Two.b

Just before this exchange there was a man before the same judge. This non custodial parent had injured his back shoveling his car out of the snow and missed a few weeks of work due to his injury. Because of this he was 3 weeks late on his child support payments. The judge ordered him to do community service until his back child support was paid back in full.

About here is when I went back to court to petition that my ex be brought up on civil contempt charges for not obeying the Judge’s order to pay child support and get a drug test.

4 years of no child support now. There were a couple of payments here and there but 200 dollars over 4 years isn’t really anything to mention. I bring that into the house just by recycling and turning in loose change.

At this time I figured out the total of what my ex wife owed plus the arreears and penalties. It was more than what half of the guys on the “dead beat dads” poster at the post office owed. Over $20,000. This didn’t sit well with me as I’m all for equal treatment. I called up the Department of Revenue to find out if it would be possible to put her picture up with the other deadbeat parents. My ex had dropped off of the grid for about two years, we had no number, no address, and had no way of contacting her. It sounded like a reasonable thing to me. Equal treatment and all.

“We have different criteria that we use to decide which people should be put on those posters.”

When bullshit is so shamelesly laid out on a platter before you, you know that the other party doesn’t even care that you know that it’s bullshit. It’s a not entirely polite “fuck you”.

At this point I made lots of calls to DoR asking if they could or would do anything at all to try and collect from my ex. They cancelled her drivers license. This was to be her reason for not being able to pay child support for the next 3 years.

7 years of no child support now. I had been laid off from a good job, my severanace had dried up, I was bringing my daughter (not the one I originally mentioned as having special needs) to medical appointments 3x now a week now due to other issues and was living off of unemployment. I started calling DoR again.

This is when I recieved one of many correspondances that refered to me as “Ms Lastname” and referencing my ex as my “ex husband”. “He” and “she” were always used in the places where they shouldn’t have been. I called up DoR to tell them that while I understand that these are probably form letters that it was frankly offensive to me, as a man and father who has sacraficed everything for my children to recieve a letter from the state that actually calls me* a deadbeat dad. I was a upset, but civil.

I was told that it was unacceptable that this mistake had happened, and that even though I protestesd that they would redraft the letters, make a note in a file somewhere and resend the ammended documents. That never happened.

What did happen however is that the DoR started to attach my unemployment checks $100 a week for back child support. Now I’m unemployed and instead of just not getting $400 a month in child support I’m actally losing $800 a month. I did anything a person could do to keep our ship afloat. The economy had tanked but thankfully I was able to get back to work in a related field.

At this point I’ve long given up on going to the court. I’ve paid out more in gas than I’ve seen in child support, not to even mention that I’m a busy man and I don’t have time for a 6 hour field trip every month away from work, for nothing.

About now is when I’d done some sleuthing myself and became my own personal skip trace. If you want something done, you do it yourself. Remember the contempt charge? I found out where my ex was staying after her having been off the grid for a while again. I talked to everyone from DoR agents, to people at the court and the Sherrif’s department. I gave them all clear information on phone numbers, locations of employment as well as her home address.

Two months and many calls later she was served with paperwork ordering her to go to court on the contempt charge. I was now working somewhere with 0 vacation days and could not be there for it. Two things of interest happened at the hearing. She got her child support payments reduced to $35.00 a week total. $1.66 a day per child. The other thing is she was told if she couldn’t make a payment of a couple of hundred dollars within a month, she would spend a weekend in jail. I think she owed around $35,000 at this point with the arrears and penalties.

Zero child support and a month later she spends a weekend in jail and then starts making $35.00 per week payments. I pay more than that on school lunches every week. The next time she went to court she asked if the child support could be lowered again because our oldest had turned 18.

She’d done it. She waited it out, she was actually asking a judge to let her pay less support because she’d spent almost 10 years of not paying and her children were becoming adults.

Payments have happened sporatically since then. As I write this I wonder how long it would take to pay back just the existing, owed money at $35 a week, not including any new payments or trying to keep current. Pretty simple math, it’s a thousand weeks. 19 years. She’s paying nothing towards the back payments though, my kids will never see it. It’s a terrible joke.

A friend of mine was two weeks late paying his child support due to losing a job last year. He was promptly contacted and told if he didn’t pay all he owed within a week that there would be a warrent out for his arrest. The system became strangely, suddently, efficient.

This is nothing new. I moved in with my father when I was 15 and he had to keep paying my mother child support until I was 20, in the military, and was married myself. When I asked him about it he told me that even if he sometimes got a negative paycheck that it was still cheaper than fighting my mother in court to get the child support payments stopped. I didn’t understand then, I do now.

I’m a bit jaded, but not towards women; one jerk does not a gender make. I’m jaded because in my experiance things like child support, custody, and the visitation of children is handled vastly differently by the courts and other entities entirely dependant upon the gender of the custodial and non custodial parents instead of what I thnk would be more appropriate – focusing on the needs of the children and not the gender of the custodial parent.

I’ve been vocal about this with all of the agencies involved. Not angry, just not afraid to bring it up calmly, and voice my observations and concerns. I’ve been regularly told that everyone knows that this is how it works, and it just is how it is. I think that’s also a grand load of BS on a platter. We know the system is going to put children of single fathers at the bottom of the pile, and that’s just how it is. Here’s your spoon.

I’m making it work and will continue to do so, but I think it’s important that people know that this story, even if it’s rare, also happens. I’m an understanding person, I understand that many, many good people are trying to do their best working within an imperfect system. I would suggest however that the way that these laws and practices are meeted out is not done in a way that suggests that the best interests of the children is the driving factor.

When I see any system that chooses to not service the needs of any people for reasons that can be traced to an unwritten policy of differential treatment of persons based on race, religion, creed or gender I am offended. This has just been my personal experiance of being treated like a second class citizen. I know that I’m not alone and many many people have been treated much more unfairly than I have been. Like Louis C.K. jokes about, I’m white and I’m a man, what do I have to really complain about?

Single fathers are a small demographic. I haven’t met any others in the wild. We don’t have a lot of political sway. What we do have though is a lot of love for our kids, and we think they deserve to have our legal system protect their interests just as much as the children who are being raised by single mothers.

I normally try and punch things up with some levity, I’m just too exhausted when I talk about this subject to do it though. It’s been 9 years of fighting this now and it’s just not worth it to even care.

I got a call from DoR a month ago asking why I hadn’t yet cashed a check they had sent me for $6 of child support. We talked a little, we both laughed at the absurdity of the situation. I have no idea where that check went, it was actually funny when I saw it, I should probably frame it.

Sorry for being such a bummer, but I thought a different take on things might be interesting. Almost 10 years later I still haven’t seen a poster for “Deadbeat Parents”, they’re all still looking for “Deadbeat Dads”. If I call up about it again I wouldn’t be surprised if my face ended up on a poster in the post office.

My experiences are clearly only my own, and my opinions are obviously skewed based on my own life experiances. Your results may vary, and if they do, I’d be interested to hear about it.

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