The Custody Paradox

This is the personal follow up to The Time and Money Conundrum. Once I started breaking down all the influences on things, I just couldn’t stop, and it was far too long to continue with my personal story. Mine is unique, but the ending is not. That to me is the just one of the incredible paradoxes of our system. Every path seems to lead to the same place. A place where fathers are relegated to inconsequential adults in a child’s life who are merely held accountable to continue to pay for their well being. The only real question is often how much are you going to spend to postpone the inevitable. I know there are victorious fathers out there, and I by no means want to discourage those who have the will to fight, it is your children’s well being at stake, but I cannot stress enough that the fathers who win are statistical anomalies in the family court system. Every judge has a couple to reference to prove that they surely do not have a gender bias in their decisions.

I had a court date a few weeks ago to settle child support issues. I had previously agreed to leave the current parenting plan in place to move things along. I wasn’t going to win so long as the GAL was involved. That plan is terrible. It gives me no parenting time excepting supervised visitation. Something that me nor the kids are very willing to do. She intimated that she would allow pretty much whatever the kids wanted. I never realized that of course they needed to know they could ask, and she has made sure that hasn’t happened. I have discovered that she has no qualms lying and bending the truth to get exactly what she wanted. I am not sure what she has built up about me in her head to justify treating anyone this way. Maybe she doesn’t need me to be a monster to act like this. I just know that I wouldn’t do the things she has done to anyone. Taking a kid from an able and loving father is about as terrible as you can be. Its the creation of the legal wall between parent and child that is terrible. Plenty of parents do things on their own to build up walls between them and their children. The difference is the parent and the child have the power to fix what is going on in their relationship without threat of jail hanging over one of their heads. As I said the purpose of the hearing was to discuss child support. I thought I was going to have to pay the maximum according to the child support scheduled, and she thought that I was going to pay some astounding amount more.

You might be wondering how on earth is she do more than the child support calculator comes up with. Its simple, her lawyer took a part of the code that makes up the child support schedule and twisted it up to mean something it wasn’t intended to mean. Her attorney also knew that our judge didn’t like me, and was apt to rule that having the extra money was in the best interest of the children. I have gambled a few too many times with this judge thinking she might go with some rational ruling. I even thought that she might split the difference on some issues that we couldn’t agree on making neither of us happy, but ending the issue. I have been wrong every time that I have done this. My attorney was afraid the judge might even increase the order from what they are asking for if we went into court, so we negotiated something that was slightly less crippling. The rule that she was using was a reference to “non-exercise of parenting time.” In case you missed it above, I have no parenting time. She was prepared to go into court, and say that I have not exercised parenting time that she has offered me outside of the parenting plan, and because of that, I should have to pay more. The purpose of the clause is simple. Lets say that you have a 10% reduction in child support for having a standard visitation schedule, and you choose not to use your parenting time for 6 months. The court would then adjust the child support using this clause to pay the custodial parent back for time they didn’t take. They wouldn’t change the rest of child support unless the other parent didn’t agree to start exercising their parenting time. In six months the non-custodial parent could return to court to remove the adjustment after demonstrating that they are now exercising their parenting time. Not only is my case a ridiculous use of the clause, but it is based on her word that she has offered me time(she hasn’t) that I haven’t exercised.

Now lets talk about the paradox of custody and child support. The courts take away time from a parent and raise child support. This results in the non-custodial parent having to work more hours, and thus having less time to spend with their kids. The custodial parent can take the non-custodial parent back to the court and raise the child support based upon increased income. It becomes a cycle where the non-custodial parent works more hours to meet their household needs and child support while the seeing their children less, which will lead to increased child support continuing the cycle. The core legal concept that is in play here is that some portion of your income actually belongs to your children. When the children are in a two parent household it is assumed that this portion is spent on their behalf, but when parents are divorced it is only assumed that the custodial parent is spending this money on the child’s behalf. This concept is the one that drives child support rates up so high. Another concept that attorneys will explain to you is that the court views child support as being fluid, and that when a non-custodial parent covers the expenses that should have been covered by child support, then the custodial parent would pay them back for those expenses. The truth is that the money never moves the other direction without a court order, and the courts will almost never make that order. This is simply a principle that is attached to the child support legal philosophy to justify the actions taken by the courts. It literally never happens. The closest you get is a parent who doesn’t take care of the kids will lose the custodial role to the other parent, but that fight is a gigantic uphill battle.

I try to remain hopeful. I am literally in the final stretches of this painful journey. Soon my kids will be able to make their own choices, and they will know it. They still have no idea what type of control they already have in their teen years. Their mom isn’t going to let them know what power they have. I will forever mourn not having them in my house to have late night and dinner time chats. For them to know and understand what it is to be a part of my family. I sometimes dream about them rejecting their mother for the choices she made, but the truth is that they have been raised in her house, and they are likely to see things from her view for a very long time. What I can do is be there for them when they call. I can ensure that my step-kids have the best relationship their bio-dad will allow. I can open my house to those who need a home. That is the next adventure for me and my family. More on that to come.

Ten-Foured,

JeD