Caveat. This was written a number of years after One was, there is some information overlap in Two.a, but the purpose was to give context as the audience that I wrote this for had not read One before.
A “few words” on deadbeat dads and when they aren’t.
Before I launch off into this I want to put up my gloves for a moment in a preemptive defensive maneuver and say that I have a great deal of respect for anyone who raises children on their own. Single mothers are sadly, almost routinely left to fend for themselves with a deadbeat ex husband or partner in the wind. I feel for them and I actually know how hard it is (to be a single parent). This post is about my personal experience with the system that makes that hard job even harder for some people.
I’ve been a single father for close to 10 years. Three children, one is handicapped and will need special care for the rest of her life.
The particular way that I obtained custody of my children was very sudden, and upsetting for the kids. I had been driving 80 miles each way to visit my children on weekends for about 5 years. Often times I’d end up sitting in an empty driveway for many hours because nobody was home where my children should have been. Their mother liked to take the kids out to the beach when it was my visitation time. She knew that I’d sit and wait to see them. She’d also not pay her bills because she knew that even though I was paying child support that if I found out the phone, or lights, or anything my kids needed was off or missing I’d make the drive and take care of that as well.
Sorry about the tangent, I could write volumes on this, but this post isn’t about that.
What happened was that my children’s mother came to my home unanounced one night, dropped off my confused children with some trash bags full of dirty clothes on the driveway and took off. She didn’t even honk to let me know she’d been there. Strong face, hey guys – it’s just like camping, who wants the sofa? We’re going to have fun, everything is going to be Ok.
I found out later she’d contacted every family members of mine, asked for money to pay for her rent because she said she was being evicted. She then abandoned the house she was renting and took her “emergency” rent money cash so she could go on a 2 month long bender.
I had full custody of my children within 72 hours. When I got custody of my children I asked for $100 a week in child support total, around $30 a week per child. Not a lot. I also asked that she pass a drug test prior to having overnight visits. I didn’t care if she was smoking some pot, but the word was that her boyfriend was a coke dealer. There was going to be no more of that around my children now that I had a say. That’s another whole story.
(When we got divorced she’d moved out of state and I was still enlisted. I’d used up all of my leave and emergency leave to spend time with our daughter in the hospital. I could’t travel a thousand miles to appear in court so she got everything she’d asked for in the divorce because I didn’t appear to contest what she had asked for. Flat tires happen, I would get out of the service, move to where the kids were, and get to work making sure the kids were taken care of.)
I was more than a little overwhelmed. I’m now raising 3 young children, one who has special needs, and I’m working at least 50 hours a week. I reached out to a number of programs for help, for advise, for encouragement, anything. I was not given an inch of help from a single one. They told me they only helped single mothers. I asked why this wasn’t about the wellbeing of the children of all single parents. Thank you for calling sir. Have a good day.
I hate asking for help, especially from social programs. I’m the guy that gets shit done, I provide, I don’t want a hand out, but… sometimes you suck it up and ask because someone else is relying on you to get the shit done that you just can’t do all on your own. I found out that my ex hadn’t brought my daughter with the medical issues back to her heart surgeon in 5 years for any kind of follow up. I finally had the right to bring her to a doctor, we had work to do, and it was going to be a long and expensive journey.
When I went to Social Security to see if I could get the same finacial assistance that my ex wife had recieved, I was told that I didn’t qualify for assistance. I held a respectable position, and made a middle class salary, so they would give me nothing. Many years later I was told by an Advocate that that was entirely false and that Social Security routinely misinforms people as to what they are entitled to because they expect you to appeal. I was an idiot and took them for their word.
After 2 years of not getting any child support I started calling the Department of Revenue and the Probate Court asking why it wasn’t being enforced, and what I could do to try and see that they were motivated to try to enforce it’s collection. I had to go to court and explain to a judge why the court should do something to enforce a mother to pay the child support the same court ordered her to pay. It made my head hurt. When I had been the non custodial parent if my payments slipped for a couple of weeks when I was in between jobs my bank account was promptly levied. This did not seem like equal treatment.
About this time my bank account was leveid for the first of many times by the DoR for back child support. What I was to find out over the next few years was that any time I would reach out and ask for help, they would listen, then assume later when reviewing the case that the father must be the one negligent, and then attach my pay or assets. I did go to court about it and even though I would “win”, and a judge would order the DoR to leave my money alone it would happen again a year later. I eventually gave up going to court and fighting them for my money back, it just became too much. Spoiler – I’ve paid the Department of Revenue more “child support” money since I’ve had custody of my children than my ex wife has, who is actually supposed to be paying.
I started making regular visits to the court, 90 miles away from my home, $50 per tank of gas, to appear again and again before a judge just to say “I think it would be responsible if my children’s mother took steps towards trying to pay anything at all towards the welfare of her children”. The court would give my ex a stern suggestion to try and get a job and pitch in to help provide for her children. She’d laugh as we walked out. A judge at one point asked her if she could even pay 50 cents that day towards the thousands she owed. Nope, can’t. Ok, try and do it next week. That’s not even hyperbole. Not even fifty cents and walked out with a laugh.