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I have heard many complaints, over the years, from divorced dads regarding unfair child support payments! It is something that my husband and I have struggled with, too. It is an issue that can be the death of the blended family. Sometimes divorced parents will continually make this issue about them, and it’s easy to do so because your finances is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But, it’s not about what your ex doesn’t need; it’s about what your child needs. If parents always consider the best interest of their child, then there shouldn’t be a problem. So, divorced dads don’t be stingy with your money by not paying child support or paying less than what your child deserves. You are not hurting your ex; you are hurting your child. And, divorced moms, don’t try to empty your ex’s bank account. Remember, that your child still has to have visitation with his father, and he has to have a house and money to take care of his child during visitation. You are not hurting your ex; you are only hurting your child. With that said, read the following comments from one of my readers and my response to her.
I agree that both parents should support the child. I don’t agree that only the non-custodial parent should be doing so. What do you do when a custodial parent lies about daycare, education expenses, dance classes and so on just to get more money because she is financially irresponsible. The court doesn’t even require proof of such things. But we don’t get to even know the name of the dance studio or the daycare. She even tried to get her ex mother in law to tell the court that she paid her weekly for daycare. Thankfully the Ex MIL said she would not lie in court. We pay a huge amount of money and have no say in the childs life. We are lucky to see the child 6 days a month. She has had numerouse contempt charges based on all of this but we still can’t get joint custody.
Thanks so much for your comments! They are always greatly appreciated.
Let me start by addressing what I perceive to be issue number 1: most of the financial burden falling on the non-custodial parent. I whole-heartedly agree that the child DESERVES to be financially, emotionally, and physically supported by both parents. But, that does not necessarily mean that the support will be totally equal. In regards to child support, it is set up so that the child continues the same lifestyle that he would have lived if his parents stayed together. Just because you get a divorce or split from the mother or father of your child doesn’t mean that you are any less responsible for caring for that child. As such, if the non-custodial parent can afford to pay more (without breaking his bank, of course), then he will likely do so. The child support system, in most states, considers both of custodial and non-custodial parent’s income when setting up child support. I know it can sometimes feel unfair, especially when the non-custodial parent isn’t allowed to be as involved as he would like to be (trust me, I know firsthand). But, don’t misplace your anger; sometimes excess emotional baggage can cause us to do this. Meaning, if we are really really mad at the ex-wife/baby’s mama (justified or not), then any and everything she does or we have to do as a result, is wrong. Is your husband really the only one financially supporting the child?? Unless he is paying for her mortgage or rent (shelter for his child), her car payment (transportation to get his child back and forth), food expenses (his child has to eat), health insurance (health care for his child) etc., then he is definitely not the ONLY one supporting the child. I’m certain that it takes a whole lot more than what your husband is paying in child support expenses to raise a child. I don’t doubt that his monthly child support payments help out a great deal, but that’s what he’s supposed to do; whether he sees the child or not. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. You can’t punish (withhold child support) the child because of something that his or her mom is doing.
In regards to issue number two- your husband not being able to see his child. I completely understand where you are coming from. It’s a hard pill to swallow to know that you are doing what you’re supposed to be doing, but you aren’t allowed to be actively involved in your child’s life. It’s unfortunate, but this part of the system is not set up to produce favorable results for the father, who is often times the non-custodial parent. As I explained in one of my posts, Judges seemingly have tunnel vision when it comes to these family law issues. They assume that all dads are deadbeat dads and the moms are helpless hard workers who only want what’s best for the child. When the truth of the matter is that many dads just get tired (or run out of money) of fighting. It’s extremely taxing on the dad and the child. Not to mention, that there are many moms who could care less about the best interest of their child; they are more interested in just sticking it to the ex. I’ve worked and am still diligently working hard to change this. They have to start viewing these cases on an individual, instead of a generalized basis!
With that said, your husband certainly has a right to be informed and involved in his child’s life. I would suggest getting a good attorney to set up a visitation schedule that is in the best interest of the child.
I am one who firmly believes that dialogue, positive or negative, promotes change. If I want to resolve an issue, then it is important, to me, to find out what’s on that other person’s mind. I want to know why he or she has made the decisions that they’ve made. I want to know how that other person is feeling. I want to know how we can try to understand each other to resolve our issues. It may not lead to achieving consensus, but it certainly can shed some light on what that other person is thinking.
I recently had the opportunity to put my theory (dialogue promotes change) to the test. I posted my Wives War article on my Charly Magazine blog (www.thecharlymag.wordpress.com) and it gave me the opportunity to have a conversation with an ex-wife. She wasn’t too happy about the content of that article. She felt as if it gave ex-wives a bad name and she let me know. What started off as a tongue lashing between her (representing the ex-wives) and I (representing the second wives) ended up as what I’ll call a “change experience.” She began to listen to me and I to her and it sparked a bit of understanding on both of our parts. It also raised many questions that I hadn’t even thought of.
I posted some of our conversation below. As you read these very real thoughts and opinions regarding blended families, try to figure out who you might identify with. Perhaps you understand both of our positions.
A conversation between an ex and a second wife!
I always enjoy reading perspectives, but I hate the bouncing back and forth of control. It seems we can find a justification for our actions around ever corner and it changes with every new perspective. Come on, I am all for step-parents, but when it comes down to it and the decisions need to be made….Step-up or step-aside! I am a pretty open minded woman, I divorced my husband, NOT my kids. She married my husband, NOT my kids. Kids are an extra bonus, but they are not and never will be her children. IF she is lucky and treats them with respect and kindness, they will love her and she will be a welcome adult in their life, but that is it.
WE all have to work out something that works so the kids can have the best chance at growing up well adjusted, but that does not mean that the ex-wive should just step aside and let step-mom take over or that step-moms should be treated with kid gloves. We are adults here. I keep hearing how we, as Bio parents, made the choice to divorce so we should just take responsibility for our choice, well ya know what, step-parents CHOSE to marry a man with children and all the mayhem that comes with hit. Child like or not, it is reality. I am the mom, I was here before, during, and I will be here after, I am not going away, and if you want life to be okay then WE need to work things out, not just ME or YOU… WE. If she wants to be included, fine and great, but it is a voice, NOT the final say. If she wants to argue her point well then get ready for a brawl. STEP. Step-up or step-aside
While I completely respect your opinion as it is something that I have heard before from ex-wives, I must say that I don’t totally agree. It seems to me that you are assuming that (like most other ex-wives that I know) that stepmothers are trying to replace you when this is not the case at all. I wish that more of you would stop viewing us as some sort of threat instead of viewing us as an added bonus. No matter what you choose to think; we are the ones taking care of YOUR children when they are in OUR home. By default, this makes us automatically included in most decisions. Not to mention that we are married to your ex-husbands!! Don’t you expect your husband to include you in all of the decisions that either affect your household or will affect you?? Well, it is no different with stepmoms and second wives. We don’t expect you to step aside, believe me, we know that we are going to have to deal with you for the rest of our lives. It is a decision that we made prior to marrying our wonderful husbands. I just wish those dealings could be a little more pleasant. Just like you aren’t going anywhere, we aren’t either!! Just like we better get used to you, you better get used to us! Do you see how it works both ways??
And for you to say that YOUR children will never be her children is unfortunate; because you are automatically cheating your children out of the love that us step parents can give. We are just as much their parental figures as you are. Visit http://www.blendingin.wordpress.com and read some of my posts that were submitted by step children! These children think of their step parents as PARENTS and nothing less. Please don’t cheat your children out this opportunity because of something that you may be feeling. YOU MUST SEPARATE THE TWO! Often times when we try to speak for our children, we turn out to be totally wrong. Allow them to speak for themselves!
We are fully aware that you divorced your husband and not your children. But, when you make that decision, you must know that there is an enormous possibility that your ex will remarry; when he does, you must make room for someone else. She is his wife and expects that same out of him that you did when you were married to him. Just try to put yourself in her shoes. If you are really interested in EVERYBODY WORKING TOGETHER, then the first step is to rid yourself of this childlike mentality that keeps you believing that everything is about you – it’s not! It is and should continually be about the children. It’s disheartening to always hear ex-wives talk about how it’s all about the children, yet all of your complaints regarding second wives are about how they make YOU, NOT YOUR CHILDREN, feel!
Final thought – most of us have stepped up. We make a choice to love and care for your children. Instead of continually trying to degrade us, try actually working with the step mom in your life so that you can raise healthy, well-adjusted children.
Our son loves his step-mom, I would never ever get in the way of that. I just get sick of hearing it one way or the other. It has got to be BOTH, not mom or step-mom alone. To be honest in my case after seeing dad move 2 or 3 woman in and out of his home, it was a GOD send when this last woman decided to stay. It takes time though to realize that it is forever. In our case it had a lot more to do with DADs immaturity that poor step-mom just happen to walk in to a volitile relationship. I don’t even know if it was her “choice” Dad didn’t even know her on and off for a year while dating other woman and got her pregnant and moved her in within 3 weeks and married her a month later. Sorry if I don’t see that as permenant! It is going to take time.
I guess I look at it as any TEAM. If I were the Starter and go to person on the team and some freshman popped in all cocky and started trying to push her weight around and exert her authority, I would have a problem. now if this freshman came in and quietly introduced herself and then performed well for the team, I would have little problem, as it is for the bettermeant of the team, but I’ll be damned if I would just role over for some kid that is all talk.
Each situation is different. In ours it started out rough, but through MY patience and understanding of her position, things are calming down. I was put down like you wouldn’t believe, by both my ExH and her; for absolutely no reason other than wanting to know who this woman was who was moved into our son’s life. Our son was crying to come home all the time, how the hell was I supposed to know she was okay, and then she started in on me. Oh I was furious!
Like I said with the annalogy, if she had come in with an air of cooperation and allowed time to take it’s course I would have been fine, I was thrilled a the thought of the line of women in and out ending! But she pushed herself in and I did not respect that! Believe me, i would rather have a woman in that houselhold! At least I have some peace of mind!
So before you go generalizing about my thoughts, please Know my situation. I just sat through two wonderful performances of our child, with MY parents… where were Dad and Stepmom?
And as far as how our child feels, he is a happy go lucky well adjusted kid. He loves his dad and I have encouraged his relationships with both dad and step-mom and his new little brother and will continue to do so.
I work with her as much as she will allow me to. She is included in everything. Just because I state an opion does not mean I do not do what is right. Talk is talk. Doing what is right is a whole other story. I walk the walk every day.
So don’t get on some high horse acting like all ex-wives are the evil vilans and you might want to switch the name son your own post, as if it were from me, and rethink who is childish. I think I could agree we both are, but I am definiately not alone here.
I certainly didn’t mean to generalize, but I when it comes situations such as this (blended family) it kind of becomes personal. Like you don’t know mine, I don’t know your situation. I can only go off of personal experience. In my experience, I was and am continually beat down as a second wife and step mom. My husband and I have known each other since I was 14 years old. We dated for nearly 3 years prior to getting married, and we’ve been married for 4 years. In my case, it certainly wasn’t a sudden marriage that caught her by surprise. But like you mentioned in your first comment, she automatically thougth that I was trying to replace or even nix her altogether. I was just trying to convey to you that this often times isn’t the case with step moms. The days of the “evil stepmother” have withered away. Just because we desire and deserve to build a relationship with our husbands and children (including stepchildren) that are independent of you, doesn’t mean that we don’t recognize your presence and position in all of our lives.
Let me also say that I am also an ex (I have a child with someone who I spent 6 years with), so I completely understand (to a certain extent) the position of some ex-wives. It’s painful because you have to view apart of your child’s life from a distance. You have to allow him to have his time with the other side of his family, without you. It’s difficult because you are used to and always thought that you’d share every thing and every moment with this child; but not you have to let go a little earlier than you thought. And you have to trust these other people with your child. I KNOW FROM EXPERIENCE HOW HARD THIS CAN BE! But, it is something that must be done. When I realized this, stepped back and allowed my son to develop a relationship with his stepmother, I was overjoyed with the outcome. I would never tell her that he will never be HER child, especially if she’s willing to take that position in his life. I nearly cried when he came home for the first time, professing his love for his new mom. I breathed a sigh of relief because I knew he was okay over there. I didn’t accuse her of trying to take my place.
Having said all that, Amy, I completely understand where you’re coming from, too. Mainly because my situation with my ex and his new wife didn’t start off that way. Like your ex, he only knew her for a short time (3 months) before they got pregnant and married! My son also called crying to come home on several occasions and I went to pick my baby up – EVERY TIME! Like you, the new wife and my ex tried to accuse me of probably the same thing that they accused you of. But it didn’t matter because my main objective was protecting my son, and at the time, I didn’t feel like it was their main objective. Needless to say, we didn’t start working together as parents until I felt that they both had his best interest at heart, and not before. I felt as if this was my responsibility as his parent.
And so, I am not on some high horse at all, Amy. I don’t think I am being or have been childish at all. My article is a reaction based on my experience. This is MY personal testimony (just as your story is yours). If it doesn’t apply to you, then so be it. But like me, I know plenty of step mothers who can relate to my testimony.
I’m glad that your child is happy and well-adjusted, and I hope that you continue to put your feelings (no matter how justified) aside in order to work with your exH and his wife.
okay, so you are not child like at all I apologize for my rant. Thank you for sharing your story.
I do want to let you know, that I am also trying hard to change the role of blended families… where and when it is safe to do so.
Do you think that the whole mom/step-mom debate takes responsibility away from dad? Sometimes it seems as if it is all about mom and step-mom and we end up raising the child, while dad kicks back and watches.
Honestly I think my own beef with “step-mom” comes from the father’s rights and shared parenting initiatives. As much as I agree all parents being involved can be a wonderful thing, I have seen a lot of hurt come from these initiatives. Almost the reverse. It seems like we are turning the tables… It seems that right now, there is little about the benefit of moms, but here is so much literature on how important dads and step-partents are in the kids lives.
I am just wondering if I am alone in seeing the trend. It always seems like the best way to change things is through action, by simply being a good mom/dad/step-parent/etc and giving each realtionship time.
I believe in empowerment as long as it is not power over. I don’t believe anyone has an advantage on parenting, but I do belive that a child has the right to have a permanent schedule that will not have to be taken back in to court every other year to change. If it is working, why change it?
Anyway, thanks for the responses, I have a lot to think about.
You know what, Amy, I completely agree with you. Little emphasis is placed on what dad needs to be doing; which is why I try my best to draw attention to these issues as well through my personal blog – http://www.blendingin.wordpress.com. I am on both sides of the fence, and believe me, I have PLENTY of issues with my ex and his approach to parenting.
I’m not so sure I agree, however, that giving each relationship time works – it hasn’t for me. I have been with my husband for 7 years and his ex is still bitter about something. When I initially came into this relationship, I tried to take a backseat, but it was hard to do so. Especially since I was the primary caregiver for HER (continually reminds me of this) child when he was in my home. My husband was at work all of the time. When I took a back seat, I was seen as being cold and insensitive. But, when I tried to take a more active role, I was trying to replace her – I couldn’t win and still can’t. She only wants my husband to be involved with her and her son, but I am his wife; and I am not going anywhere. I am more than just an adult figure in her child’s life. I AM THE ONE WHO TAKES CARE OF HIM WHEN HE’S WITH US. I feed him; I am chaffeur; I am nurse; I am a confidant; I tuck him in when he’s sick. Overall, I am the same mother to him that I am to my biological child. Give respect where respect is due. I am not trying to take over. I am simply running my household.
By that same token, as an ex, I know that I have certain rights as my child’s mother. As I stated in my previous comment, it is my responsibility to be involved (to a certain extent) in my son’s life, even when he is with his bio dad. However, I still continue to try and remain mindful and understanding of my son’s stepmom’s position, too.
It truly is a difficult situation, but I think the first step towards change is open, honest dialogue. It is so important to avoid assumptions and really try to understand where the other person (ex wife, second wife, divorced dad and children) is coming from.
Thanks so much, Amy, for sharing your thoughts, opinions and story with me. It has been nice chatting with you. Let’s keep this dialogue going – DIALOGUE PROMOTES CHANGE!!
I recently asked an attorney and fellow blogger, to shed some light (from an attorney’s perspective) on the topic of mediation. I’m sure you’ll find it insightful!
What is Mediation?
Mediation is the process by which two (or more) parties attempt to settle a legal dispute with the assistance of a neutral third party (mediator) whose job is to help the parties work out points of agreement and reach a “fair” result that they both can live with. More and more, mediation has become the preferred means of legal dispute resolution, and has become particularly popular in resolving domestic relations disputes (divorce, child custody, visitation, etc.) because it frees up courtroom dockets and tends to produce results that are more agreeable to the parties. In fact, most judges will now order men and women to participate in mediation before he/she will hear and decide issues in dispute in a divorce or child support/custody situation.
For anyone who has never had the joy of going through a mediation, this is basically how the process works. The parties agree (or a judge orders them) to meet with a mediator. Mediators are specially trained individuals (often former practicing lawyers and judges) who are familiar with the law, but whose job is guide the parties toward agreement. Mediators are paid by the hour, and usually the parties split the cost of the mediator (but are still responsible for their respective attorneys’ fees). There is usually a three room set up; one room for all parties and their respective counsel to initially meet together, and then two rooms where the parties will stay in for the duration of the mediation. After the initial meeting of the parties and “opening statements” where the parties state their issues and positions, each party goes to their respective rooms. The mediator meets with each party in turn, discussing the demands of the parties, the strengths and weaknesses of their respective positions, and ultimately tries to get the parties to reach a middle ground. The key principal that the mediator is working from, and attempts to get the parties to realize, is their BATNA — Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement. Basically, the BATNA is what is most likely to happen if the parties are unable to reach a settlement, and typically is a worse outcome than one that the parties arrive at on their own.
So why mediation instead of just letting a judge make a decision? The truth of the matter is that judges don’t like making decisions for people. But that seems like their job, right? Yes and no. Yes, judges can make decisions by applying the letter of the law, but it’s preferable that the parties reach an agreement/settlement on their own and the judge merely approves such an agreement. The reason for this is that strict application of the law often times leads to a situation where you are splitting the baby. This is even more so the case where domestic legal disputes are involved because often times, the parties aren’t just fighting over who gets the kids on what holidays or what school the child should go to….. the issues are much deeper, more intangible, less rational, and a judge just does not have the time to deal with all of those issues. Mediators, on the other hand, are trained to deal with these issues, particularly family law mediators. In fact, family law mediators are required to go through special training in addition to the regular mediation certification course so that they know how to deal with the unique issues that arise in family law disputes.
Does it Work?
So does mediation actually work? Yes and no. In theory, both parties will be rational participants and the mediator will assist them in sorting through the emotional baggage to help them determine what the real issues are in the situation….. separate the wheat from the chaff. Ideally both parties will compromise so that the result is a win-win situation. Anyone who has been through a divorce or dispute with child custody/support knows, however, that this is the last place to look for rational people. Because reaching a decision in a mediation is entirely voluntary (contrasted with arbitration, where the arbitrator does have the power to make a binding decision) a party can continue to drag his/her feet, be difficult, and basically stick to his/her agenda of making the other person’s life as difficult as possible. In the non-family law setting, the primary consideration is money, so the avoidance of litigation costs serves as effective leverage. When there are feelings involved, however, creating excessive costs of litigation may be a motivating factor. Rationality goes out the window, and with that the potential efficiency and benefits of mediation.
Keep in Mind…..
One key principle that parents and ex-spouses should keep in mind is that the legal system is not the place to deal with hurt feelings. The purpose of the legal system, including the mediation process, is to provide resolution to true legal disputes, not to avenge wrongdoing, seek validation, or keep the other party in a person’s life (as dysfunctional as that involvement is). Mediation has the potential to produce positive results, but both parties must have the desire to compromise and come to an amicable conclusion in order for it to work. It is somewhat of a self fulfilling prophecy– if the parties believe it’s not going to work, then it’s not, and vice versa.
I also like to post my readers’ questions every now and then just to give you insight regarding everyone else’s blended family issues. I am truly not alone! Blended families are now more common than so called “traditional” families, and we experience many, many issues. Check out my reader’s issue and let me know what you think.
This is a GREAT article…
I am having a HUGE issue in my new marriage… My wife has been taking a more and more aggressive tact with my kids (7-year old twins, she has an 11-year old daughter).. It’s leading to major weekly conflict as it has gotten to the point where she only interacts with them in a disciplinary manner and not even a caring matter.It has gotten to the point this week where I said I don’t thin I can be with someone who cant at least be civil to my children and have asked her NUMEROUS times now to let me discipline my kids since her method is so harsh. We did see some of this before we married but It seems to be getting worse.Her idea of “fixing” the problem is to simply stop having the contact level we do now as a blended family. So when we have the kids, I do my thing with my kids and she does her thing with her daughter. In my view this is nothing more than AVOIDING the issue rather than trying to address it.
Any thoughts??? HELP
First off, thanks so much for reading my blog as well as taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate that because it is one of the primary reasons that I write on my blog.
Now on to your question…I completely understand your current situation because I was in a similar situation at the beginning of my marriage. I think often times we as parents are too consumed with our feelings that we forget to think about the children that exist within the blended family. When I married my husband, we had two boys (mine and his), both the same age and equipped with their own set of issues; mainly due to divorce and our new family. Because I spent the majority of time with the boys, I thought I just needed to get them under control. I didn’t care how they felt. I just wanted them to do as I said so that my house wasn’t a complete zoo, all of the time. In doing so, however, I will admitt that I made the problem worse. I had to realize that the world these children had known had completely changed. As such, there was going to be an adjustment period. So, I, as the adult, had to put my own feelings aside to try and help MY children through this. Simply put, I had to be more understanding and sympathetic to my children’s feelings and needs. In addition to that, my husband and I were having the same issues. What helped us to get through it was (I know you’ve heard this before) COMMUNICATION. Through my husband’s eyes I was only interacting with his son in a disciplinary manner. But, to me, there was always an issue that needed discipline, and I couldn’t just let his son do whatever he wanted to because he was hurting. I didn’t want to only interact with him in this manner. And, it didn’t help that he (my husband) was always attacking (that’s the way I felt) me when it came to the issue.
Usually, there is a deeper issue that causes these types of issues to manifest within the blended family. Many times it’s our insecurities that cause us to avoid looking at the entire picture. We are always quick to assume that the other parent isn’t being fair due to a non-biological connection. It’s that innate, protective instinct that we have as parents. It not only takes time for blended family children to trust us as adults, but it takes an equal amount of time for us to trust each other, especially when it comes to our respective children.
Having said that, I would encourage you to speak to your wife about her feelings before you give up. By that same token, make sure you convey your feelings as well. Once you’ve figured out the core issues, try creating that co-parenting policy that I talked about in the post. Remember, that you must create a household that works cohesively, from this point on. You are husband and wife, and although you had your respective children with other people, these are your children together. And, those children will need and depend on all of their parents to raise them. You must work together to solve issues of discipline.
I hope that I’ve helped in some way. Be sure to check back in with me to let me know how things are going. Hang in there. Believe it or not, it can get better.