Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Child Support is not just a check

Way before the day you decide divorce is the only option, you need to consider how to best help your children grow through the rancid relationship you are terminating. Now. more than ever, their has be a plan for how to raise the kids together - even apart. It will take both parents to get these kids to adulthood with minimal scarring from our adult shenanigans. If you can't make a plan together, somebody had better take the reigns. Helping the kids through this climactic time and then helping them stay emotionally and mentally healthy should be a top priority.

It's not all cotton candy and iced tea. We don't always agree on the same techniques or punishments. I don't always feel like I have to involve a person who is not present in our lives 24-7 in disciplinary, educational, or spiritual decisions. I have had to learn what information should be communicated between divorced parents regarding children. Is it necessary to call when I am going to Urgent Care with a feverish 7 year old? How about when the teenagers feelings get hurt by a mean girl at school? Is it important to share with the non custodial parent that the kids got punished because they didn't do as told? This is a whole new area of communication, and one upon which to tread lightly.

We both attend school events, both make pop-up visits at the school, and have a personal relationship with our kids. I, more so than he, since I am the custodial parent. He rarely misses a day of  talking with them for at least 5-10 minutes on the phone. We live on the same side of town, which makes it easier for us to be divorced parents. 

On the flip side, I am the one up at night with the sick kids; up all night with the science projects and studying for tests. Because I am the custodial parent, I am always the one who helps with homework and undertakes summer plans. I also am the parent who assumes the bulk of the financial responsibility. I pay for private school, summer camp, incidentals during the school year (where do they come up with some of this stuff? Lab fee, 800 school trips, 3 day camps?) I have a small support group and great godparents who help to lighten the burden, but it is mostly mine.

The court only reinforced what the ex and I determined was acceptable for child support. We decided that for the first two years, I would accept the minimum amount of child support to help the ex get on sound financial ground. He had the bulk of the debt, had to establish a new home, and had to find relevant work. It wouldn't help our kids for him to be arrested every 3 months because he couldn't afford to pay an exorbitant child support and take care of himself simultaneously.

He is also always available to his kids by phone and for the most part, in person. We don't have a set visitation schedule, and I have full custody. That was the only thing I wanted in the divorce - full custody. Approximately 3 weekends of the month, our son will spend Saturday after 4:00 p.m. until Sunday around the same time with his father. Our daughter, the teenager, is not as apt to spend physical time with him out of my presence. She is still not too swell on this new wife, and is determined her father is 'spiritually blind' and 'will come to his senses one day'. But if she wanted to spend that time with him, she could. Neither of us is going to force her to be in a physical situation that is unnerving to her. The oldest lives in another State, but he could call his Dad at anytime.

I don't know if our case is peculiar, but I can't understand how it will benefit the child or the parental ex-spouse if the payer of support is in jail, or if his or her license are suspended so they cannot get to work. I can understand the anger and bitterness one might have at a parent who has not helped raise the kids financially, but I don't see how it helps to belittle, degrade or persecute the non paying parent. Regardless of whether you act a fool, you will still be raising these babies on your own. Wouldn't it be better to let all the negative steam out and breath in the golden light?

When you realize that your anger is not about child support, nor is it about the kids, you can let it go and start working toward being the best parents possible. That work takes a lifetime and both of us are growing constantly in parenting skills. The fact that we are able to work together meant that I had to take a good look at myself and figure out what needed to happen to enable me to table the attitude and put in work. It took a lot of forgiveness, gratitude, and determination. OH, and prayer. 

I knew that I had enough to be upset about without adding a deadbeat to the pile. Some people would balk at the amount I agreed upon, given what the court would have established. I found out that money is not the only form of child support, and sometimes it is the least important type. I have about 8 months left in this agreement, and the agreed upon request for a raise in child support will be sought. But the most important outcome of the whole situation is that we both support our children, faithfully.

No comments:

Post a Comment