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Dad Loses Job, Court Increases Child Support

By Roger Sinasohn |

p8160306_cropJohn Nelson, like so many others, was a victim of the economic meltdown our country is trying to deal with; he lost his job and was out of work for a year, before finding another, lower-paying position.  Nelson is also a divorced father, ordered to pay child support.  After he was laid off, Nelson filed for a reduction in his child support obligation, but it took more than a year to get a court date and then, when he finally did get to make his case before a judge, the judge actually increased the amount Nelson had to pay, leaving him with just $58 per week to live on.


Robert Franklin, writing on the blog of Fathers & Families executive director Glenn Sacks, decries this situation and notes that if Nelson and his wife were still married when he lost his job, then “[the kids'] standard of living would drop along with that of their parents.”  Franklin says that “only if the parents are divorced does the concept arise that the children’s lives must in no way change due to a parent’s loss of income.”  He adds that the judge must be living “in a fantasy world in which children must and do remain unaffected when their father loses his job.”

While I agree that this seems a bit outrageous — $58 a week doesn’t buy a whole lot of gas, let alone mac & cheese — I think Mr. Franklin neglects to take something into account — the parents, in this case, are divorced.  Now, there are an awful lot of very good reasons for couples to get divorced but the fact remains that their children’s lives have been torn apart.  This may, in some cases, be a good thing for the kids, but generally speaking, it isn’t.

Whether the divorce was due to philandering, abuse, or just plain I-can’t-stand-the-mustard-knife-in-the-mayo-jar-anymore personal differences, something went wrong and it’s not the kids’ fault.  It seems to me that it’s not unreasonable to try and make up for that a bit by keeping the rest of their lives — piano lessons, vacations at the beach, etc. — as consistent as possible.  What do you think?

Photo: doctor_bob

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26 thoughts on “Dad Loses Job, Court Increases Child Support

  1. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    I’m sure that the courts would have had more sympathy and taken the father’s current earning situation into account had it not been for the fact that so many fathers purposely take a lower paying job in order to screw their ex-wife out of child support. Because that’s how they see it… not that they are screwing their own kids. I would also think that a father who couldn’t support his kids on one job is going to go out and get a second job. After a divorce, the father’s standard of living tends to go up while the mother and children’s tend to go down. Daddy needs to put his big boy panties on and man up.

  2. diera says:

    Did you see the part where in order to fulfill the child support order, the father has quit his lower-paying job near them to move to another state to try to find a higher-paying job? I would think that another important thing in keeping the children’s lives whole and consistent would be seeing their father regularly, something that’s not going to happen now. Isn’t seeing their dad one of the ‘needs of the children’?

  3. joanie says:

    Until fathers’ rights are respected in this country and men are seen as other than “providers”, we’ll never be able to expect them to take the full responsibility a parent should. And I don’t know why you think children’s lives are “ripped apart” in a divorce; my personal experience was that my life got a hell of a lot better when my ferociously fighting parents were separated and found happier lives for themselves.

    If the father had custody and the mother was left with $58/week from her job, would that sound fair, too?

  4. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    Joanie, if she were the main wage-earner in the couple, then you’re damn straight it would sound fair. My sister, who had custody of her son paid a larger percentage of childcare expenses because she made more money than her child’s father…. who promptly quit his job and took a gig making money under the table so he did not have to pay. Who had to suck it up and come up with the full amount to care for her child? I sat in court with her multiple times and listened to case after case. More often than not, stories like hers were the rule, not the exception. The people doing the most damage to father’s rights in this country are other fathers.

  5. Bec says:

    Mistress Scorpio – I’ll grant you that many stereotypes are based on real patterns, but that doesn’t make it okay to apply them to strangers all the time. When my parents divorced, my father was broke. He paid child support until my mom told him to stop because he was wearing himself out working too much and was miserably unhappy (and still totally broke) and frankly, she thought it was better for the kids if their father had some energy and tenderness left in him by the weekend. More important than a little economic struggle, anyway. We would have been struggling even without the divorce; sometimes life hands you lemon after lemon. I really hate to hear an attitude that people who are poor are that way entirely because of their personal failings. The fact that we didn’t have a lot of money wasn’t the worst thing about my parents split; but the fact that I didn’t wake up to them arguing in the middle of the night was pretty great, actually.

  6. Lucky says:

    Good point Joanie. No one would put up with that happening to a woman. But lord knows piano lessons are WAY more important than spending time with dad.

  7. leahsmom says:

    The argument above makes it sound a bit like child support is intended to be reparations for any trouble the children have suffered after a divorce. I agree that if one parent loses a job, their contribution shouldn’t be as much – no matter what the circumstances. If both parents were together, might they decide to see what they could sacrifice to keep those piano lessons going? Sure, but not all married parents would do that, and it’s not fair to say divorced ones aren’t allowed to decide for themselves.

  8. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    Bec, your story is a perfect example of why if parents can reconcile child support arrangements outside of the courts, then they absolutely should. Unfortunately, the vast majority of parents don’t have the level of maturity that your parents had. I also know a couple divorced when their child was young, who have raised a child to adulthood and kept visitation/support arrangements between themselves. Too many fathers have to be forced to support their children through court orders and then the mothers retaliate with withholding visitation. I will grant that time spent with dad is a necessary and vital thing, but not nearly as vital as food, clothing and shelter.

  9. diera says:

    Yeah, but where did it say that these kids were getting denied food, clothing and shelter? I would absolutely support the kids being apart from their dad (or EITHER parent) if their other choice was starving or being homeless, but the article didn’t say that.

  10. Julia says:

    I am also a product of divorced parents. The story said that the father had to move from central Florida to Georgia to find work that would allow him to afford the payments. That is at least a 6 hour drive! Not only that, but the husband of the judge in this case is a coworker of the ex-wife. She should never had handed down a decision in the first place.

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  12. Pam says:

    It is happening to mothers…I found out today that it will happen.
    I make 28k…he makes 98k..17 year old went with daddy who bought her a car…at minimum I will pay 241 per month. However, I am sitting in a home he let go into foreclosure and will be evicted next month while he is in a new apartment. If I consider the bare bones minimum rent for a 1 bedroom or weekly hotel room, health insurance, gas, food etc…I will be 1000 in the hole. My daughter is very well taken care of, I will be virtually homeless, and I’m a mom.

  13. David Scott says:

    2. Thank you for this Article. Fathers’ right to be a meaningful part of their childrens’ lives, have been eroded to the point of non-existence. My research suggests that this is a phenomenon consistent throughout the industrialized nations. Children who are alienated from their fathers are more likely later in life to have emotional/behavioral problems, suffer from depression, drop out of school, fail in their jobs, and suffer from other social problems. I invite you to visit my site devoted to raising awareness on this growing problem: http://fathersprivilege.blogspot.com/

  14. Sarah says:

    Maybe they should opt for joint custody with neither parent paying the other child support.

  15. diera says:

    Pam – I’m sorry for your situation, but I don’t get it. If her dad bought her a car without your consent, why are you paying $241 per month? Is that for insurance? Who says you have to pay it? Just don’t. If she can’t then drive the car, well, it wasn’t your idea for her to have one anyway.

  16. alicia says:

    diera, Pam is paying $241 a month because that’s the amount on a table that the judge looks up and it says the non-custodial parent should contribute this to the kid. The car is just rich-dad’s bribe to get custody. The law is a bit weird in that the non-custodial parent has to pay for support, whether they make more or less than the parent with custody, and without regard to their overall financial condition. The only exception to this is when the non-custodial parent has other kids to provide for, or often, as mentioned above, if there is joint custody then they assume expenses are shared and neither pays support.
    As for the original article, child support isn’t a kid’s consolation prize for divorce, nor should it be a punishment for wanting access to your kids. Their lives have changed, yes, and should be stable as possible. Losing their dad to squalor and poverty is not stable. Spending visitation with him in undoubtedly sketchy environments is not stable. Having him run away and lose contact to avoid these payments so he can live is not stable.
    Unless they’re starving, their material needs are not as important as the emotional stability of sustained contact with their parents. And even if they are starving, then their parents obviously need help making ends meet – same as they would if they were together.

  17. diera says:

    Oh, sorry, somehow I didn’t realize that $241 a month was her child support, the way she phrased it it sounded like it had to do with the car. On re-reading I guess she meant that the car was a bribe for living with dad instead of with mom. My mistake. Pam, that sucks, and yes, it’s certainly no more fair that it’s happening to you.

  18. John says:

    Ok, so my girlfriend linked this to me because she thought it sounded similar to my cousins case. And it does. Hes been paying child support for the last 9 years. The total amount he has been requested to pay is actually 1.6x what he has made in those same 9 years. And no, he does not get payed under the table. In those 9 years, he had a 7 year period where he was not allowed, by the mother, to see his kids.

    Now, he screwed up a number of times. There were times he wouldn’t pay support at all, because his ex-wife wouldn’t allow him to see his kids. However, for the last 2 years he has not missed a child support payment. Before that, he did. Hes had to take massive loans from his family to pay this. He is still currently “in debt” however, and has been jailed twice (in the last two years only) because of it. Coincidentally, these jailings came about a week before each of his two court dates against his ex-wife in regards to her blatantly breaking the court order to allow him to see his children. He currently lives with me and my mother, as he can’t afford to live anywhere else. He has two garnishments on his wages which consist of 80% of his paycheck (which is illegal, but his court date to get it resolved is in May and was set in July).

    As to his kids, one is in jail with serious psychiatric issues, which the shrinks are saying are partially a result of not having a father figure, as well as mental abuse from his step father and his mother. His oldest has run away to her fathers place in the last year and a half, but he had to return her or be jailed again. His youngest quite literally will not leave his side when she is with him.

    Apologies (kind of) for the rant but what has happened in his situation was that his ex-wife has used child support as a way to keep him from seeing his kids. His kids love him, even after the years of isolation, but he has a constant cloud over him as a result of his child support and the legal shinanigans that have resulted from it.

    Now, someone referanced a table before where its looked up to see how much the non-custodial parent should be paying. In my cousins case they never referanced it (they would have paperwork if they did, and its mysteriously missing) and thus just set a random amount. Which happened to be more then he made. He has attempted to go through the courts to get this resolved on numerous occasions, but until his last hearing he wasn’t even allowed to speak, even if he called the hearing! The judge would listen to his ex-wife, then the child support folk, then make a ruling. I once saw him attempt to speak and be threatened with contempt of court. All this because it was assumed he was attempting to get out of paying. Oh, and on those two times he was in jail for not paying? He got himself onto work release. And continued paying child support. FROM JAIL. And he was working for minimum wage because that was all he could get on work release. ALL of it went to his child support. And this happened BOTH times he was jailed. The second time, the judge told him “do not quit this job”, so he didn’t. He got out of jail, and kept the crap minimum wage job. And he got a second job. And the county garnished that check too. Then raised his child support, because he had a second job. The total yearly child support still came out to more then he made in a year. This is the kind of system you are supporting. This is the kind of system you say works for most people. It punishes most the people that actually try.

    On the other side of the coin is my parents own divorce. My father decided to become a transgender, so thats why the divorced. They didn’t do it thought the court, visitation was “at the discresion of the children” (which actually made a judge who saw it later stagger) and child support was nil. Reason for this? My mother made more money, and my father was putting himself deep into debt with the psyciatric and surgical stuff involved in his change. My father ended up paying for my high school (which was about as much as your average college) as well as the occasional other odd and end. I would guesstimate that it came out about even, overall. It is possible to be reasonable, even when the hate involved is tremendous. My mother still won’t speak with my father 11 years later.

  19. brokemom says:

    My husband’s child support to his ex-wofe/other children is based on “what he could be earning”. The court refuses to modify it to reflect his disabled status (state disability ran out= no income) and refuses to include the fact that is he WERE better and COULD work, we would pay over $750 for daycare. The court refuses to acknowledge that where we live has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. They took his drivers license away because we couldn’t pay, and the job offer he WAS offered was rescinded because he didn’t have a valid license. The child support office in Ventura County, California (where ex lives) told him he needed to get a job first, pay a month’s support, and then he can have his license back. In response to his question “How do I get a job with no license?” he was told “you should have thought of that before you stopped paying your support.” This is a HUGE problem for many parents right now.

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  21. frustrated Dad says:

    My son has lived with me for 8 years and just recently moved to his mothers where he is allowed to do as he wishes. For seven years I was denied child support as she was in and out of jail. Denied again until she had her court costs paid for. When I had my son for 6 years I filed a motion to have the judge shout right of the bat “how often do you see your son sir….answer the questions” My reply “Your honor he has lived with me for 6 years. When I called the court to get a copy of payments his mother has made to me for support it took three explanations to the lady on the phone that I wasn’t the payer and that the child lived with me before she comprehended. Not that we went to court to get child support stopped they courts filed for the mother for child support for free and did all the required paperwork even though she had agreed that since she had paid for 7 years and it will be over in a year 1/2 when he graduates she didn’t expect support me to pay other than helping out. Worked for both of us but the court decided for her. and I am now a dead beat Dad as I have been accused all along.

  22. irked to death says:

    i have been paying child support for the past 3 yrs,the full amount required by the court. within the past year my oldest flunked out of college and my ex co-habitated both that we were in agreement would nix support for my child and stop what would be considered “alimony” for my ex. I do however pay what is considered to be the difference. although my ex relizes this she now is taking me to court for that same amount do to the fact that her lawyer filed the wrong agreements with the state (some things listed work in her favor and then theres things that dont)I take full advantage of my visitation and then some i to have been unemployed for the past year due to the miserable economy, and no i didnt go to court to get it adjusted i gave and still give her half my unemployment and will i ever give her what she now thinks “i owe” her “never” and will they wanna lock me up? Im sure they will, but the court being much like my ex will bite their nose off despite their face thus leaving her with nothing every week and my kids on the short end of the stick. Is it fair “no” but thats the warped way of the court

  23. irked to death says:

    im reading mistress scorpios comment on the fourth kinda rediculous u think a fathers standard of living goes up and the mothers go down silly you should think such a thing when the mother gets the write off at tax time,child support cant be written off on the dads behalf and to top it off dad has to file as a single guy and dont you know single people dont need any money according to this lovely government it goes on and on and more often than not the mom isnt even fit to take care of herself let alone kids there isnt an amount of money you can put on stupidity with regards to the court system and stereotyped thinking as yours

  24. Wonderbird says:

    I have been paying more $3,700 a month in spousal and child support for more than 2 1/2 yrs. Ex took kids 1,200 miles away out of the state and CA court system refused to do anything about it. (They made sure they “promptly” put a “temporary” support order in place though.) They calculate her pay at ZERO for the child support calculation amounts and have so far refused to even impute minimum wage to her. She is living in a 6 BEDROOM house with our two children while I rent a room trying to make ends meet. She gets more than twice as much money each month as I do even though I’m the only one working. My 4 yr old boy (at the time) had 15 cavities when he went to the dentist. There was more metal in his mouth than teeth. They calculated the support based on 80/20 physical time when it is much more like 75/25. Even though I am the ONLY ONE WHO WORKS to support our children I can not claim head of household or either of the children as a deduction even though ALL funds to support them come from my salary. The mother has the latest iPhone, several hundred gallon saltwater show tank, recently bought a boat, is building a classic car collection, etc.. while I am trying to figure out how to keep an $800 running before it falls apart. (We had put $80k downpayment into the house we were living in before she decided to take our children out of state…) The “family justice” system is hopelessly broken and tilted against non-custodial parents. (It also hopelessly tilted towards taking money away from a well-paid spouse to support lazy ones who never work of either gender…)
    I’m stuck running a tab with my day care provider during summer vacation because I don’t have enough left after paying for “support” to properly take care of them during the lousy 25% of the time that they are with me. The way I figure it IF ONLY ONE PERSON IS WORKING AND THAT PERSON IS PAYING FOR THE SUPPORT OF THE OTHER AND THE CHILDREN – The other parent should be required to stay within a 50 mile radius so that at least the non-custodial parent can have reasonable access to the children. It seems that even CRIMINALS have more rights than non-custodial parents in California…
    …Just another “beat-dead” dad.

  25. notinyourrightmind says:

    Famecrawler, you are absolutely right. Many dads take a lower paying job just to spite the ex-wife. Many men as so angry about their divorce and paying to child support that they forget about the kids. If the couple was still married he would be taking a lower paying job plus he would get a second job. Since he is not taking care of the children like his ex is there is not reason he can get out there a work a second job. Most men would be some don’t because they are for a lack of a better word-stupid!

    My ex husband did the same thing. After we divorced he got hired on at the fire department making almost 30k which was hugh increase above $0 for 3 years which was the reason for our divorce. After 3 years he was making almost 45K then the jacka@@ got remarried to a woman he makes more than he does then they move to her hometown in SC where he takes a job making less than 30K. WTF kind of idiot takes a job for substantially less money? I’ll tell you, a very self one. He now had his wife’s income that was not included in his child support calculations and living high on the hog. He then starting complaining that he couldn’t pay for the kids medical. Luckily, I had taken him to court within a couple of months of him getting his first job with the fire dept. He had been screwing out of child support for the past year so when he move it did change the child support until 3 years when he again starting complaining about how much I was making. Keep in mind my ex purposely keep himself a a lower paying job. He even took a second job but got paid in cash. I couldn’t prove it because he was getting paid case and he didn’t report his earnings on is taxes. He finallly got caught when he was working a second job part time in SC for a small fire dept in a small town. What a a-hole!

    Naturally people’s income increases over time especially if they are in the same profession. I decided to return to school and increase my opportunities in the future. It was a killer but I got a masters. I knew I needed to continue to improve myself for me and my children even though he did not. I know not every one can do this but I had a lot of determination and a good support system.

    I hate it when people say mothers or custodial parents “gets rich” off child support. That’s the dumbest thing someone can say. The support is for the children. I needed every bit of the child support they deserved. We don’t go on luxury vacations or buy expensive clothing but my children-his children deserve to live the same standard of living as if we were still married. My ex pays for nothing extra-a backpack, a pair or shoes, sports activities. Nothing. Honestly, he makes me sick. He is a sad creature. He pays the minimal to keep himself out of jail. If he wasn’t wage assigned to pay his support he would be playing games. I have spent thousands representing the rights out my children. It’s not about me or him, it’s about them. He needs to get that through his head but he is too shallow to get it.

    I’m glad to hear the judge bumped up that dad’s child support. He could obviously see through his bulls@@t! I’m sure that guy won’t go hungry, he will fine a better job or a second job. Mom should be able to get a piece of that too for the kids.

  26. notinyourrightmind says:

    JOHN, that is a crazy story…it sounds like your cousin has had a deal with a lot of demons and has made efforts to rectify them. But I don’t understand some of the issues you mention, why was the ex-wife not allow to let the children visit with their father for 7 years? I can’t imagine the judge not allowing him to speak at the hearings. Did he not have a lawyer? If what you are saying is true then he has been railroaded by one judge not the system. Perhaps a higher authority needs to look into this judges practices. It’s not as if he is above the law, he just represents and enforces them. He can’t even make his own laws. I think he should appeal the judges decision.

    I’m all for father’s visiting their children and maintain positive relationships but there has to be more to it that this. As for your personal situation, your have a lot of issues to deal with. I hope you are in counseling.

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