Why You Shouldn't Depend on Child Support
Sitting there filling out the paperwork for child support was odd for me; I don’t know what I had pictured but that idea that I’d have to fight for the money my child was owed was depressing and exhausting. When I realized how much my sons expenses were in comparison to what money the court had ordered and followed up with the reality that I couldn’t reliably expect the payments made me more determined than ever to make sure that me and my son would be okay even if we never saw another cent.
In a perfect world both parents could and would be able to equally contribute to the child/ren's financial needs, no questions asked.
But unfortunately the world is not perfect.
The fact of the matter is that more frequently than not, the custodial parent will not receive all (if any) child support even if its court ordered. You'll fight, you'll argue, you'll go back and forth in court and it often results in nothing more than stress and lost time.
You very well might be legally and morally entitled to child support payments, but when comes to single parenting, financially supporting a child often comes up to the forefront as the biggest source of conflict and the first thing to be neglected.
Even if the other parent is paying child support faithfully, by counting that money as a source of income and relying on it, you make yourself dependent on your ex. Not the money, on him. How well YOU do is going to be directly proportionate to how well HE does if you're counting his child support payments as income and that's a sucky position to be in.
Aside from the obvious "life happens" cases like car accidents and losing his job, there are many reasons not to become dependent on child support.
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It can be used as a weapon. If he's the manipulative type, he very well might use those payments as a control mechanism or to leverage situations in his favor. "If you don't do it my way, I won't pay child support this month" or if you've said something to make him mad or deflate his ego, he might withhold payments as payback. Take a careful looks at his payments in comparison to your relationship with him. If you notice he's financially responsible for his share only when you two are on friendly terms, be especially proactive about being financially independent. This can also be reversed; sadly many mothers withhold their children from their father over money. No matter how strongly you feel that money is part of parenting, by denying your child the chance to build a relationship with the other parent, you’re hurting the child. It might not be fair but we’re looking at the child’s best interest here. Any financial concerns should be strictly kept between the parents.
Money is often the main source of conflict in co-parenting. Everything is usually fine otherwise, even if you're not buddy buddy, you can tolerate each other being in the room until the topic of child support comes up. The issue of money could be withholding an otherwise healthy co-parenting relationship.
He cannot give you imaginary money. If he doesn't have the money, he doesn't have the money. You can shout from the roof tops how unfair it is that you have to shoulder the responsibility of financially supporting your child/ren and yes men should be held responsible, but is it changing anything? At some point, you have to pull an Elsa and "let it go".
And speaking of forcing something, you cannot make him do anything. You cannot go get a stable, good paying job for him, you can't make him prioritize supporting his child over going out to the clubs, buying new cloths for himself or faithfully paying child support for his other ex's child. You cannot change his mentality about what he should be doing for his child/ren.
You can lecture him all day and night about manning up and taking care of his responsibilities, blast him on Facebook, cry to his mom and sisters and friends, post all the memes about what a real man do on Instagram, but you cannot force him to make any change in his life that he doesn't want to make. Sorry :(
- Consider if the child support fight is worth it. I will say file the court order for sure! If you've put in the court papers but you're still battling for payments, consider if it's worth the fight. Are the court and legal fee's starting to add up? Has the time you've been spent figuring about your ex's income and doing calculations and contemplating court decisions adding up? Could have been utilizing that time to improve your life on your own (i.e are you missing multiple days at work for court? Are you spending a lot of time researching state laws and possible outcomes? Do you have to limit your own success/income in order to qualify for the amount you're owed?) Is it a constant source of worry and stress for you? If so, you might want to weight the pro's and con's and make a conscious decision to drop the battle. Don't have a heart attack; if you've been fighting this long for child support and haven't received much, if anything, you've already proven you can survive without it!
- Stop counting Child Support as income and budget without it. Yes, child support is supposed to go towards helping take care of the children, but if you receive the payments and they're inconsistent in either/or amount or date received then it's not really reliable enough to depend on for the care of your child anyway. You don't want to have to hope your ex pays child support in order to buy your child the new shoes they need. Make your budget without the child support calculated and consider anything you receive as a bonus. At the end of the day, if your budget alone can't support everything, it's time to look carefully at your financial situation.
- If you're co-parenting reasonably with your ex and can have healthy discussions, consider rearranging your agreement. If he's consistently paying, by all means, leave it be (just don't rely on it!) but if he's otherwise participating in the child's life in a healthy manner and is inconsistent with payments, consider rearranging child support. Perhaps coming to an agreement to split costs of things like child care, extracurricular activities and common necessities like school cloths shopping straight down the middle instead of the common income based calculation. Example: while you might not receive $200 every month, you can tell him in August your daughter will need $80 for school supplies and you guys equally split that cost. Also see if you can come to an agreement parenting time wise, if you’re lifting the load see if he’s willing to take on more time with his child.
But what if I do need his payments?
It's time to look at your situation and start figuring out how you can improve it. That might seem like an impossible task but the possibility is completely up to you. Look into ways you can increase your income, create a game plan and start getting deadly serious about your money.
You can sign up to receive the link to a list of sites and apps that can give you a temporary income boost. I've spent hours searching the web and I put together a list of website I've found where you could possibly make some extra money, and I'm continuously updating it. You can sign up to get the list sent to your inbox by clicking here.
Boss up mom! You and your child/ren can and will live a great life regardless if he pays or not.