Yesterday, while browsing through some of my more favorite blogs to read, I came upon this post by Cinnikitty.
It got me so worked up, that I'm still kind of irate now just THINKING about it.
Things of this nature really hit close to home for me.
I mean, I'm a divorced father of 3, and it's like pulling teeth to get any kind of consistent support from their mother.
Yet, I have to wonder what makes the judges tick when they decide what amounts are "reasonable" for the paying parties...
Let me give you an example:
When my wife and I divorced, she was given custody of the kids because I was working 3 jobs, had no stable home, and was basically living hand to mouth from day to day.
Yet, even with my dire means of survival, the judge was 'gracious' enough to award my wife a monthly support amount of $750 to be paid in full each month.
Now, at that time, I was bringing home approximately $1,200 a month. Take out my rent, and it dropped to $300.
If I didn't pay the rent, I could buy some food, pay a couple of bills, pay the CHILD SUPPORT, and maybe have a couple of dollars left over for gas.
BUT! If I paid my rent to keep a roof over my head, I'd drop too far behind on payments to be able to make up the difference.
Did this matter to the court?
He determined that I could be making a base minimum wage of $16-$18 per hour, and that because I was working _3_ jobs that weren't clearing more than $1500 a month, that was my problem. I needed to take the initiative to get a better paying job, and drop the 3 that I had in order to cover my responsibilities.
Nothing like getting kicked in the nuts, and then having that person tell you that it only hurts for a bit, and to suck it up and keep going, is there?
The sad fact is that because of the hour requirements of the jobs I was working, I wasn't HOME enough to take care of my kids. I had, technically, ONE day off during the week, but that "day off" was actually the one day where I only worked ONE job for a half-day. That day was Sunday. The rest of the time I was up and working from 4am until 10pm. Monday through Saturday. I'd get just enough time to rush from one job to the next in order to keep the two higher-paying jobs afloat, and then I'd toss in extra time when I could on the weekends to the third job to get gas money. It was a vicious cycle.
Now, with all of that work, I had to get some sleep in. So I'd sleep from about 11pm until 3am, then get up and repeat the day. Sunday was the treat, in that I didn't have to start work until 10am, and was done by 3pm. That meant that I could go over and see my kids, play with them for a little bit, and then head home to get some sleep before starting the nasty work week all over again.
Now, somehow in that tangled mess of a schedule, I was supposed to blow off an employer, go fill out applications to other jobs that were better suited for family support, and then hope to God that I didn't get fired from the job I'd blown off so that I could still have money coming in while hoping that the jobs I'd applied for called me for an interview so that I could potentially blow off said job again for the chance at another one...
Do you see the irony in this?
You have a job, yet you have to drop that one because a person told you to, in order to apply for a potential job (that many others will be applying for as well) in order to get an interview.
I was FURIOUS.
Yes, he's a judge, and someone who is (technically) an authority figure. But who the hell does he think he is to dictate to me what I should and should NOT be doing in my family life? Don't make a personal vendetta against working class people, tell them that they can and need to do better, and then force them into unlivable circumstances just to force a change.
Well, after the ruling, I tried to do exactly like the judge ordered.
Within 2 weeks, I had my part-time job left, as the other two fired me for not showing up for work.
Suddenly my $1,200 a month income dropped to $350.
Now I couldn't even pay rent, let alone keep food in my stomach, or pay bills.
I fell into a severe depression. I didn't care about how I was doing. I didn't care about my family. I was a failure.
The feelings of inadequacy were terrible. Failure seemed to be the one thing that I was actually good at. I mean, I had a FAILED marriage, I used to have jobs, but I FAILED two of them. I used to be able to support myself, but now I was FAILING at that as well.
Jormengrund=FAIL. That was my life equation.
I finally got evicted from my small home. With no place to go, I turned to my parents. I was desperate for some place to live while I looked for work, and felt that my family would offer some kind of help.
My mom refused. I wasn't to come near their house, and until I could get my life straight, I wasn't to contact them AT ALL.
Great.. More failure. This time with the people who are supposed to love and support you NO MATTER WHAT.
Then, a small glimmer of light.
My grandpa asked me to come over and help him work on the small shop he'd been building for his woodworking stuff. I came over and lent a hand. During the work, he offered me a place to live, in exchange for help around the house. He and my grandma were getting old enough that an added hand around the house for chores would be a great help. I needed a place to stay, and they were willing to give me one as long as I was willing to work for it.
I grasped at this chance with both hands like a man hanging on the edge of a cliff would to a rescue rope. I still had some meager income, and I needed some of it to pay for the gas I was using to get to job interviews. The rest I sent off for child support. Yet I continued to fall behind because my entire earned income still wasn't enough to cover my payments.
My grandpa hired an attorney to see about getting the payments reduced, but the judgement held. I had the "potential" to earn "X" amount, and thus I needed to live up to that potential in order to meet the judgement. No change was given.
So, I worked around my grandparent's house, fixing things, cutting the lawn, weeding, painting, mopping floors, carrying laundry, driving them to and from town.. Whatever they needed done, I did it. I also applied everywhere I could. I didn't care about what state, I didn't care about what field it was in. I didn't care about anything but getting that job that the judge insisted was my saving grace.
A year went by. Two. I never saw my tax returns. The money that I'd get would immediately be sent to help pay down my outstanding balance of child support. I fell deeper into debt with that payment. I mean really... Even paying the entire amount of my monthly income was still dropping me $400 into the hole EACH MONTH. Depression kicked in again.
Then, my part-time job closed.
No work, no money, no potential employers.
I'd hit rock bottom. There was no place left to go but up.
A friend of mine offered to take me out one night for a couple of drinks in order to try to cheer me up. We went to a small bar, and had a pretty good time. While there, an old neighbor of mine spotted me, and we started talking.
That man gave me the first small break since I'd hit bottom. He offered me a job working for him. My title? Karaoke DJ.
Yeah. Glamor galore. But it was a start in getting myself back on track. He promised to help out as much as he could, as long as I was willing to put the effort into helping him as well. I agreed.
Now, I was starting to make some headway. I had a job that I worked 6 nights a week at, sometimes I even worked mornings in his new storefront. I still lived with my grandparents, but I was actually starting to make ends meet.
Then, I met HER. My wife.
I joke about her being one of the "stalkers" that used to chase me around while I was running the karaoke stuff, but there was something seriously different about her that caught my eye. She saw something in me that made me think that I could be more than even that judge thought. For the first time in a very long time, I started to feel.... HOPE.
We started dating. Thanks to her influence, I started seeing my kids more. I'd been ashamed to bring them over to my grandparent's house where I lived because I didn't want the kids to see me living so destitute. However, she told me that my kids just needed a dad, and that they wouldn't care about where I lived, as long as they were able to be there with me. As usual, she was right.
I was finally able to get some temp work as a laborer during this time as well, and started making more. Thanks to her help, I was able to pay down some of my debts, and slowly crawl back into the light. She offered me the chance to move in with her, and get out of my grandparent's house. I agreed, but I also promised my grandparents that I would still come around to take care of things for them.
Things were going well. Until we had our first big fight.
Suddenly, I was kicked to the curb. No place to stay, and no ray of hope or sunshine to light my path.
That is, until my future Mother-in-law stood up for me.
In this woman, I saw what it was like to have a mom. To have someone care for you because of WHO you are, not what you can do for their reputation.
I felt loved again, and the hope bloomed.
We reconciled, and apologies were made. I had regular visitation with my kids now, and things were going well...
Until we found the bruises on my youngest son.
Their step-dad had been taking to beating each of the kids with a paddle when he felt they were doing something wrong.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not against spanking when needed.
But to use a wooden paddle on a 2 year old boy?
I wanted to literally kill that man when I found out about this.
My wife called my dad and brother in order to keep me in the house. We then called to have CPS investigate.
Somehow, the slippery bastard was able to get out from under the charge of abuse. I don't know to this day how he managed it, but each and every time I see him give me some smug smile, I have to fight in order to keep myself from knocking his teeth in.
Because we couldn't get the charge of abuse to work, I went a different route to save my kids. I filed for custody of them.
At this time, I had a solid job, a stable home, and pretty good means to support myself.
Thus, we went to court in order to settle this.
After SIX months of deliberation, I was granted custody of my children. This, in and of itself, is quite unheard of in this state, since the common term for this state is a "mom centralized state" which means that unless I was able to show neglect or a lack of vital care, the mother would retain custody.
Apparently the judge in this case was able to see the same things that we were seeing.
Then, the determination for support sent into effect.
Can you guess how much my wife was then asked to pay ME for these kids?
It wasn't NEARLY the amount I had to shuck out, and she'd been making TWICE my pay when that decision had been made.
No. She was only required to pay $550 every TWO months.
I'd had to pay $1500 every two months, and she only needed to pay $550.
So apparently not ONLY does the person who make less have to pay more, but the father is expected to pay at least double what a mother can, even if she's unfit!
I think I've got a bit more control..
Anyway, since that time, my kids have become more stable, less moody, better students, and overall are more well-adjusted than they ever were while living with their mother.
I seriously have to give credit for much of this to my wife. She and I have worked tirelessly to get the things my kids need in order to thrive.
Yet, the post CK had written was about mothers sitting around expecting to get paid for doing NOTHING.
That's exactly what my ex and her hubby do.
He's a worthless piece of crap with SIX kids who doesn't hold down a job, and expects to get "disability" (any day now) and she works for a doctor's office, and tries to bribe them into "conveniently" forget about making the support payments from time to time.
There has NEVER been a consistent time when I've gotten cash from her. Either it's late, or they forgot, or the check gets lost, the account gets screwey, etc, etc, etc...
All I ask is for some consistency so that I can better take care of my kids.
In order to do this, I've got a job now where I don't have to depend AT ALL on the support, and if/when we DO get the money, it's an unexpected windfall, and we put it away, or use it to buy things that could really help the kids. Rarely, if ever, have the wife or I used any of that cash for ourselves. We use the child support just for that. The children.
Anyway, I think I'm done ranting, and this post has gotten WAY too long.
Only 13 more days until we run off to Disneyland!
Have a great weekend, and I'll talk with you all on Tuesday.