While having dinner with a friend of mine, several years ago, we found ourselves talking about the issues surrounding child support, father’s rights and how they relate to child development. Here I will state some of the more distinct points that arose from that conversation. To me the answer and position of non-custodial parents (whether they be fathers or mothers) is clear to any reasonable or compassionate conscience. However it is not the position far too many non-custodial (NC) parents have taken once a divorce has stated child support must be provided.
Before a divorce, as a married couple, if you were to ask any father or mother whether they considered it unfair that they spend some of their income on their
They will claim the legal system is unfair. To be sure, not all the laws governing child-support are either fair or even consistent just in the United States alone. But too often it is the courts who are brought in to mediate between two adults who are more concerned with revenge upon each other than they are about their children’s welfare that such laws come in to play so heavily. It is sad that people will rationalize that just because they cannot tolerate to live as a couple any longer, they must now use the issue of child support as a battle-ground to vent their anger. But there is more to consider than whether or not the legal system require that a NC parent should continue to support their child. There are also the moral and effectual issues to deal with as well.
Morally I have yet to see, hear or read any reasonable argument which could justifiably state that when a marital/spousal relationship has been terminated, it somehow relieves the exiting partner from the relationship and responsibilities to support their minor children. It is a moral impossibility to build such a case. A divorce is the dissolution of marriage between two adults. It is not the disowning of a parent to one’s children that they fend for themselves.
I have heard valid cases of men who were left with a mere pittance to live on due to the fact that the support amount was unjustly proportionate to his earnings. By this I mean that the NC parent hadn’t enough to even afford gas to pick his children up, let alone feed them or entertain them modestly in any way. Such cases are valid and I defend any such person’s right to appeal that the amount be related to his income which allows him to function financially. In the cases I have personally seen however, when I asked the person, “Have you returned to court to let them adjust your child support, now that you’re making less income or unemployed?“. Amazingly these same men who are racking up back-due support debt have enough energy to complain about it but not enough energy to request a date before the court for an adjustment. Too busy, too much trouble, they won’t listen.. is what I hear. But how much more a priority could it be to warrant immediate attention? It should be first on the list.
I do not see that it is the inherent “right” to a NC parent to first secure their own lavish lifestyle at the expense of their children. Yet this is usually the priority many NC parents take. They find money to take personal vacations with their new love interest, buy them gifts, get a new car or stereo system but just can’t seem to find even a bit of spare change to buy food and clothes for their own children not living with them. Those who balk at the very idea of handing any finances over to their former spouse somehow view it as a defeat in their personal agenda to see their ex-spouse suffer, albeit they hurt their children in the process. Morally the children are no less dependent on both their parents as the primary adults who will help them secure the things they need to grow up. This includes food, clothes, health, advice, compassion, attention, encouragement and general nurturing. I would go so far as to say that a person who violates this most basic response as a parent willingly and knowingly, while able to provide at least some measure of these things, has fallen below the depths of selfishness into a crime of cold inhumanity against the very children who love them in return.
As to the effectual, residual issues to be addressed. Here, though I do not intend to speak ill of my own father, I am able to speak from personal experience. Though I loved and respected him before his passing away, I must objectively say that he handled his divorce/support issues in a grossly negligent manner. After moving to another state there was no support for my brother and I except an occaisonal 50 to 100 dollars once or twice a year if my mother was able to corner him long enough to hear how poorly we were living. He visited occaisonally with about the same frequency and even then sometimes did not appear after we’d waited the entire day for his arrival. Yet my mother did not speak unkindly of him to us and always reminded us that despite all, he was our father and were to always love him as such. She did not make the mistake so many custodial parents make of using valid or manufactured facts to alienate a child from their non-custodial parent.. which is equally vile and deplorable. Now as an adult I have the highest esteem for my mother. Not only because she had the maturity to not use my father’s irresponsibility to turn us against him, but because with or without his help she worked and did all that was necessary to see that we were provided for as best she could.
As for my father, again though I love him dearly, for all the clothes, food, school supplies, medicine and such that I needed growing up… I wish I could look back and say that a consistent part of my upbringing was provided for by him. But I cannot. It is because he spent his income on himself. Such will be the quiet response from children as they grow up and look back on thier “deadbeat” NC parents who financially abandon them or salve their own conscience with meager pocket-change when it is convenient. As to the non-material things. Even if my father were a financially strapped I wish I could have had his advice available during my teen years. Learning to drive, master chess, do my homework, play some frisbee… again I find that my memory banks are just as depleted as my mother’s wallet during the years my brother and I need him most. Worse yet, for him, it was other men who stepped in and took the role as a counseling fatherly figure because he failed to make himself available for the task. So it is for men or women who are more concerned with their own emotional angst too much to set it aside and be a consistent, positive influence in their children’s lives. It is a horrible situation when the custodial parent makes any such efforts nearly impossible in response. Many times NC parents want to spend time with their kids and the custodial parent stands as an obstacle or demoralizing agent to letting this happen.
And so it is without hesitation that I believe it is every non-custodial parent’s moral, effectual and reasonable responsibility to lay their own hatred for their ex-spouse aside and attempt to find a fair agreement that will provide for their children both materially and emotionally. This does not mean child support should be gouged down to the very last dime a person earns from their pay. Nor does it mean mere”pocket change” that is not in reality with half the cost of raising a child. Divorced husbands and wives do not cease to be fathers and mothers to their children. Even if one’s ex-spouse remarries to a wealthy spouse, one would want their children to know they’d not set aside their care from their hearts and minds. They’d want their children to see their love by providing from their own finances towards their support.
I do not say these things flippantly as a single man who is unfamiliar to the situation. I am a divorced man who has provided for my children without missing a heartbeat (or a paycheck) from the moment my ex and I separated, long before there was any court order requiring such. In the time since it did not take a court order for me to voluntarily raise my child support when my pay increased either. I have since remarried and taken on the support of my wife’s child whom we now raise as our own. But that is no reason to deduce that my responsibility towards my natural children has lessened any at all. Not emotionally or financially.
In the last four years since this article was originally posted I have recieved countless flames and kudos for my position. I have personally witnessed abuses to the child-support system that make my heart ache for child and parent alike. I have seen men pay child-support and find themselves denied any visitation with their children for unsubstantiated reasons. I have seen women abandon their children to the ex-husband and then spend their money on new cars and live-in boyfriends. Or women who fraudulently claim welfare while working, leaving the ex-husband to reimburse the State department on top of their child-support. There have been many valid cases of injustice and every one of them deserves their day in court to be set right, however much work that might take. But underlying all this one thing does not change. Parents brought their children into this world and OWE them their support, regardless of what they get in return. That is the self-sacrifice a loving parent will expose themselves to if necessary to provide for the children they love.
For those who would rather to continue to think otherwise.. time, and the courts, will not be far behind to visit their decisions upon them ten-fold. It is the way of life. It is my hope that men and women would rather choose to let mercy and love govern their child-support decisions than the much costlier alternatives of bitterness and greed. In the animal world we look upon those that would eat their own young with a sense of deplorable disgust. Yet when a person would create a self-serving veil of reason to excuse themselves from extending support to their own children, it can only be looked upon as the greater of two evils. For an animal may act out of irrational impulse, but this all too present abandoning of one’s children to the elements is a conscious, calculated sin against humanity.
Henry Velez is a writer, traveler and vlogger currently living in the Philippines. He has written extensively on social issues, relationships and travel.