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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.

sad step mom Says:
August 25, 2008 at 5:51 pm e

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.

 My Response

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 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.

 

Mediation Process

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.

 

Why Mediation?

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. 

 

  

 

 

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