advisers said: support is support and not an entertainment rental agreement. I’m starting to feel like getting loud but I’ll spare you the all caps, Readers. I’m trying hard to be polite here. It’s called child support and not payment-for-service-which-coincidentally-benefits-the-offspring.
Withholding support may well be his attempt to punish me for his compiled and annotated list of my transgressions, but what withholding support actually does is punish the children. They are innocent in this and that seriously bites.
One commenter vented his resentment about his situation. However, he drew a clear distinction between those who grumble about their raw-deal and pay and those who are, well… deadbeats. No doubt there are plenty of wronged men out there, plenty of men whose exes have actually spitefully screwed-them-over and who still man-up.
Undoubtedly, sometimes child support is excessive but when it is, one can only object to the part that is in excess, not to the entire sum. (In this situation the amount is decidedly not excessive—it’s a fraction of the actual cost of these (wonderful) kids and it isn’t because we’re living high.
I can understand the resentment. Admittedly, parenting is tough but when they come, the rewards are exquisitely sublime: the quiet confidences, the goodnight hugs, the unsolicited thank-yous, the joy of watching one’s child’s mind and wit evolve—it is without question, the most meaningful part of my life. However, that isn’t why I care for them. I don’t do it for the warm-fuzzies, I do it because they are my children and that is what one does, pay-off or no. Without custody, Ex misses out on nearly everything—both the cleaning up of kid-vomit at two a.m. and the domestic felicity. So why pay a penny if he can possibly avoid it? He gets nothing for his money—no sex, no warm-fuzzies, nothing.
I realize it is part of the human experience to want to square-the-deal between the way things actually are and the way one wishes they were. Ex, like all of us, has his own personal narrative. In his story, he is a hard worker, good father, and all-around-good-Joe—not a deadbeat with a drinking problem. Now, he has chosen to undertake a fatuous action to reduce an obligation he ironically doesn’t pay and probably does not intend to pay. I don’t think he has the children’s interests at heart, do you?
In closing, I’m going to count a few blessings: Thankfully, I am free of the curses of Ex’s afflictions, I am graced with the presence of three truly extraordinary young people every-single-day and I have a rich web of kind and generous friends who love and support us.
Upon reading this post, my friend chided, “Those aren’t exactly psychological terms.” Hey, I said up front I was an amateur.