Posts Tagged ‘ Child Support ’

Refusing Child Support

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Once in awhile, I write a post that I know I’m going to take some flames for.  I don’t write controversial stuff just for the sake of being controversial, but occasionally an issue comes along that I really believe in and I’m willing to stand up and speak my mind about, and this is one of those cases.

Some single parents refuse, or choose not to seek out, child support from their child’s biological parent.  Why?  The reasons I’ve heard include the following:

1.  They can raise their child on their income alone, and don’t want help from the other parent.  They would rather do it by themselves.

2.  They feel that the child is better off without the other parent in their life for any number of reasons, so they don’t want to accept child support because they don’t want the noncustodial parent to be allowed visitation.

3.  They don’t want to anger the noncustodial parent by seeking financial support– they want the relationship to stay civil and friendly for the child’s sake.

Although I can understand the reasons behind the decision, and recognize that really none of it is any of my business anyway (before everyone comes in here and screams that at me), I still personally take issue with it.

First of all, and this is my biggest issue: child support is not your money.  It’s your child’s.  The money is only paid to you because your child would probably rather spend it on candy or video games than daycare or vegetables.  Maybe you truly don’t need that money to give your child the things he or she needs.  But if that were me, I’d still take the money and put it in a savings account for college or something.  Because that money is not mine to refuse.

Also, it’s actually a myth that seeking child support means you are obligated to allow visitation.  Many single parents don’t realize that child support is actually an issue that is completely independent from custody and visitation– a parent who pays child support may be denied visitation, and conversely, a parent who is behind on paying child support cannot be denied visitation.  The judge makes the decisions on child support and visitation, and they are not related to each other at all.

And as for the last issue, if you read this blog regularly you know that I am a huge proponent of keeping things civil between coparents at the expense of pretty much anything else, because it’s what’s best for the child.  However, you have to stick up for your child and draw a line somewhere, and in my opinion, child support is a good place to do it.  It’s one thing to let it slide for the sake of civility if, say, the other parent consistently shows up 10 minutes late.  It’s entirely another to give them a pass on financial support that you could be using to give your child a better life.

Of course there must be special situations in which denying or not seeking support is the right thing to do, but in general, it’s not charity money– it’s a legal financial obligation, and to deny receiving it is to do your child a disservice.  In my humble opinion.  Now, go ahead and flame the bejeesus out of me in the comments.  I’ve got my flameproof suit on and I’m ready.

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Family Court: Promoting Hostility?

Monday, August 8th, 2011

child support

To be honest, the family court system served me pretty well throughout my divorce.  Everything went smoothly and efficiently.  Tyler and I were able to do everything without lawyers, and we ended our marriage on relatively good terms.

We’re having a little bit of an issue with the system now, though.  And the issue is with child support.

I try to avoid talking about money and child support on my blog, especially because it appears to get people worked up if I talk about how cash-poor I am these days.  (I mean listen, I may technically be a dentist, but for now and the immediate future, I’m basically one missed child support payment away from switching to “the family cloth” (google it), okay people?)  But this topic doesn’t exactly have to do with money, so I’m going for it.

I’m not a fan of how the system forces everything to be so hostile.  Here’s the story: when we got divorced, I was still in school, so I had no income, and I filed for child support accordingly… with the mutual understanding between Tyler and I that we would modify the order to reduce his payments once I started residency and started making a little bit of money.  (It isn’t fair now that I have a job, of course, for him to continue paying as much as he did when I had no income at all.)  Now that time has come, so we went to see what we had to do to make that happen.

We figured we’d just re-do the calculations and have the order modified.  But oh, no.  Apparently not.  Apparently he has to sue me for the modification, pay a fee, pay to have me served with papers by a state marshal, and both of us have to go back to court.  It’s L, Tyler v. L, Julia all over again.  And then, next July when I get a “real” job, my income will change again, so he’d have to sue me again.

I mean really, Connecticut?  This is nobody versus anybody.  This is two parents, who have struggled enough in the past to civilly co-parent their child, working together to figure out who is financially responsible for what, and for how much.  Yes, I do understand that all of this is supposed to promote fairness, objectivity, and equality for both parties.  But when it comes to family cases, there is already enough discord between the parties, and it’s so important for the children involved that things stay civil and friendly… why is it set up this way?

We have worked so hard to develop a coparenting relationship, and now we have to take a step backwards with something that is a simple, straightforward calculation?  Can’t there be a way for us to fill out the requisite paperwork and file for the order to be granted without having a lawsuit involved?

So we are going to do our best to calculate it on our own, outside of court.  We’ll come to an agreement on a new amount.  There won’t be any documentation, but I think I can be counted on to be mature enough not to go running to Support Enforcement Services about how he’s legally required to be paying me x and is only paying me y.  He might not be my favorite person, but I’m not out to screw him– I just want him to financially support his child in an appropriate manner, in accordance with his income and mine.  And in that respect, we are 100% on the same page.

With all of that said, it is encouraging that we both feel the same way about it, and are willing to come together and figure it out all on our own, for our daughter’s benefit.  The system might have to be set up in a way that promotes hostility, but fortunately, that doesn’t mean we have to operate that way.

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Money For Nothing

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

I occasionally get emails asking how I do it on my own, financially, as a single parent.  Honestly, that is one of the toughest parts of a job that’s not so easy in the first place.

I’m a dentist, so I’ll be fine in the long run.  Being a new dentist and a resident, however, is an entirely different story.  I’ve got mountains of student loan debt and an extremely low income.  With only one small paycheck and a child to care for (and daycare being as expensive as it is), it’s a real stretch.  I’m very lucky in that my parents will help me out in a pinch, but it does get old to be worrying constantly about finances.  I’m pretty much at the point where if my online banking website had a box you could check that said “stop sending me statements because I just don’t even want to know”, I would totes check that box yesterday.

While I was in school, I didn’t qualify for any kind of assistance because I wasn’t technically employed.  Now that I am employed, I make just barely enough to not qualify.  I kind of have a thing about not accepting help anyway, but it would be nice to have the option.  Unfortunately, I do not.

So how do I make it work, several of you have asked me?  Well, I do get child support from Tyler and he is pretty good about paying it on time.  I have a strict budget and use mint.com to manage my finances.  I get the vast majority of things I need for Caro at consignment stores.  I plan our meals for the week every weekend and shop only once, so that I cut down on unnecessary grocery store trips.  I buy meat in bulk and split it up into smaller portions in ziploc bags and freeze those.  I’m big into clipping coupons and shopping at this discount grocery store which is a little sketchy but I haven’t contracted food poisoning yet.  (Although once a lady in the checkout line saw me pull out my coupons and must have assumed I was using food stamps, because she rolled her eyes and sighed, “babies having babies they can’t afford”.  Yep.  That happened.)  And I never, ever buy anything that’s not on sale.

It is exhausting to worry about money all the time, but I am lucky that for me, it won’t be forever.  Someday soon I’ll have a real job, a good one.  Hopefully in the not-too-distant future, I’ll be able to buy a little house or a condo for me and Caro… and things like a new car, and organic food, and shoes that don’t come from Payless.

But until then, I’ll just keep plugging along and being as careful with my money as possible.  Anyone care to share your money-saving tips for fellow parents (single or otherwise) in the comments?

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Irretrievable Breakdown

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

So. I got divorced today.

It was kind of an out-of-body experience. Very surreal. We went to the courthouse for our hearing with all of our paperwork. Waited for the family court to open at 9am. Bickered a little bit about who knows what. Tyler made some comment about the next poor sucker who has to deal with me and I told him that maybe we just shouldn’t talk if he was going to insist on making this worse than it had to be. Not a fantastic start to the day… but then, what exactly would constitute a fantastic start to the day you get divorced?

Anyway. We talked to a family relations officer for about 45 minutes, and she got all of our paperwork in order. Changed a couple of things in our parenting plan, most notably changing joint physical custody to primary physical custody for me, and increasing my child support a little bit. I forget what else we talked about. I couldn’t really focus. I was mostly sitting there staring at this woman thinking that she must have the worst job in the whole entire world, and that’s saying something coming from a dentist, don’t you think?

Then we went before the judge. We stood together in front of a table and they swore us in. The thought passed through my mind that we were standing together in a room with wood-paneled walls in front of a man with a beard just like on our wedding day, and I desperately tried to squash it. The judge asked me a lot of questions, because I was the plaintiff. He went through our agreement with us and asked us if we agreed to everything and if we understood.

He asked me to raise my right hand and swear that I believed that our agreement was in the best interest of my child. I flinched. I could feel the tears coming up behind my eyes but I swallowed hard and did what he said. I spread my hands on the table in front of me and stared at them while he asked the same of Tyler.

He asked me if I wanted my birth name back, and I said yes.

Then he restated the terms of our agreement, said “I find this marriage dissolved on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown” and wished us luck.

That was it. We left the courtroom. Waiting for the elevator, Tyler said “Well that wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be.” I didn’t answer or look at him. I started crying in an elevator for the second time since this whole thing went down and then we were standing outside. I said, “I’m so sorry for everything.” He said he was too. Then we left. And that was it.

I couldn’t shake this feeling, the entire time, that although the people we dealt with at the courthouse were very nice, they were looking at us and thinking that we were so young, and that we had a child. And judging us. Really, I’m to the point where I don’t much care who judges me for getting divorced anymore, but it’s the implication that I’m doing wrong by my child that bothers me. I mean, I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t know the right way to raise a child. I don’t. But I do know a couple of wrong ways. And staying with a man I don’t love and can’t get along with, out of some misguided sense of duty… that’s a wrong way. And I can’t do it. I won’t.

I was in a weird place for the rest of the day. I couldn’t figure out how to feel. I thought I’d be thrilled and relieved… I definitely wasn’t that. I think it will take awhile to sink in. And it was all so official and cold and legal and draining that I just felt sort of numb. I texted my friends to tell them that it was final. (One of them sent me an email not more than five minutes later asking for my shoe size because I’m a bridesmaid in her wedding… really? Can we not hold off on the wedding-talk until I’ve been divorced for longer than 45 minutes? I told her “Whatever size is appropriate for the bridesmaid who gets the drunkest and bangs the hottest groomsman.”)

At the end of the day, I got home from clinic and there was a letter for me from the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (how very official of them) informing me that I had passed my national boards.

And then I felt better. I have a job, I have the qualifications to start said job, I’m good at what I do, I can support my child. I have great friends. Caroline is awesome and hilarious and she’s going to grow up in a peaceful and happy home. Just because today was painful doesn’t mean I did the wrong thing. It just means that I didn’t take any of these decisions lightly.

I’ve got my eye on the prize, and the prize is… happiness. For all three of us. Together, apart, or somewhere in between.

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Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Tyler and I met up today at my school library to finish and sign our divorce papers, and to do our taxes.

The whole thing is bizarre. I don’t know how to articulate the feeling of sitting next to someone you used to be so close to, doing boring “married” chores like filing taxes, and then calmly writing out the sentences that describe how you plan to take apart your family.

“That said child shall reside with Mother. That Father shall have parenting time set forth from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, every other weekend…”

“That the Parents shall have the right to parenting time during each of the following Holidays and Special Days in alternating years…”

“That all major medical decisions and general welfare shall be made by the prior consent of both parties or further order of the Court…”

“The Parents are restrained and enjoined from attempting to coerce said child into false and negative beliefs about, negative or abusive behavior toward, or attempt to alienate said child from the other Parent…”

There were some arguments… some tense moments. But we wrote the parenting plan. We filled out all the forms. We signed it all. We made copies. And then we talked, in the car on the way back from the library.

Tyler told me that one of his friends said that it was no wonder our marriage didn’t work, because I was in love with the idea of Tyler rather than ever being in love with Tyler himself. While I don’t agree that it all fell apart because of me and only me, I do agree with that statement. That is kind of how I am in general. I like the idea of things… the way things sound. The reality is never so appealing. I liked the wedding part of marriage– the anticipation, the big party, the pretty dresses, the flowers, the romantic vows… and then I hated the reality of married life, probably mostly because I married someone I had no business being with in the first place…

And that’s what I told him. That I thought we fell apart because, like most marriages that end in divorce, we never should have been together at all. He nodded and we were both quiet for a long time. Then we talked about what we would have done differently, what we would do differently next time. If we’d ever be good friends. How it was better that Caroline was so young when all of this went down, so that she doesn’t have to remember the bitterness and will only know us as coparents rather than as two angry people tied together in a miserable marriage.

Then he said, “I’ve got to hand it to you.” I didn’t know what he meant, and I said so. He said that he would never have asked me to end it, that he would have kept struggling and trying to make it work, that he would have rationalized things and lived with them. That it takes courage to put an end to a marriage when it isn’t working out.

Even though it was me who filed, and he was dead set against it at first, I think that he was just as unhappy with me as I was with him.

So, the papers are signed, and we have court on Tuesday. Tyler hasn’t yet taken his court-ordered parenting class, so I don’t know if the judge will finalize the divorce, but regardless– we’ve agreed on everything, and it’s all down on paper. Signed, sealed, delivered. And ironically, that’s the song that was playing as we walked into our wedding reception, holding hands and smiling, just three and a half short years ago.

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