Child Support: The Bureaucracy, The Loopholes, and The Deadbeat
Where do I begin to describe the child support chaos that I have been experiencing for the past decade? To list ups and downs would be redundant because the loss is so severe that the gains almost pale in comparison. Yes, I knew that the child support process would be long and tedious, but I had NO IDEA that 10 years later I would be fighting my son’s father and child support services for what my child deserves.
I will start off by stating that the child support hell that I live in is in the state of California. This fact is important, because each state has their own rules and regulations to abide by, and it is my belief that if I lived in another part of the country, things might have gone a tad bit differently. I am also aware that if my child and I were receiving any type of government assistance (even in California) I would, possibly, be seeing different results, because the government believes in getting their own money back.
When my son’s father and I separated 10 years ago, I was in the midst of cancer treatments. I was stressed, exhausted, and tired of so many things that were weighing on me all at once. However, during that time, the only thing that I was certain of was that my 2-year-old son needed to be taken care of. I worked full-time, but I had to miss days in between for chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Through it all, I was determined to stay on top of the household bills and to keep home as normal for my son as possible. It was that determination that had me filing for child support through the state of California.
Initially, I filled out the proper papers, provided all of my finances, tax reports, debts, etc., appeared for every office appointment and/or court appearance necessary, and I gave them every bit of information I had for my son’s father (social security number, bank account numbers, employer information, last known address, etc.). All of that seemed to be enough to get the ball rolling; however, since my son’s father was the only employee (print pressman for 20+ years) of a “mom & pop” printing company, the wage assignment (where they order the employer to take a certain amount out of his check every pay period) didn’t work. My son’s father wasn’t ordered to pay very much (about $350 a month), but sometimes a month or two would go by, and when I would ask him why there had been no child support payment, he would tell me that his boss lets him handle it but he hadn’t gotten around to putting it in the mail. So, there were months when my son would get 1/3 of a payment or ½ of a payment, and there were months where there were no payments at all (there were many of these months). This went on for about 7 years.
Sadly, the “pop” of the “mom & pop” print shop passed away a few years ago and the few child support payments that were being sent stopped coming. After constant calls to the child support office, I was told that there had to be zero payments for a year before they would pursue criminal charges. A whole year. I was livid. I even wrote the Governor’s Office. Here it was that my son had never received a full payment and there would have to be no payments for a year before anything serious would be done.
About 6 or 7 months into the zero payment period, I was told that the “mom & pop” company (technically now just “mom”) sent a letter stating that my son’s father no longer worked for the printing company, but because I’m “smarter than your average bear,” I knew it was a hoax. Again, I called my son’s father (at his job of 20+ years). He told me that his boss sent the letter to child support services but he didn’t ask her to do it and, therefore, he didn’t lie. I was dumbfounded. I immediately contacted child support services and they too called my son’s father (at his job of 20+ years), but no matter how much of “the proof is in the pudding” evidence that I provided, very little was being done. I was told that the state’s budget would not allow them to send an investigator to the printing company to verify that he was still employed there.
Now, here is where it will seem as though I’m ranting and raving (at one point I was), but I’m trying to fit as much information in as possible while trying to keep this from turning into the novel that it could be. My son’s father (who will from this point forward be known only as Deadbeat) is a hard worker. As I stated, he has worked for the same company for over 20 years, and he does part-time work as a print pressman too. Deadbeat’s hobby is bowling. He calls it his therapy. I am fully aware of how enjoyable and therapeutic bowling can be because I used to bowl also. So it is from experience when I say that bowling can be an expensive hobby with league fees and extra expenses ranging close to $200 a month (per league). Deadbeat bowls in 2 to 3 leagues; let’s do the math, $400-$600 a month for a hobby. So it is this bit of knowledge, merged with the lack of child support payments and the fraudulent letter from “mom” of the “mom & pop” printing company, that takes me right to the edge.
My purpose for mentioning the bowling is because, routinely and without fail, you will find Deadbeat either at his job (the printing company) or at the bowling alley. He is not, nor has he ever been, hiding. He is “in plain view” and it doesn’t matter to child support services.
All right, now I’ll get back to the child support services issues. The “zero payments for a year” did go by and the criminal procedures began (which took almost a year). With that there may have been 2 full child support payments, several court dates, and time that I had to take off of work. One day, someone from child support services finally had a light bulb moment. They contacted (via telephone) someone from a neighboring shop near the “mom & pop” company and they confirmed that Deadbeat still worked at the printing company and is seen at the shop all of the time. (Ah-ha!).
In September 2011, Deadbeat tried to get his child support payments lowered, but the attorney for child support services told him that since he has spent less than 1% of his physical time with his son, his payments will still be about $300 a month.
On December 19, 2011 they put Deadbeat in jail for lack of child support payments… for 3 days! They released him right before Christmas. I contacted child support services last week and I was told that they have exhausted all of their means and that I could return to the office where my case began 10 years ago to see if there is anything else that can be done. That was a OMG moment, for sure.
In the end, I have learned a lot about Deadbeat, the bureaucracy and loopholes in the child support system — and people in general — but the person who loses most is my son. I have listed the things that have made me most angry:
- A person that refuses to invest their time or resources to help take care of their child (no phone calls, no visits, no money)
- A system that falls short on so many levels; with an absentee parent that is working and is not hiding and yet…
- An employer who enables a deadbeat (sorry, but the fact that she’s female does put salt in the wound)
I have also been fortunate through the trials and tribulations. My blessings through it all:
- My beautiful son who I could not envision life without
- My 10 years as a cancer survivor
- Providing for my son and giving him a steady and stable home no matter what
- Child support services provides me a running tally of what will be due (as of today $30,000 in arrears) in the event of Deadbeat winning big in Vegas (where he spends a lot of time) or the lotto
This experience has been lengthy (a decade), and I have gone through many emotions (sadness, frustration, disappointment, anger, etc.). I’ve used great restraint to keep from following through with a few retaliating ideas (picture of Deadbeat posted on a street billboard in front of the bowling alley, flyers on every car at the bowling alley, etc.) because I haven’t checked with an attorney to see what is legally acceptable or not. Ultimately, I don’t have the time or much of the energy that it would take to get revenge. Deadbeat has managed to glide (without much effort) through a system that was put in place to enforce parental responsibility. I can only hope that his 3 days in jail offered him enough time (and discomfort) to re-evaluate himself. I hope that one day he will choose to be a physical presence in his son’s life, even if he never provides monetary support, but that’s another blog for another time.
Peace & Blessings