As some of you know, I’ve been in a 17+ year battle to collect child support from the man who “fathered” XUP Jr. So far, we’ve managed to get a whopping total of $1800 from him — in 17 years — after two court orders — and about ten thousand phone calls to Ontario’s ironically named Family Responsibility Office (FRO).
This Ontario office has more than 180,000 active cases of deadbeat parents on their books with over $1.3 BILLION owed in child support. (It doesn’t include the god-knows-how-many deadbeat cases they’ve just given up on as they’ve tried to do to with my case several times now). And this is a province of only 13 million people! It’s beyond shameful.
If I were a math geek I could somehow figure out (using ratios and percentages and maybe even algebra) how many deadbeat parents and how much owed child support that might represent across Canada and/or the US.
And, how many children that might represent who are doing without things they might need because they’ve been shrugged off by one of their parents and the government. (I know, a bunch of you Anti-Nanny-Staters are going to say it’s not the government’s responsiblity to force parents to be responsible, right? That it’s our own damn fault for having kids with irresponsible people, right? Believe me, I think that often enough myself)
But let’s move on.
I think those deadbeat figures are mind-bogglingly shocking. If my experience is anything to go by then, in this province, FRO can certainly take the blame for a lot of it because of their incredibly frustrating lack of ability to enforce support orders and for giving deadbeat parents opportunity after opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to weasel out of their obligations.
From where I stand, the deadbeat parent seems to control all the balls. They can keep filing Change Orders to get their support payments reduced no matter how many times a judge reviews their financial situation and orders them to pay. Deadbeats have all sorts of ways of showing little or no income and there’s apparently nothing anyone can do about it even if the deadbeat parent is living in a lovely, ocean-front home, owns a boat, has a holiday home in another country, drives a couple of high-end vehicles and has a very lucrative business. As long as the deadbeat is filing income tax forms that claim an annual income of only $10,000 they don’t have to pay child support.
And because of their “low” income, they get a free legal aid lawyer to help them while the other parent doesn’t even get a designated FRO case worker he/she can talk to, but has to call the FRO “call centre” and re-explain the entire history of his/her case at every single phone call. And, I’ve discovered regular phone calls to FRO are absolutely necessary if a person wants to keep their case moving along at all. If you don’t call them every couple of weeks, they do nothing with your file and eventually just close it.
The parent raising the child doesn’t have the luxury of saying, “Gee, I’m not really making enough money to support this child and maintain the lifestyle I enjoy, so I’m just not going to leave her on someone else’s doorstep now.” Not that a real parent would, because what kind of person doesn’t do whatever they can to make sure their own child is well taken care of? (The kind of person some people are foolish enough to make a baby with, I guess.)
But let’s broaden this discussion a bit more to see if there are any circumstances under which a non-custodial parent should ever not have to pay child support. First, here are the major reasons deadbeats say they’re not paying:
- About 40% of all deadbeat parents say they don’t pay is because they don’t have any money.
- About a quarter of all deadbeat parents say they don’t pay because they don’t think their visitation rights are fair.
- 10% – 15% percent say they never wanted children.
- Approximately another 10% say it’s not their child, so they’re not paying.
- In addition, around 70% of all deadbeat parents say they’re not paying because they have no say in how the money is spent.
Are any of these valid? (Aside from if the man is not the child’s legal father or if a DNA test proves that the man is not the child’s biological father).
One school of thought says that if you are involved in the conception of a child, regardless of circumstances, you are, at the very least, financially responsible for that child until he or she is an adult. (Unless the child is legally given up for adoption, of course). Can such a blanket statement be made?
There’s another school of thought that says that since women hold all the cards as to whether or not they’re going to keep and raise the child, the man should have some rights when it comes to choosing whether or not (and/or) how much child support he should pay. Examples can be cited of women who “trick” men into getting them pregnant.
Let’s look at some possible scenarios:
- A man and a woman pick each other up in a bar, have protected sex, but something goes awry and she gets pregnant. She tracks him down and tells him and he says, “tough luck baby get an abortion,” but she won’t do that for whatever reason and decides to keep and raise the child. Should the guy still be ordered to pay child support?
- Or, what if a couple is married, have a couple of kids, but after a while the wife can’t take being a wife and mother anymore and leaves. The husband has a good, stable, well-paying job and is left to raise the kids on his own. They get divorced and the wife gets her share of the couple’s assets. It’s enough to buy her a modest home, but she is only able to find a minimum-wage job and is having difficulty making ends meet. Should she be ordered to pay child support?
- A man with a middle-class income has been paying child support of about $400 monthly for one child. His ex-wife works at a low-paying job so the child support is vital in helping to pay the bills. The ex-wife meets a new man and eventually moves him in with her and the child. The ex-husband feels that his ex-wife will now be spending his child support on things that will benefit the new man and feels he shouldn’t have to pay anymore. Does he have a point?
- What about the woman who, because of some bad lifestyle choices, loses custody of her children to her husband and is allowed only supervised visits with her children once a week. Should she still have to pay child support since the courts effectively took away all her parental rights?
- What about a couple who gets divorced, their son is 15 and the father finds out that the boy was conceived during an affair his wife had with another man. The husband feels he shouldn’t have to pay child support.
- A couple have 3 kids. The husband leaves the wife her for another woman and quits his job, so he has never had to pay child support. He then develops a non-specific but debilitating mental illness, which puts him on disability. The kids go to stay with him 2 days out of every week so now he’s trying to get child support from the ex-wife to pay for things the kids need the 2 days they’re with him because he says he can’t afford to feed them and entertain them on his disability pension. The ex-wife has a good job, but is just making ends meet. Should she have to pay child support to him? (This one is actually happening to a friend of mine)