There are a lot of myths surrounding parenting, divorce, and parenting after divorce. These myths are propagated by our culture and carried into our court rooms. These myths need to be removed from our judgement as a society. They often encourage bad behaviour that is contrary to the the stated goals of creating new family units that everyone can thrive in. They encourage decisions that just might not be right if it weren’t for these myths. I am not using statistics for this discussion. We all have had enough people in our lives experience divorce or raising kids in separate households to know what the outliers are. Stop assuming that there is some society so different from the one you live in that exists in the USA that is so divergent that these behaviors are allowed to thrive. There really isn’t one, and the few places that might turn a blind eye are not representative of the norm. I originally planned on this being a single post, but it became way too long. I have made it a series. One that I will likely be adding to over time. I will try and remember to update the links below for all parts of the series.
Child Support Is Necessary
The core legal principle used in child support arguments is that the children have a right to be financially supported by both parents, and that it is the courts job to ensure that this happens. The system generally applies the principle by imposing child support on one parent, and they pay it to the other parent. The core idea behind this thinking is that the children will live the majority of their time with one parent, while the other parent would fail to provide for the child in their absence. The most egregious example of bad behaviour used is abandonment. The court assumes a position that one parent has abandoned the family, and it is their job to force them to support the family they left. These parents are then rewarded with a discount if they take the time to see their kids on a regular basis. The court has taken pre-emptive action to protect children. As we have all been told for the better part of a century, children are the real victims of divorce. From the outside looking in, this is a net positive for society. The kids are guaranteed the financial means they need to survive.
The philosophy is that the children have a right to a percentage of each parent’s income, and that they are naturally benefitting from the custodial parent?s income. The non-custodial parents income does not benefit the child unless it is given to the other parent. It is also saying that the child needs a trustee for their rights, and that trustee is the custodial parent.
A big part of this myth is built on the single mom struggling to survive after she has been abandoned by the father of her children. She now has to figure out how to succeed on her own. Movies and TV specials have been produced so much on this subject, it could be considered a genre of TV show. Our culture deplores a man who won?t take care of his family, and has no problem making a deadbeat pay.
The truth is child support is big money. There is no bigger money in the divorce and family court industry. It is the gift that keeps on giving. Child support is the most debated item in a divorce, especially when you link it with custody matters in general. There would be very little argument of the general concept of time, if child support were not on the table. Most child custody battles ultimately are started by someone who wants to pay less or receive more in child support. The lawyers like this, because it is a constant stream of money for them over the years. The court doesn?t want to deal with real issues over and over again, but this child support thing is pretty easy, especially with guidelines being required in every state. The Federal government pays the states to collect child support in a form of matching funds, so the more they collect, the more they get. Now the states have figured out they can use this money any way they like, so like taxes, they are aggressive in collecting child support. Private companies are now employed to do this for many of the states. These companies do so in multiple states. This creates a new lobby and industry to keep child support as it is, and increase the number of people who are paying child support.
What also has to be noted is money means control. Even when decisions are supposed to be made jointly, the one with the money will have the last say. This is a fact of life. Child support has been historically such a hot topic, because for the middle class and below, paying child support means losing authority in your kids life. It also means not being recognized as the provider that you are for your children. You as the payor of child support are largely relying on the other parent to convey that you are playing your role in providing the things they need in life and then some.
Governments throughout man?s time on earth has sought to control the population. There is no end to the level of control that the government will take given the room to do so. The family court and specifically child support is a means of control that is too hard to pass up. The means of collection child support has created a new class of person. Anyone obligated to pay child support no longer has the same freedom as anyone else. They must maintain a job to pay child support. They must allow the government to take child support from their paychecks just like taxes. They are faced with severe and sometimes automatic penalties for failing to pay. All these actions can be taken without due process. In California, it was ruled that it is not unreasonable to require a person to maintain a job that allows them to pay their child support at a level the court has deemed reasonable based on the person’s skills. The reasoning is that people have to maintain jobs to pay their taxes. This argument, though on the records is fallacious. Most taxes are paid based on income, not potential income. If you have no income, then you will not be required to pay taxes on the money you did not earn. You will be required to do so with child support, and there is no guarantee that you will be given any recourse if you lose your job and you are not able to find a similar paying job to replace it.
Most cases do not involve abandonment. This is the truth. Most parents want to raise their kids, and will do what it takes to take care of them. The few who do not want to are the outliers in family law. Divorce is not rare. Over half the population who marries will experience divorce. Child support in its current form is unnecessary. There is a judge I have heard a few personal accounts about who also believes this. His default ruling is everything is split 50/50. The time, the expenses, and everything else you can think of. He orders one parent to pay the other $150/month in support. The purpose of that money is to cover school expenses. That?s it. Everything else is up to the parents to figure out. This guy has it figured out. Divorces are messy, and people can argue a thousand ways to Sunday why their way is better than another. The truth is, most of these arguments have a punitive component built into them. It is not the family courts job to punish anyone. They should ensure that rights are protected for both parents, and that there is a fairly even distribution of property, and then leave them to figure things out on their own. Parents don?t need to have the same set of rules. I bet they didn?t when they were in the same house. Parents don?t need to make the same decisions as each other. Conflict does not have to be erased for the kids to be raised well.
The example I will close with, because I know couples who do this, and the realities would be ignored by the court. These couples are the best equipped to separate their households. They usually have two similar incomes, and they live off of one of the incomes and save the other income. These couples have the wealth to sustain them through the rocky process of divorce. They also each have the means to maintain a similar lifestyle as they have before separation. After going to court, one of the parents will have to pay the other parent, even though their lifestyles were built on less income. The argument will be that it is the child?s right to child support. Understand that in marriage the child has no right to the parents income. Only outside of marriage does this exist. The children have a right to a parents care. Yes the parents wealth benefits the child, but it is not the child?s. If it were, we would all be required to save a hefty chunk of our pay every check to pay for kids things, and then save for them later, because its not ours its theirs.
I grow tired of reading on forums the shaming language used to attack those who don?t think child support is legal or ethical. It comes from men and women. The men are usually the worst, because they have drank the kool-aide and don?t learn from their own experiences. Child support is an evil. Its enslaving. It doesn?t serve the children well. Having two active and involved parents should be societies goal, and pillaging one parent for the benefit of the other won?t do this. Increasing animosity and acrimony between the parents won?t do that.