Why Ex doesn’t pay child support: An amateur psychoanalysis

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.)

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

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.

4 comments to Why Ex doesn’t pay child support: An amateur psychoanalysis

  • FrustratedStepmom

    I am a divorced mother of an amazing 2-1/2 year old son. My ex took of to a far-off land (literally – he is from overseas) and abandoned me & son with all the debt. Plus he enjoys living on welfare and is currently $15,000 in arrears on child support with zero intention of getting a real job to pay it. He even had the cojones to ask ME to file the reduction paperwork for him. Yeah, ok. Because he took off, the judge (from another state where we lived at the time) gave me sole legal and physical custody of my son. Basically, my ex has the right to pay child support and that is IT when it comes to my son.

    On the other hand, I am also a stepmom to a wonderful 6-1/2 year old boy. His father started his own business and we have been struggling, but we're making due. His ex GAVE HIM CUSTODY when he left her, but the kidnapped the son when she realized he was serious that he was actually leaving her. She then fabricated all sorts of accusations which we had people coming out of the woodwork to refute. She makes over $70,000 per year and last year his income was LITERALLY 10% of that – yes, $7000. In the temporary order, the judge did not bother looking at ANY evidence and my husband was forced to pay (because she falsified records and used old information) almost $400 PER MONTH for 9 months in child support. They settled after a very long, drawn out, HATEFUL battle and she has primary care and we have 3 weekends a month and just over 1/2 the summer. We have to pay $250/month child support – basically the state minimum. She wields their son like a weapon and we are not allowed ONE SINGLE SOLITARY SECOND more time with him than the black and white decree states. She cuts him out of every decision and is systematically turning him against us (everything here is bad/boring…everything there is wonderful/fun, etc.)

    Now I have been on both sides of this situation. While child support is not a "pay for play" deal, when mothers use their children as weapons because they cannot move on with their own lives and realize that just because he doesn't love you doesn't mean nobody will – it is extremely difficult to write that check every month and not resent it. PARTICULARLY when you see your child going without and the mother buying herself new jewelry. YES – that is happening in our situation (and happens A LOT).

    I am not saying this is necessarily your situation, but I am trying to give you a bird's eye view so-to-speak from someone with unique perspective on both types of scenarios.

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    • Annie

      I acknowledge that I don’t allow more visitation than the decree affords either. In our case, more time with their father would not be in the kids’ best interest. It isn’t a problem though, Ex has never asked for more but rather, has taken to forgoing the little visitation allotted him.

      Everything here IS fun(mostly)/wonderful/comfortable/safe/stable/friendly, everything there is, well… inadequate in every-conceivable-way. Ex lives with his large drooling dog in a tiny, dirty, hot/cold (depending on the season) bachelor apartment above his law office that reeks of cigarette smoke. The children are cramped (my daughter sleeps on a cot in the living room and my sons share a bunk in Ex’s bedroom). As soon as they’ve torn through the armloads of books I’ve sent along, they are profoundly bored and aching to come home. So they set to quarreling. As I said, Ex doesn’t need my help in courting their resentment. The best I can do is to be supportive of them, “I’m sorry you have to deal with that.”

      I don’t generally involve Ex in decisions because he uses such occasions as an opportunity to torpedo my efforts for no reason other than throwing his contrarian weight around. Inevitably such conflict devolves into his becoming verbally abusive and my walking out. (Metaphorically.) He is almost entirely absent and doesn’t know anything about their day to day lives, their schools, interests, activities, or friends—He doesn’t even really know them. How could he have a perspective worth giving much consideration? I was awarded custody in part because the guy has sh*tty judgement. It’s bad for everyone if I engage in a frivolous exercise of tit for tat in which he (most often pointlessly and in ignorance) questions my judgement and second guesses my mothering. There is no such thing as professional deference in my line of work, no. It is usually better for everyone if I avoid the fuss by making considered decisions without him and dropping emails outlining our plans.

      I do think there is a huge difference between those fathers who resent having to pay—which is often, as it seems in your situation, entirely reasonable—and do it anyway, and those who use that resentment to justify doing something entirely unethical: Withholding support. That jewelry thing though—wow, that would bite.

      Part of getting on with our lives is about wading through all this muck and learning to separate oneself from it. I am tremendously fortunate to have so much love and support.

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing your insight.

  • cellogirl

    There's no reason to think that a man will behave in divorce any better than he did in the marriage. If he can't finish a conversation without throwing knives or breaking furniture, he sure as shootin' isn't going to willingly give you money just because it's the right thing to do. It doesn't matter that the money is for the kids, and would have been spent on them anyway were he still living in the same home with them. Logic doesn't penetrate the abusive brain.

    And to bailarenfuego, who said "…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." I'm sure lots of men feel that way. And I'm sure there are some who were legitimately screwed and have a right to feel that way. But I'm also sure that there are lots and LOTS of men who weren't screwed– who in fact have many MANY chances to fix their relationship with their wives and choose not to– and still talk that way once she finally leaves. As if they had no control over or responsibility for anything that happened. Women don't keep their unhappiness a secret. Maybe you don't really know what to do about it, maybe you never had a good example of how to treat a woman and would have had to learn from scratch, maybe she has some real issues herself that make it hard to take responsibility for your own, or maybe you're just a lazy or abusive guy who would rather let the train wreck happen than step up. But whatever– you were happy to accept her financial contributions to your household when you married her, and the flip side of that is taking responsibility for the financial cost of letting the marriage fail. I know that if I were a man whose wife was unhappy, and I was tempted to just ignore her grievances until she got fed up and left me, the first thing I'd do is get online and read up on the child support and alimony laws of my state to understand the financial implications of that strategy.

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  • SB Paige

    My X gave me THE best input, just after I left him, or rather….tossed his fanny out the door…..as we argued over the care of the kids when it was HIS time (who knew showers were "optional" after days of beachcombing, dirt bike riding, and going barefoot all over town (yes! BAREFOOT, as shoes seems also "optional") that FRUIT ROLL UP'S are actually considered fruit by some men, that my parents teaching me to change 'my choonies" every day was not universally taught or that car seats for our state, which says they MUST be in one until 6 or 60lbs, whichever comes 1st….is also more a "guideline" and not really a LAW, even though he'd been cited for the same infraction in the past…..anyway…..he said to me in the midst of an arguement about his care of our kids and his financial responsibility…."I wasn't like that when we were married. WHY would you expect me to be like that now?"…..Game, set, match…..He was irresponsible, reckless and financially unstable throughout our entire marriage…..and he KNEW IT….and knew I knew it (all too well) and was probably the only time in 15 years he actually said something that garnered this response….YOUR RIGHT!!! WHY WOULD I? best thing I ever heard during the past 2.5 years! Never expect a man to be better as your X than he was as your husband. He won't be! Not ever. It's not in his makeup. Denial…..is not your friend!

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