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Baby Mamma Drama?
December 15, 2012 9:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to have a discussion about what my son's father thinks is excessive child support in a few hours. Please help me frame what I want to say in a non-argumentative, non-condescending, non-bitchy way?

So, here's the short of it. Our son was born 8 years ago. At that time I asked for $300 child support monthly, without a court order. After two months of receiving nothing, I went ahead and secured a lawyer, a paternity test, and a court order for child support. My son's father was barely present throughout the decision making with the court. He was ordered to pay $797 dollars a month. At the time he had an income of around $60,000 a year. I settled for $718 a month. My son's father did not meet our son until he was 3 1/2, after a particularly scary medical emergency, but has since been a pretty great dad. Our son has no issues with him whatsoever and generally, we parent wonderfully together.

Lately, because I think he's comfortable with me more than he's ever been, he's been making comments about how excessive his child support payment is. About how his doctor friend pays less in CS than he does. About how he's utterly broke and has nothing to show for his 70 hour weeks at work. At one point he asked me to acknowledge that the amount was excessive, which I disagreed with and did not do. We have not discussed this at length though obviously, he's angry about it.

His income has not changed (if anything, I suspect he makes more now through unreported bonuses) and he just recently bought a new truck and he lives in a very nice apartment in a nice city about an hour from us.

I suspect that he's depressed lately -- he's clearly not happy with his life and he's become short with me, though I will admit that I've not seen this happen with our son. This morning he stated that he was too broke to buy Christmas yet and at that point, I called him and asked him to give me a ring later so we could discuss this. He agreed and I expect him to call in a few hours.

Here's the thing: I am harboring some resentment towards him about these comments he's made and how he obviously feels. I make $13000 a year at a job I only stay at because it enables me to pick or son up from school nearly every day, take time off when I can to attend field trips, and generally be a mother that's lovingly present in his life. I drive a shitty car that I cannot leave town with. I feel like he thinks he's making this huge sacrifice while not at all acknowledging that I too get being broke as ALL my income goes to support our son, not just the percentage the state makes him pay.

But. My attitude and my feelings about this, should I bring that up, I don't think will lead to a productive discussion between us and that is truly want I want. I have told him repeatedly that there is room for discussion here. He basically says he hates his job at this point but only keeps it because he's got to keep up these "outrageous" payments toward CS. I have told him repeatedly that our son deserves a present, happy father and that he deserves a job he loves and that fulfills him. To that end, if he wants to quit and search for something he'd rather do, I'm behind him 100% and if he should take a pay cut, I'm happy to go back to the courts and ask them to reassess what he owes. He says he's looking for a new job and has been for a long time but just hasn't found anything. At the same time he admits that he is an accomplishment junkie and loves his job because he's good at it and is told so often so I'm not really sure where he stands.

So, how do I parse this with him so that he doesn't feel like I don't get it? I don't want to bring up that I've been too poor for three years to buy myself a winter coat because I'm not looking for his pity but frankly, this is part of the reality of raising a child for some people and I'm one of those people. I go without, even with that CS, so our son can have. I want to make him aware of that without damaging his fragile ego (and he does have a fragile ego) but is that a good idea, to turn this into a conversation of "Well, I don't have shit either, you know"?

I'm just not sure how to have this conversation like an adult that isn't harboring a little resentment, I guess. And I want to be a grown up about this because that's obviously in our son's best interest. The outcome I'd like to see is that he no longer feels alone in "not having shit to show for all his hard work" (which I think he's attributing to having to pay this amount of CS) and that we can get to a place where he feels like what he pays is what the state has says is fair because it IS fair.

Is that even possible? Does anyone have any ideas about how I should frame what I want to say? Or is it best for me to stop trying to mother him out of this issue he's having and just bow out and let him stew because, shit, I didn't set the damn number?

Any help?
posted by youandiandaflame to Human Relations (56 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
The second part. It's best for you to not even discuss it, honestly. I can't see any scenario possible where you get your point across and he apologizes for acting like an idiot. You can't make a childish man grow up. You can offer to go back to the court and start from scratch, but I have a feeling he will end up paying MORE, not less. Honestly, you may want to do that anyway. I would have NEVER offered to be "behind him" if he wanted to change jobs and pay less. He's not your partner. He's a halfassed father.
posted by kpht at 9:58 AM on December 15, 2012 [29 favorites]


What kpht said. This is why we have courts and laws and such. If he doesn't like his support amount, tell him to get a lawyer and challenge it in court. Any decent lawyer will tell him that he's got it good and to shut the hell up.
posted by Etrigan at 10:01 AM on December 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I agree that you should think about court, but be mindful that you might be asked to look got a job that pays more than what is essentially poverty level.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:07 AM on December 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ignore the whining. He feels entitled to live the exact same lifestyle he'd live if he didn't have a kid. That's not how parenting works, for a mother or a father, but it's very hard to convince some men of this fact because they resent the fact that they are not allowed to only have the fun parts of parenting and dump all the lifestyle changes and hard work on Mom. Ignore, ignore, ignore.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:13 AM on December 15, 2012 [39 favorites]


I would not discuss this except through lawyers. You will not be able to change his mind.

A friend went through a *strikingly* similar situation recently (seriously, had you said daughter rather than son I'd have thought you were her) and I believe her ex did end up taking her to court. Unsurprisingly to any of us on the outside, the judge *raised* his support payments rather than lowering them.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 10:17 AM on December 15, 2012 [33 favorites]


Oh and trying not to be "bitchy" is a losing game. Women are always bitchy when they're asking men to do something the men don't think they should have to do. I know how tempting it is to try to get your tone just right, but it's not going to happen. You sound more than generous and loving towards him and his place as your child's father, and that is way way more important than whether he sees you as "bitchy". You are being a great co-parent.

Do you have other single mothers who you know? Even an online support group for other single mothers would be helpful. This scenario is so common, and you'll get an idea of just how well-worn this particular "poor me, starving to death, can't even buy CHRISTMAS PRESENTS" nonsense is from a certain type of father.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:27 AM on December 15, 2012 [62 favorites]


"I support you in going back to court. I know you have [son]'s best interests at heart. Beyond that, all I can tell you is that money feels tight for me, too."
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:44 AM on December 15, 2012 [33 favorites]


Do you know if he's at all into the MRA (men's rights activists) community? That might be feeding a lot of the resentment that he feels about this child support, as I know that's one of their big things, and the MRA community in general has expanded hugely in the past couple of years. If you really want to tackle this, it might be worth your while to take a look at the discourse of some MRA groups - a lot of it is repetitive, misogynistic bullshit, but it could help you anticipate some of the resentment your son's father is experiencing.
posted by littlegreen at 10:44 AM on December 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think they'll probably raise his support payments, too, btw.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:45 AM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I'm sorry but CS doesn't go to me, it goes to our son and my job is to act in his best interests. Every penny he gets goes to his food, clothing, shelter and needs. If you want the court to reassess the amount of support you're legally obligated to pay based on your current income, I am happy to go through that process again if you think it will be better for you because your issue is with the judge, not with me."

In other words, you need to emphasise that he's actually paying less than his legal obligation and it could be a lot more painful. And indeed, if he wants to go to court, it probably will be. So for real: court or STFU.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:48 AM on December 15, 2012 [22 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: We live in a rural area in which job prospects are nil. I grew up here, my son has spent his life here, and looking for a job that pays more would require a move, something I'm not willing to entertain right now. In assessing what my son's father owed, the courts took into account that I could reasonably make $2000 / month with the skills I have and then calculated what he owed from there.

I appreciate the responses thus far. It looks like I might have committed myself to a losing battle by initiating the conversation in the first place :/.

Barring that I can "make him understand" and calm his mood about this, as littlegreen mentioned, is there any way to at least attempt to calm his resentment about this? I realize that's probably a losing battle too but he's spending Christmas Eve with us this year (for the first time) and he'll be staying the night and staying up with me wrapping toys and generally getting excited for Christmas. I'd rather him not ruin something I save up for all year with this bullshit so if I can find a way to tamper it, at least over the holidays, that'd be great...
posted by youandiandaflame at 10:48 AM on December 15, 2012


I think getting him to feel OK about paying his fair share might be a losing battle. Perhaps you can suggest a moratorium on any money discussion until after Christmas?
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 10:52 AM on December 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


You've said too much. If he wants to change a court order, do it through the courts. And part of it is that he should pay for your lawyer.
Get documentation on how much emergency sitters would cost, and other expenses associated if you were able to get a higher paying job. You might end up worse off if you did.
Summer camp, sports, tutoring, music lessons, etc etc, if anything you'll have more expenses upcoming.
posted by Sophont at 10:52 AM on December 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I would honestly not expect much from him, emotion- or mood-wise. He should have been around for all his child's Christmases, and this is probably part entitlement and part emotional defense so he doesn't have to feel guilty for abandoning his kid for years.

Lower your expectations, let him be there for your son, roll your eyes when he gets all boo-hoo, and then talk it out with friends later.

I'm sorry you're having to deal with this.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:54 AM on December 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Take a look at what it costs to parent your child per year, and divide it by (60/73) - that's 82.19%.

Include in your costs number part of your rent, part of your utilities, etc. (easiest to do half of your fixed costs, and then multiply THAT by the percentage of time your son lives with you.) Be sure to account for the health insurance premiums (the difference between single and family coverage,) if that applies.

Basically, if it costs you $10,000 a year to parent your child (do not include opportunity costs as some kind of pie-in-the-sky thing, but maybe include the hours you "should" be working but aren't in order to accommodate the child's schedule, and set an hourly rate commensurate with local wage standards for the kind of jobs you would realistically have with eight years of experience,) then he owes you $8,219 a year. I suspect it costs closer to $12k with the rent/utilities and any activities/fees/etc.

You could also look into what he'd realistically be spending on a child that age more generally (you're almost certainly spending less on your son than his father would be without you in the picture at all) - I think it's closer to $23k, but that varies by so many factors that I'm really not comfortable going into it without doing a lot of research I can't do in the amount of time available.

Alternatively, take a look at various calculations from the individual states.

Anyway, present that number to him. It'll be higher than $800/month.

(My mom does a lot of work in child support, and honestly, my strongest advice is to tell him "take it up with the court who ordered you to pay $X in child support," but that's not really a very constructive/easy conversation to have in a couple of hours, without a lawyer present.)
posted by SMPA at 10:56 AM on December 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


It looks like I might have committed myself to a losing battle by initiating the conversation in the first place

Also, no, I don't think you did anything wrong. He's the one who has been bringing it up over and over again, not you. You just want to do the adult thing, which is have an actual discussion instead of dealing with his little passive-aggressive guilt bombs. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem very likely to work because his bullshit is working--you feel bad, you want to help him out, you lower your expectations of him.

This sucks and is in no way your fault.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:56 AM on December 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Oh my god. Get out of this conversation if he calls. Do not discuss this with him. Please.

Everyone is right. This is lawyer and judge territory.

You are thinking incorrectly about all of this.

"I have told him repeatedly that there is room for discussion here"

This is not a discussion for YOU to be having! This is what courts, lawyers, and judges are for. Do not discuss this topic.

By your own admission, you make poverty wages and you are poor. $13,000 per year is below the poverty line. What are you thinking???

Do not discuss this. It sounds manipulative on his part, at best. If this man pays less money, it is not like you can make up the shortfall in income! Your son WILL suffer!!

The father is a grown man. His job is not your problem. He's not your friend. Stop treating him like a "buddy." He's not your buddy. He's your co-parent. This is a serious job/role. He pays more money, you put the hands on time in to raising your son. It sounds fair and equitable. The rest is NOT your concern. At all. Ever.

You are being foolish. Stop it.

And if he has a new truck where you can not even afford a new winter coat, and you don't wish to start a fight.... Again, simply decline to have the conversation at all.

You can't win or be polite because (a) this is a con job, and I think you know it, and (b) this should only ever ever ever be discussed in court. Period.

Your script:

"I appreciate what a great father you are and I hope that continues. It is not appropriate for us to discuss child support outside of court, and I was wrong to let you believe previously that it was OK. I do want you to be happy in your career, but this isn't really something that is under my direct control.

I put Son first. I hope you continue to do the same. Financial matters should be discussed in court, only. I hope you can respect this because it will keep the way clear between us on other parenting matters as our son grows up. Thank you."

That's it.
posted by jbenben at 10:57 AM on December 15, 2012 [60 favorites]


"The arrangement we have now is working well and I'm opposed to changing it."

"I'm going to stick with my position."

"You should be having this discussion with your lawyer, not with me."

When you make this guy's satisfaction with the outcome a priority, you really put yourself at a disadvantage, because his being satisfied means sacrificing your son's well-being, and because his satisfaction is his to arbitrarily give or deny, just as his blaming his financial problems on child support is completely arbitrary.

is there any way to at least attempt to calm his resentment about this?

His resentment in this situation is his trump card, and he's using it to manipulate the hell out of you. He's not going to give it up. Your best bet is to stop giving it so much respect and to recognize that his resentment is the result of decisions HE has made about what to value and what not to value, and to stick with prioritizing yourself and your son.
posted by alphanerd at 10:57 AM on December 15, 2012 [14 favorites]


Oh, and if you want a really quick and dirty number, just say "I think it'd be around $1,576" and then suggest he go to the court to sort things out.
posted by SMPA at 10:58 AM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would simply say, "I make $13,000 a year and I don't see any way I can't get by on less child support. I'm sorry you feel pressed but so do I."

You don't have to be bitchy about it. It's the simple truth. You can listen to him but don't make any agreements. At the end, mention that you wish you could get by on less but that you can't.
posted by shoesietart at 10:58 AM on December 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


It looks like I might have committed myself to a losing battle by initiating the conversation in the first place :/.

That sounds accurate, based on the situation you described. A number was calculated, he objected and you compromised, and now he has badgered you (according to your description) into re-entering negotiation. That seems unwise.

I don't want to bring up that I've been too poor for three years to buy myself a winter coat

I understand why. Having said that, if he is describing his own circumstances, it's not unreasonable for you to (diplomatically) set your own on the table also. You asked about framing, and I think present-tense is essential if you are going to frame this discussion wisely. The fact that your son did not meet his father for three years, for instance, is not relevant.

Having said that. I don't know what your current relationship with this person is, but consider whether it's your job to "calm his resentment." I understand it would be more convenient for you if his resentment were calmed, but sometimes we simply and literally cannot do something that isn't our job to do. Only someone in a different position would be able to do it.

[Obviously, none of this is legal advice and I am not your lawyer.]
posted by cribcage at 11:00 AM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's the thing: I am harboring some resentment towards him about these comments he's made and how he obviously feels. I make $13000 a year at a job I only stay at because it enables me to pick or son up from school nearly every day, take time off when I can to attend field trips, and generally be a mother that's lovingly present in his life. I drive a shitty car that I cannot leave town with. I feel like he thinks he's making this huge sacrifice while not at all acknowledging that I too get being broke as ALL my income goes to support our son, not just the percentage the state makes him pay.

I don't know the best way to say this to your co-parent, but my presentation would be this:

"The payments are what they are because you (dad) don't do these things, so I have to, and that keeps me from earning more. They're also so our kid has a decent life at both homes, and doesn't go from pauper to prince each time he visits you. But...If you step up with child care time, then maybe I can get a better job, and with more income THEN the support could be less. So, you willing to step up?"

But ... I would also consider whether things like "attending field trips" is a reasonable use of your time, when that could be spent on getting out of poverty. Are you sacrificing so much for your kid that it is getting in the way of providing for their needs?

I'm asking because there are trade offs in all things, and if the father wanted to attend field trips but could not because he has to work 70 hours a week to make child support, that could lead to resentment.

Does he want to step up in terms of childcare? If so, then maybe there's room to manoeuvre. But if this is just about money, and the court thinks the money is reasonable, then yeah.

And whatever the case, I'd just let a court decide this. Given your income level compared to his, and your presumably having the kid 50% or more (much more, I'm guessing), Dad should have a nice mug of STFU.
posted by zippy at 11:02 AM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


zippy makes some fine points, but don't let your kid's dad make those points. Stop (or refrain from) giving him information about how much you earn. Don't tell him how you spend your time.

There isn't really room for discussion here. He's legally obligated to pay that amount in support. If he wants to change it, that's not up to you - it's up to the judge. You can sympathize, but you can't do much more. Tell him that you're happy to go back to court if he insists, and advise him to talk to a lawyer.
posted by k8lin at 11:06 AM on December 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


On review of the other comments, dad is being ridiculous (and a few other things, too).
posted by zippy at 11:09 AM on December 15, 2012


Is that even possible? Does anyone have any ideas about how I should frame what I want to say? Or is it best for me to stop trying to mother him out of this issue he's having and just bow out and let him stew because, shit, I didn't set the damn number?

The latter. I've read the question several times and can't figure out why you're coddling him. He should know that you drive a shitty car and can't afford to buy a winter coat and make shit job wise in the interest of being around for your son. Playing to his fragile ego does neither of you any good.

But the situation is what is. If you're want to be low key, try to empathize with his feelings, while articulating your own struggles and the feeling that it's worth it, in a casual and calm way. Something like this:

"Hey ex, I totally hear you on having to pay a lot for child support. The boy is great and he makes me heart swell with love, but jesus christ does he get to be expensive, you know? You haven't had a raise in years, I'm still making 13k a year, driving a shitty car and can't even afford a new winter coat. It's hard and it sucks and I'm sure as hell not sure what's fair about even of it."

"But the boy is golden and these are the sacrifices we make it, to not only keep a roof over his head, but make sure he's happy and he's gonna grown to be a good guy."

Does he know how much you make, what your expenses are, how much it truly costs to raise a kid? Does he know that you stay at your low paying job because you have flexibility in taking care of y'all's son? If not, I'd calmly articulate all of this and more. Then I would ask him, where he thinks cuts can be made. Perhaps show him the bills and gently remind him that things could be much worse for his son if the kid was only getting $300 a month, instead of $700.

You sound decent, patient and with little desire for drama. That's great, but it's worth remembering that you offered him a low number and he balked at that, forcing your hand at bringing in the lawyers. You may not have to go that route, but it's always good to have in your back pocket.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:19 AM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do not have this conversation. The court ordered the amount of monthly support he pays. If he wants to pay less, it is the court he needs to address. He wants to chisel his son - the court will slap him right back into line.
posted by Pudhoho at 11:23 AM on December 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


I agree. Don't have this conversation; tell him you respect the effort he's made to be a good dad (spoonful of sugar) but if he wants to change the court-ordered arrangement it'll have to be through the attorneys (makes the medicine go down). You might also mention to him that your attorney would be requesting that the amount be raised if you think that would be likely to get him to drop the subject entirely.
posted by gerryblog at 11:28 AM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Something else, BTW - if you're on welfare or any of that stuff, then at some point your ex may be ordered to pay the money - including the amount you decided he didn't need to pay, and maybe more.

That's actually what my mom does most of the time in court; dozens of hearings every week ordering people to pay support, almost always because the child is on public health coverage or the mom's household is receiving any one of several different benefits.
posted by SMPA at 11:29 AM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't have this conversation at all. Don't tell him how much you make. Don't suggest he go back to court. Don't engage on this issue at all.

If he brings it up, just say something neutral like, "I know we both want what's best for Son," and change the subject.

There is no upside for you to continue to engage with his attempts to dicker about his court ordered child support amount.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:34 AM on December 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I meant to add, I say this from my observations working for a family law lawyer for two years. If he does decide to go back to court over the child support amount, the less you've said that he and his lawyer can use against you, the better.

I know it's strange to think this way because you're co-parents, but you have to remember he's also the other party in an on-going legal situation with you.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:47 AM on December 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


"I know it can seem like a burden, but is $8,600 a year really too much to give to your kid? You're not paying me, you're paying him, you know. I don't see a dime of it. Why do you resent giving your kid clothes and food and field trips at school and books to read? Would you rather drop him off at an orphanage so you can save a few bucks? I understand that it can seem like a lot to pay. It's what, a new car that you can't have? Some work done on the house? A nice vacation somewhere? Those are good things to have, I agree, but are you willing to give your son up in trade to get those things? Because you can't have both. Being a parent costs in time and money. It's a responsibility, a duty, and a privilege. I don't understand why you're not proud to be in a position many parents would kill to be in: one where you can support your kid and make sure he doesn't go to bed hungry every night.

"In closing, please stop being such a baby."
posted by jsturgill at 11:48 AM on December 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


My daughter got child support from her ex, informally, and now that she made it formal they increased it. He was not happy (altho he has always been pretty good about paying.)


This is a topic that you really need to not bring up with him as long as he pays it. This is nonnegotiable. Concentrate on what is beneficial to your child and let it go at that, and honestly I would not discuss child support with him even if he brings it up.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:48 AM on December 15, 2012


I just had a friend go through something similar and just want to reiterate that you should not be having this conversation with him directly, you should be going through lawyers or a mediator.

If you do have the conversation, be very, very careful about what you say. He may be taping the conversation.
posted by echo0720 at 11:52 AM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


People so often misunderstand child support. I'm happy to see that the understanding here on the Green is mostly correct.

It is NOT YOUR RIGHT GIVE UP. It is not really your negotiation to have. This is your SON's rights, not yours, and it is between the court and your ex as to how much he is going to pay.

Don't have the talk. You can say "I was wrong to bring it up. This is between you and the court."
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:55 AM on December 15, 2012 [33 favorites]


It looks like I might have committed myself to a losing battle by initiating the conversation in the first place

FYI, it is always alright, in any situation, to say "Over the past few [hours/days/weeks] I've thought a lot about this, and have realized that the situation is a little bit different than I originally understood it." Or something to that effect. It's okay to change your mind--it's not weak or unethical or wishy washy, or whatever it might feel like (or whatever you might be made to feel like).
posted by tapir-whorf at 12:28 PM on December 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


Was the decision to have a child something that was discussed together? Or was it unplanned? Did he get any input of whether you would keep the baby, or was it just your choice and he had to live with it? If the latter, that could certainly explain his resentment.

In any case, the best way to present this to him is simply to itemize your expenses. This sounds like to some degree it is a trust issue, and if he sees exactly where the money is going, he can't make a case for it being excessive.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:39 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Green is right. The numbers are between your ex and the court.

However, if he isn't a total dick, then he may just need a reality check. I was a part-time dad to my son. This is not a good thing. Ever. It colors everything else with bad feelings. It hurts forever.

You and Ex may benefit from counseling sessions: co-parenting, how to do it. Please realize that if the two of you didn't have issues, you wouldn't be co-parenting. It doesn't matter what the issues were or continue to be. Co-parenting is another thing entirely. If it turns out that he's a dick, then he's still the father, and you need to deal with that for your child's sake.

You have my sympathy. I wish you all the best.
posted by mule98J at 12:40 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bloody hell, the responses to this are so very long. It should be pretty simple. Stop thinking about all of the drama and his hopes and dreams, being a nice person will get you and your son nowhere. You have to be his advocate right now.

IANAL. What state are you in? Pretty much every state has a standard level of support that is set for X number of kids based on the net income of the parent that owes support. This is what the court and the laws are for. Take a copy of his most recent check stub to a lawyer, they will remove the taxes and insurance costs and figure out his net income, they will apply your state's percentage for one kid, you will take that number to court, and that is what the judge would order without blinking.

No negotiating, no begging, no giving anyone a break, nobody has to make a case for anything. The formula is there so everyone knows their responsibilities and can move on.
posted by cgk at 12:47 PM on December 15, 2012


"I make $13000 a year at a job I only stay at because it enables me to pick or son up from school nearly every day, take time off when I can to attend field trips, and generally be a mother that's lovingly present in his life."

And you are able to do so because he makes decent money. At the risk of being piled on here, I'd be a little bitter too. Not too say that he shouldn't have to pay but jinkies, that would get under my craw too.
posted by ian1977 at 12:52 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I came in to say what fingersandtoes said: This is not your money to negotiate away. Legally, the right to child support belongs to your son, not you.

Also, it's great that you guys seem to be working closely together on the co-parenting now, but I just want to caution you to be careful with this Christmas stuff. One of my worst childhood Christmases was when my divorced parents thought it would be great to rent a cabin in the Poconos and have Christmas all together. Naturally my hopeful child's heart read more into this than was there, and when they ended up spending Christmas Eve yelling at each other in the other room, I was heartbroken.
posted by HotToddy at 1:00 PM on December 15, 2012


Just to clarify: I have never nor would I ever personally negotiate with my son's father about the support amount. That was decided by the state years ago and it will always remain unless the court says otherwise.

cgk: There is already a support order in place.


ian1977: I understand your sentiment and suspect it's part of his issue as well. Can you explain what it is about that that "gets under your craw too"? I'm genuinely curious. To be honest, your statement makes me a little furious because wtf, I raise this kid, 99% alone and sacrifice just the same (if not more than his father, considering that his father maintains quite a life without having to worry about where his kid is) but I realize that my feelings about that do not help this matter and so I do my very best to understand that it's not a decent argument or feeling to have. Again, I'm genuinely curious -- if that is indeed a big part of his issue, I'd like to understand it so maybe we can get to the bottom of it and I can help there if I even can.

wolfdreams01: Was the decision to have a child something that was discussed together? Or was it unplanned? Did he get any input of whether you would keep the baby, or was it just your choice and he had to live with it? If the latter, that could certainly explain his resentment.

We dated for a very short time and the pregnancy was accidental. He input about keeping the baby and directed that I should do what I wished. We discussed it at length and I told him (and genuinely meant) that if he could not or did not want to parent he could terminate his rights or otherwise not be involved in any way. He chose that route for three and a half years. While some of that might explain his resentment (though he is a stellar father when he actually shows up) if that is indeed his issue, he can rightly fuck off. I'm sorry and I know you likely did not mean it as I'm taking it but good lord, he was an adult then as I was and it takes two to make a kid.


mule98j: However, if he isn't a total dick, then he may just need a reality check. I was a part-time dad to my son. This is not a good thing. Ever. It colors everything else with bad feelings. It hurts forever. Mule, can you clarify what you mean here? Again, I really want to try and get a perspective of where my son's father is, no matter how dickish he is being?

To others: I think I'll take most of the advice here that says that I should have absolutely no discussion of numbers with my son's father. I'll just politely excuse myself from those conversations if that's the one he wants to have and direct him to his lawyer and the courts. I do appreciate all the advice given here, it's helped me to frame this better about where's he's at and I think I need to take a look at why I am indeed coddling him and his ego over such a thing, especially when I have no control over it.
posted by youandiandaflame at 1:14 PM on December 15, 2012 [13 favorites]


I raise this kid, 99% alone and sacrifice just the same

This wasn't the impression I had from the initial question, where you said you and the dad co-parent well and he's a great parent. If you have the kid 99% of the time, then you're more a single parent than a co-parent, and this might change how people view the question.

If I saw two 50/50 parents (two homes, equal time at each) where one had a 70 hour a week work schedule and the other a ten hour a week schedule, I might ask why things are so out of balance and whether the parent with the part time job might be able to pick up some of the earning load, because the 70 hour a week parent would not have nearly as much time to be a parent, so the kid would have a very different experience in the two homes, and a more distant relationship with one parent because of outside demands on their time.

But it seems, from later comments, that this is not a 50/50 split, so I'd not be thinking that.
posted by zippy at 2:28 PM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


zippy: Hell, I guess I misstated that! I didn't even realize it, either. I hope I didn't give the wrong impression. Our son sees his father for a weekend every couple months and sometimes once a month. Occasionally dad shows up to a ball game here or there but genuinely, 99% of the time he's with me.

I did say co-parent but what I meant was that I keep him completely informed about everything and always ask for his input. I'll admit that there have been a few instances in which I've vetoed his wants (say, when he wanted to buy our 4 year old a fucking rifle and I knew the kid couldn't even tie his shoes so just, uh, no) but I just assumed that we were co-parents. Maybe, in fact, we are not...
posted by youandiandaflame at 2:37 PM on December 15, 2012


Do not discuss with your son's father, period. His issue is with the court not with you. He can whine to the court. Do not have this discussion with your son's father.
posted by KneeDeep at 2:50 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Again, I'm genuinely curious -- if that is indeed a big part of his issue, I'd like to understand it so maybe we can get to the bottom of it and I can help there if I even can."

Because if you made $25k instead of $13k his monthly child support payment would be less. I'm sure its more complicated than that (child care, schedules, etc) but bottom line is you make very little money and his child support payment reflects that. That is, assuming your state calculates child support like my state (ie Income A + Income B= Pot of money. Parent A has child X percent of the time and ergo needs such and such percentage out of the Pot of Money)

I suspect if a dude asked this question we would all be shouting up and down that he needs to step up to the plate and provide for his kid. (assuming there is no health issue or something dramatic preventing him from doing so)

I can certainly sympathize with raising a kid alone and wanting to be able to pick the kid up from school and take time off when needed and having that flexibility that a lot of parents would kill for. But honestly...you can't afford that luxury. The only reason you can (barely I suspect) is because of his support. Which, truly and verily, is his obligation right now. But maybe from his perspective you aren't really doing as much as you should to provide for your child?

Another thing....I would imagine that you are so dependent on his child support payments that I suspect if he were to lose his job you would be in dire straits.

Again, I don't know the details of your situation. Maybe there are other reasons why it is unreasonable or not possible for you to bring in more income. But if you were my friend or my sister and you asked me...I'd say you kinda owe it to yourself and your child to have a little more financial stability.

As to how you can use this information to help the situation? A little understanding goes a long way. Probably nothing is going to change right now anyway....cuz unless you make more money or he makes less (or more) the courts aren't going to change their tune. Your child is 8 right now? Well, you have 10 years to go. Lots of things can change in 10 years.
posted by ian1977 at 3:42 PM on December 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Do not discuss with your son's father, period. His issue is with the court not with you. He can whine to the court. Do not have this discussion with your son's father.

Seriously this. My partner was making about what your ex makes and his son's mother was on SSDI (so making about what you make) and his child support payments (which they personally agreed to based on the state guidelines without going to a lawyer) were double what your ex is paying. And my partner was fine with that, totally fine even though yeah it was a lot of money and yeah there were some occasional "it would be really helpful if she had another source of income" discussions.

There is nothing you could gain from a conversation with him in this instance. If he changes jobs and his support payments are income based, his support level to you might change. The money is for your son, which includes his health and welfare in addition to paying for a place for him to live where you also live.

You seem to not have a legal and/or physical custody agreement? I guess I'm still a little uncertain what the deal is here. Doesn't really matter or affect my suggestions any, but when you talk about doing 99% of the parenting, that too is something that is adjustable.
posted by jessamyn at 4:05 PM on December 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I suspect if a dude asked this question we would all be shouting up and down that he needs to step up to the plate and provide for his kid. (assuming there is no health issue or something dramatic preventing him from doing so)

I think it's a bad idea to assume that anyone is willfully poor. It doesn't sound like the OP has a lot of options, employment wise, and it sounds like she'd be up a creek child-care wise, as well. The kid is only eight, and if the OP gets another job that requires longer hours, someone will have to pay for childcare. It probably makes more financial sense for her and for the father to keep things more or less as they are now.

The "If this question were asked by a man" thing is a supremely irritating strawman argument. Argh!

I can certainly sympathize with raising a kid alone and wanting to be able to pick the kid up from school and take time off when needed and having that flexibility that a lot of parents would kill for. But honestly...you can't afford that luxury. The only reason you can (barely I suspect) is because of his support. Which, truly and verily, is his obligation right now.

It's not a luxury to pick your child up from school. It's a luxury to be able to work to pay someone to do it for you. I would not assume that the OP's son can get home from school on his own yet - someone needs to pick him up, and it doesn't sound like the father's going to do it.

Unless the father wants to sue for partial custody, his share of child support will either increase or stay the same. If the OP gets another job and needs to pay for childcare, the father will end up having to contribute to that.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 4:50 PM on December 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


[Folks, dial it back please, this maybe needs to not turn into a sidebar discussion about who should and shouldn't get a job, please stop.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:27 PM on December 15, 2012


(On edit, apologies jessamyn. Was typing and didn't see your note on preview.)

For the record, my son's father has never voiced concern at our arrangement and has instead repeatedly stated he agrees with where we're at geographically.

Right now, I work 2 minutes from our home. The school and daycare are both another 2 minutes away. My gas costs are non-existent and I currently pay $6 a week for 2 hours of daycare. That cost, with a full time job will be so much higher I dread to even think about it, not to mention gas costs.

At any rate, this is not the conversation I wanted to have, this debate. ian1977, I bust my hump working 32 hours a week, parenting alone nearly 24/7 and I only make 13,000 a year because as far as job prospects go in this area (that I have no plans to leave that that my son's father agrees is a great place to raise a kid), I've sort of maxed it out. It's as good as I can do here. Is that better?

I know you're certainly not attacking me but now I feel pretty shitty about my perceived poverty, though I've always felt pretty great about how well adjusted a kid I'm raising is and where we're at in our lives.
posted by youandiandaflame at 5:30 PM on December 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Maybe, in fact, we are not...

Honey, the relationship you describe your son having with his father is that of a modestly involved grandparent. What you describe is not co-parenting. I don't even understand how you can say this man is a "great dad" when he sees his son once every few months. It is super easy to be Super Fun Awesome Parent one day a month. When you are there one day a month max, you get to a) repeatedly thank the other parent for doing all of the hard work of raising your awesome child, b) have zero input on anything not in the custody agreement, let alone everything.

Look, I don't want to get all up in your business, but is there... something else going on here? Are you in love with this man? Are you hoping for reconciliation? Or are you maybe dealing with your own abandonment issues that make you think you son should have a relationship with his father at any cost? Are you afraid to rock the boat because you actually want the 99% sole custody you have and fear a custody renegotiation?

Because this guy does NOT sound great. You sound like you're bending over backwards to smooth everything over and he sounds completely whiny and juvenile. Why are you even letting him complain about how weepingly tough his life is on $60k a year? Why are you not saying "Look, I float this entire household on $21,000 a year and I just don't want to hear it. Take it up with the courts." He has a new truck but can't afford to buy Christmas gifts for your kid - this is not a man with the right priorities. It just isn't.

Ian: Do you know the actual costs of childcare? Three hours a day after school plus all summer long plus school holidays is over $9,000 a year if you are paying a childcare worker minimum wage.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:30 PM on December 15, 2012 [28 favorites]


"Do you know the actual costs of childcare?" I do! Pretty intimately!

"I bust my hump working 32 hours a week, parenting alone nearly 24/7 and I only make 13,000 a year because as far as job prospects go in this area (that I have no plans to leave that that my son's father agrees is a great place to raise a kid), I've sort of maxed it out. It's as good as I can do here. Is that better?"

Yes. It reads very differently than the original post. And I apologize for saying anything that made you feel crappy. Especially as a fellow bust humper and single parent.
posted by ian1977 at 5:36 PM on December 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I know this thread will soon die but thanks for all the advice (and now I'll stop it with the threadsitting, I swear!)


DarlingBri: Amazingly, if you went through my askmefi history, it might seem that way but no, nothing else is going on here. He and I have fumbled through mutual loneliness occasionally and at what point he shittily (given the situation) expressed interest and I entertained that idea because Ideal American Family, FUN! And then the green set me back on the right path and whoa, immediately, shit, BAD IDEA! I am not at all in love with this man. He infuriates me on a daily basis because he can be quite the...uh, jerkface, but I quell that so as not to rock the boat. I consider him a friend but am not afraid to put him in his place occasionally. I am not in any way hoping for a reconciliation. I do not fear custody renegotiation -- there's no way the courts would ever allow it if he pursued it anyway.

But I am letting him whine and he is being pretty ridiculous in putting his supposed brokeness on my plate as if it's my problem, you're right there. When one lives this sort of situation every day, it can get hard to remove oneself from it, gain perspective, and get it right in one's head. And THIS is why I love The Green :).

Thanks for the advice, all. Gonna mark some best answers, I think, and carry on...
posted by youandiandaflame at 5:38 PM on December 15, 2012


ian1977: Got a tad touchy there, didn't I? Apologies and truly, thanks for the thoughts on where his head might be. It really is helpful :).
posted by youandiandaflame at 5:39 PM on December 15, 2012


Given your work schedule, the biological-only dad's 99% non-involvement, your level of poverty, and his level of non-poverty, 1) he is not co-parenting, so should count his blessings support is so low, 2) a court might look at this and give you far more in child support, because it is in the court's interest as an advocate for the child, that the child have a non-poverty-level standard of life (you mention not being able to afford a reliable car, while dad can), especially if the combined income from both parents can make this so.

I don't know the family court laws in your state, but I strongly suspect the biological dad would get an epic tongue-lashing by the judge if he even started to bring up the complaints he's directed at you.
posted by zippy at 5:52 PM on December 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Don't argue with him about the money. That's for the courts. This isn't the same as dividing community property.

The Dragon Lady and I had a fairly good parting of the sheets, at least at first. At some point things went south. During the ensuing struggle, I had to keep in mind that sooner or later I would have to look my son and her two kids in the eye and deal with the way I acted. This kept me from letting fantasy overtake my emotional landscape--I don't think your position resembles mine enough for me to compare them, except for the part about having to reassemble my reality with regard to my relationship with my son and her two step-daughters. This was an extremely painful time for me. Making that adjustment was like dying. I ended up giving up more than I thought I had to give.

I guess what you need to hear is that during that time I had quite a few uncharitable thoughts about the Dragon Lady. Some of them I guess she didn't earn. Negotiations during this phase are best handled by your representatives. Having said that, the people who represented me and the Dragon Lady seemed to work harder to set us at odds on certain issues than I felt the situation warranted. I don't think the details are important, here, but I was willing to give more than the judge actually decided I needed to give. But by the time we went to court my version of things was lost in the fury.

Having two homes is not necessarily bad, but one of them will not be the primary residence. Facing that, for me, required an emotional adjustment that, at that time, I wasn't sure I could make.

I have no idea what your Ex is like. For all I know he may be a dick as far as your relationship goes, but he still may be a good dad. Either way--dick or not--you can do well to let the courts do the heavy lifting on the money and custody stuff. In the end, you are the primary care-giver, even if you have been awarded joint custody. It will be your call.

I would have appreciated some mediation during all this. That's why I suggested a coparenting course. He needs to be able to realize what you've been able to explain to us. If he's not a dick, then he'll see that it's about his son. Many people think kids are sort of like cats or parakeets, and that cats are like stuffed toys. They don't see the ripples that happen when children become part of the situation.
posted by mule98J at 6:40 PM on December 15, 2012


"I have told him repeatedly that there is room for discussion here"

Stop doing that and never do that again. Don't give him a number, even if it's higher than what you get now. This should only go through the courts. You have absolutely nothing to gain from having this conversation.
posted by spaltavian at 4:54 PM on December 16, 2012


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