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Child Support - Moral Dilemma

Joe51

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I feel in a moral dilemma, so I thought strangers on the internet might provide me some perspective. Though it's a long story, I will try my best to keep it brief. Thanks to all who read and comment.

My ex and I divorced 3 years ago after 12 years of marriage. She developed a drinking problem, and had an affair. I am hard to live with and stubborn.

Initial custody for our children was setup as joint custody no support. Then she let her drinking problem get the best of her, and put the children in a bad situation. I filed for emergency custody, and was eventually granted sole custody. Still no support was awarded.

I've been telling her about co-pays, dentist appointments, prescriptions, etc. that kids need, and I buy. She never helped out once, and even chastised me for only contacting her when I need money. So, I went through my state agency and sued for child support. I easily make twice what she does every month, and she barely makes enough to keep her lights on. Even still, I felt like she should have some responsibility to the kids. I didn't expect much. I was just hoping to compel her to pay at least part of the expenses for the kids.

Apparently the judge agreed that she needed to be responsible. He awarded me a full third of every paycheck she gets, back payment till the time I took sole custody, and all court costs.

Now that the back story is out there - here is my dilemma. I could get by completely without her help. It's really only a quality of life issue. We are going to have a better life if she was helping out. Apparently the purpose of child support is to maintain the kids quality of life they would have had if the parents had never split up. I like that plan, but in doing so, I know I am putting their mom in a really tough position financially. She's going to have to make some real sacrifices and/or changes to meet her obligations now and still be able to live.

So what are the thoughts of the community? Make her pay? Back off? What would you do?
 

Ntharotep

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You are in a tough situation and I don't envy you having to deal with anyone with an alcohol problem.
That being said, the complete logic of the situation seems to be:
You said she barely makes enough to keep her lights on. So forcing her to pay child support on top of this would likely result in her losing the lights and probably the home through eviction (assuming she's a renter).
Once someone is homeless, keeping a job is a challenge that is rarely held to.
End result. She is jobless, homseless, and can't pay you child support anyhow.

Another avenue might be to force her into AA instead through court order or however else you can. Once she cleans up her act then, maybe, she can do a better job at contributing. I don't know how the court approaches this but it might be worth asking your lawyer about.

Hope that is some help and I wish you the best of luck in the situation. The most important thing is that at least you are with your children and they are not in that situation.
 

longview

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I feel in a moral dilemma, so I thought strangers on the internet might provide me some perspective. Though it's a long story, I will try my best to keep it brief. Thanks to all who read and comment.

My ex and I divorced 3 years ago after 12 years of marriage. She developed a drinking problem, and had an affair. I am hard to live with and stubborn.

Initial custody for our children was setup as joint custody no support. Then she let her drinking problem get the best of her, and put the children in a bad situation. I filed for emergency custody, and was eventually granted sole custody. Still no support was awarded.

I've been telling her about co-pays, dentist appointments, prescriptions, etc. that kids need, and I buy. She never helped out once, and even chastised me for only contacting her when I need money. So, I went through my state agency and sued for child support. I easily make twice what she does every month, and she barely makes enough to keep her lights on. Even still, I felt like she should have some responsibility to the kids. I didn't expect much. I was just hoping to compel her to pay at least part of the expenses for the kids.

Apparently the judge agreed that she needed to be responsible. He awarded me a full third of every paycheck she gets, back payment till the time I took sole custody, and all court costs.

Now that the back story is out there - here is my dilemma. I could get by completely without her help. It's really only a quality of life issue. We are going to have a better life if she was helping out. Apparently the purpose of child support is to maintain the kids quality of life they would have had if the parents had never split up. I like that plan, but in doing so, I know I am putting their mom in a really tough position financially. She's going to have to make some real sacrifices and/or changes to meet her obligations now and still be able to live.

So what are the thoughts of the community? Make her pay? Back off? What would you do?
Maybe some attorneys here know better, but I do not think it is up to you any longer.
One the court has ordered it, she has to pay. I think you can give her the money back each month,
but she has to have a documented paper trail they she got the money to you every month.
 

clownboy

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It's not about her at this point. You already made the decision to go for the child support and the court has made it's decision, there is no undoing that. If you believe the children would benefit from the situation, and obviously both you and the court hold that belief, then pay she should.

Just a fair warning. Report when she underpays/does not pay. You don't have to pursue it or be a dick about it with her, the state will do that on their own. But if you let her slide you're taking away a very useful arrow from your quiver when she eventually sues to have full custody restored to her (and make you pay the child support).
 

longview

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Perhaps, you can use some of her money but set some aside also, in case she has some financial
emergency. If nothing happens, apply the funds to the kids college fund.
 

Joe51

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You are in a tough situation and I don't envy you having to deal with anyone with an alcohol problem.
That being said, the complete logic of the situation seems to be:
You said she barely makes enough to keep her lights on. So forcing her to pay child support on top of this would likely result in her losing the lights and probably the home through eviction (assuming she's a renter).
Once someone is homeless, keeping a job is a challenge that is rarely held to.
End result. She is jobless, homseless, and can't pay you child support anyhow.

Another avenue might be to force her into AA instead through court order or however else you can. Once she cleans up her act then, maybe, she can do a better job at contributing. I don't know how the court approaches this but it might be worth asking your lawyer about.

Hope that is some help and I wish you the best of luck in the situation. The most important thing is that at least you are with your children and they are not in that situation.

I left out a bunch of detail in an attempt to be brief, but I did force rehabilitation, AA, NA, and parenting classes as a precursor to being able to see the kids unsupervised again. I asked for nothing while all that was going on, and made sure she got to speak with the kids regularly and see them supervised.

That said your point is well taken.

The good news is that she is cleaned up the best I can tell.
 

Joe51

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It's not about her at this point. You already made the decision to go for the child support and the court has made it's decision, there is no undoing that. If you believe the children would benefit from the situation, and obviously both you and the court hold that belief, then pay she should.

Just a fair warning. Report when she underpays/does not pay. You don't have to pursue it or be a dick about it with her, the state will do that on their own. But if you let her slide you're taking away a very useful arrow from your quiver when she eventually sues to have full custody restored to her (and make you pay the child support).

You and longview make a valid point that my options are limited now as the state will advocate for the best interest of the children at this point. Doesn't matter so much what I think anymore. I had not considered her suing for full custody again, but she alluded to it in a conversation the other day. Thanks for that warning, Clownboy! I hadn't given that the thought it deserves, yet.
 

cpwill

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It's not about her at this point. You already made the decision to go for the child support and the court has made it's decision, there is no undoing that. If you believe the children would benefit from the situation, and obviously both you and the court hold that belief, then pay she should.

Just a fair warning. Report when she underpays/does not pay. You don't have to pursue it or be a dick about it with her, the state will do that on their own. But if you let her slide you're taking away a very useful arrow from your quiver when she eventually sues to have full custody restored to her (and make you pay the child support).

I would echo that. You say you can take care of the kids just fine without her money coming in. If that is so, then you need to turn her failure to pay to their benefit, as well. The way to do that is to make sure that an alcoholic mother doesn't manage to sue to take them back into bad/dangerous living conditions.

You don't have to sue again, or pressure again, or go nuts. But you need to log and report consistently, so that when/if this becomes an issue, you win.

As a side note, if you can take care of the kids fine on your own, you might want to consider automatically setting up an allotment to where her payments (if they ever come through) go directly into a college savings. I'm not a divorce attorney and don't know how much that would/wouldn't effect you in a case in the future, but it's a way of making sure that you don't depend on her payments for your regular budget, while still ensuring that when/if they happen, they benefit the children involved.


:( I'm sorry you have to do this. How old are your kids?
 

faithful_servant

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I feel in a moral dilemma, so I thought strangers on the internet might provide me some perspective. Though it's a long story, I will try my best to keep it brief. Thanks to all who read and comment.

My ex and I divorced 3 years ago after 12 years of marriage. She developed a drinking problem, and had an affair. I am hard to live with and stubborn.

Initial custody for our children was setup as joint custody no support. Then she let her drinking problem get the best of her, and put the children in a bad situation. I filed for emergency custody, and was eventually granted sole custody. Still no support was awarded.

I've been telling her about co-pays, dentist appointments, prescriptions, etc. that kids need, and I buy. She never helped out once, and even chastised me for only contacting her when I need money. So, I went through my state agency and sued for child support. I easily make twice what she does every month, and she barely makes enough to keep her lights on. Even still, I felt like she should have some responsibility to the kids. I didn't expect much. I was just hoping to compel her to pay at least part of the expenses for the kids.

Apparently the judge agreed that she needed to be responsible. He awarded me a full third of every paycheck she gets, back payment till the time I took sole custody, and all court costs.

Now that the back story is out there - here is my dilemma. I could get by completely without her help. It's really only a quality of life issue. We are going to have a better life if she was helping out. Apparently the purpose of child support is to maintain the kids quality of life they would have had if the parents had never split up. I like that plan, but in doing so, I know I am putting their mom in a really tough position financially. She's going to have to make some real sacrifices and/or changes to meet her obligations now and still be able to live.

So what are the thoughts of the community? Make her pay? Back off? What would you do?

She has a responsibility to fulfill, so she should be taking care of that responsibility. If taking the money bothers you, then put it in a trust fund in the kid's names and use it for their college education.
 

Joe51

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Little man is 10, and baby girl is 12. Great kids. Straight a students, respectful, well behaved. It kills me they have to be put through this mess. They only deserve the best, and got a total bag of s@#$.
 

Hawkeye10

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It looks to me like you are making the assumption that even though her drinking endangered the kids it will not endanger her income, which seems weird. Also you dont say how old this arrangement is, which matters.

If it were me I would likely kick the can down the road, not decide anything for now, wait to see how this plays out. The focus should be what is best for the kids and a part of that is that they have a good relationship with a functional mom but your post has the flavor of you trying to take responsibility for your ex, which seems off.

My guess is that you are going to be looking at her not paying much, her a mess, her with little money to get, with you and the kids scraping by.....so where the rubber meets the road your moral dilemma is barely going to factor. State laws are not the same but I would if possible contact the state if she does not pay and get her on a "deadbeat dad" list, so that you get her tax return money maybe, if there is any, just so that she is not getting off completely.

For the foreseeable future you should plan to be on you own, I see no indication that this woman has hit bottom yet, and the bottom is likely going to see her with no money to get.
 
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Joe51

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She has a responsibility to fulfill, so she should be taking care of that responsibility. If taking the money bothers you, then put it in a trust fund in the kid's names and use it for their college education.

I tend to think the same way, which is I forced the issue initially. I just didn't expect the amount to be quite so high. I will be buying cars for them in the next few years, and putting them through college, or at the very least helping them borrow the money for it. I honestly never expected anything from her in that regard anyway. I was just frustrated that I was making ends meet while she got a free ride. Even asking for half of a $40 copay was useless. I just kept adding receipts to the file. But I got them out a couple months ago and started doing math. Kids are expensive.
 

Joe51

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It looks to me like you are making the assumption that even though her drinking endangered the kids it will not endanger her income, which seems weird. Also you dont say how old this arrangement is, which matters.

If it were me I would likely kick the can down the road, not decide anything for now, wait to see how this plays out. The focus should be what is best for the kids and a part of that is that they have a good relationship with a functional mom but your post has the flavor of you trying to take responsibility for your ex, which seems off.

My guess is that you are going to be looking at her not paying much, her a mess, her with little money to get, with you and the kids scraping by.....so where the rubber meets the road your moral dilemma is barely going to factor. State laws are not the same but I would if possible contact the state if she does not pay and get her on a "deadbeat dad" list, so that you get her tax return money maybe, if there is any, just so that she is not getting off completely.

For the foreseeable future you should plan to be on you own, I see no indication that this woman has hit bottom yet, and the bottom is likely going to see her with no money to get.

I took sole custody in December last year. Since that time, she's had rehab, and everything else to tend to. I can't say for sure she isn't drinking, but I can say that her drug tests are coming back clean. Time will tell.
 

Hawkeye10

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I took sole custody in December last year. Since that time, she's had rehab, and everything else to tend to. I can't say for sure she isn't drinking, but I can say that her drug tests are coming back clean. Time will tell.

Great, then dont push too hard right now, she how she does, see how much she does on her own to honor her commitment as a mom, and reevaluate in 6 months. Plan on getting nothing from her, use anything you do get as a treat for you and the kids. I would take a firm calm " you owe this money" stance without arguing the point or taking any action to get it for the next 6 months.

EDIT: Maybe agree to take half, but talk to a lawyer first, that can get you into trouble.
 

Joe51

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Great, then dont push too hard right now, she how she does, see how much she does on her own to honor her commitment as a mom, and reevaluate in 6 months. Plan on getting nothing from her, use anything you do get as a treat for you and the kids. I would take a firm calm " you owe this money" stance without arguing the point or taking any action to get it for the next 6 months.

EDIT: Maybe agree to take half, but talk to a lawyer first, that can get you into trouble.

That's probably good advice. I had not considered how the courts would view me not reporting or pursuing court ordered support, yet. I never expect anything out of her, and we will be fine either way. It seems that's not the point anymore, though. I have to at least appear to pursue it, or I am not looking out for the best financial interest of the kiddos. I'm glad I posted here. Thanks to those that took the time!
 

Tim the plumber

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I feel in a moral dilemma, so I thought strangers on the internet might provide me some perspective. Though it's a long story, I will try my best to keep it brief. Thanks to all who read and comment.

My ex and I divorced 3 years ago after 12 years of marriage. She developed a drinking problem, and had an affair. I am hard to live with and stubborn.

Initial custody for our children was setup as joint custody no support. Then she let her drinking problem get the best of her, and put the children in a bad situation. I filed for emergency custody, and was eventually granted sole custody. Still no support was awarded.

I've been telling her about co-pays, dentist appointments, prescriptions, etc. that kids need, and I buy. She never helped out once, and even chastised me for only contacting her when I need money. So, I went through my state agency and sued for child support. I easily make twice what she does every month, and she barely makes enough to keep her lights on. Even still, I felt like she should have some responsibility to the kids. I didn't expect much. I was just hoping to compel her to pay at least part of the expenses for the kids.

Apparently the judge agreed that she needed to be responsible. He awarded me a full third of every paycheck she gets, back payment till the time I took sole custody, and all court costs.

Now that the back story is out there - here is my dilemma. I could get by completely without her help. It's really only a quality of life issue. We are going to have a better life if she was helping out. Apparently the purpose of child support is to maintain the kids quality of life they would have had if the parents had never split up. I like that plan, but in doing so, I know I am putting their mom in a really tough position financially. She's going to have to make some real sacrifices and/or changes to meet her obligations now and still be able to live.

So what are the thoughts of the community? Make her pay? Back off? What would you do?

I appreciate your situation.

I think you have the better attitude than the court.

I suggest that you can hold the court judgement as a leaver to get her to take a reasonable(ish) amount of responibility towards her kids. Forget the back payments, she is clearly not up to that sort of planning etc, and try to deal with her as she is and to the extent that she can deal with the world at large.

The American attitude to mental health troubles is very harsh. Perhaps insist that the contribution she should be making to the kids should be spent on some sort of counciling or whatever??? Although, for an alcoholic, it's only them that can choose to not be drunk.

Good luck.
 

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You could get your lawyer to petition the court to order involuntary in patient substance abuse treatment, with enforceable compromises as a fall back provision.

What you are really asking us that the court treat her like a man.
 

Joe51

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I appreciate your situation.

I think you have the better attitude than the court.

I suggest that you can hold the court judgement as a leaver to get her to take a reasonable(ish) amount of responibility towards her kids. Forget the back payments, she is clearly not up to that sort of planning etc, and try to deal with her as she is and to the extent that she can deal with the world at large.

The American attitude to mental health troubles is very harsh. Perhaps insist that the contribution she should be making to the kids should be spent on some sort of counciling or whatever??? Although, for an alcoholic, it's only them that can choose to not be drunk.

Good luck.

I appreciate the reply. I'll keep that in my back pocket if she doesn't step up. As I sit here thinking about it, where it's at now, anything we do is going to have to go back through the courts. I don't want to give the judge the impression that I know better than he does. Every time back is another solid grand... lol. Even if she doesn't fight. That said, I'm sure I could have my attorney file for an agreement. If it would be granted or not is another matter. I just looked it up, and these things can only be reviewed every 3 years or if there is a significant change in income. I guess that makes my feelings on the matter irrelevant completely.

Child support is a wild crazy business. I'd hate to be on the wrong side of this deal. If I was paying, it would be almost 1k per month.... craziness. I think this system is really flawed.
 

Joe51

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You could get your lawyer to petition the court to order involuntary in patient substance abuse treatment, with enforceable compromises as a fall back provision.

What you are really asking us that the court treat her like a man.

She did the substance treatment. That the court treated her like a man is what surprised me. I thought she would get a downward adjustment being a low income earner. They didn't. They took the chart, her salary, and awarded arrears. Nobody even asked me what I thought was best. lol.
 

Hawkeye10

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That's probably good advice. I had not considered how the courts would view me not reporting or pursuing court ordered support, yet. I never expect anything out of her, and we will be fine either way. It seems that's not the point anymore, though. I have to at least appear to pursue it, or I am not looking out for the best financial interest of the kiddos. I'm glad I posted here. Thanks to those that took the time!

That is true, but it is also true that you dont seem to know this woman well enough to be able to predict what she will do, and this situation is in flux since you report that she has recently made steps to deal with one of the main underlying problems. If she gets stable you and her might be able to come up with a better deal for your family than the court did, you should be able to then jointly go back to the court to get them to approve this something better. The courts tend to be very poor at this sort of thing, someone should do a poll on how often courts come up with the best solution in divorce, I bet the number would be very small.

But for the moment I think it is waiting and watching time. Approach every interaction with her from the direction "what would be best for the kids".
 

Real Korimyr #9

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She accepted responsibility for her children when she took them home from the hospital. It's not wrong to hold people to obligations they have agreed to.
 

Joe51

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No, I don't know her anymore. We divorced 3 years ago. It's good to know there may be an option to fix this down the road. Or maybe she learns to earn more money and it fixes itself. Anyway, thanks for everyone's help today.
 

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I'm really tempted to say that if I didn't need the money I wouldn't have pursued it, especially if it left her near destitute. But having never been in the situation I don't know

Don't know anything about divorce law but custodial parents do pretty routinely go to court to get child support. I suppose you could go back and ask for less. Maybe just give it back to her on the side or create a rainy day fund if she hits on hard times
 

soot

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I left out a bunch of detail in an attempt to be brief, but I did force rehabilitation, AA, NA, and parenting classes as a precursor to being able to see the kids unsupervised again. I asked for nothing while all that was going on, and made sure she got to speak with the kids regularly and see them supervised.

That said your point is well taken.

The good news is that she is cleaned up the best I can tell.

Look, I don't want to take anything away from what she has done to this point in respect to her recovery from alcoholism and addiction.

But speaking as a recovered alcoholic myself I can't tell you the number of times I've seen guys or gals come in to AA with the weight of the world on their back and a figurative gun to their head with the sole intention of getting "cleaned up" enough to get back something they've lost (a relationship, a job, a drivers license, whatever).

Occasionally one or two will make the necessary transition from doing what they're doing because they were "forced", to doing what they're doing for themselves, and will develop the attendant willingness to do whatever it takes, and go to any lengths, to maintain their sobriety.

Again, I don't want to discourage you or be the gloomy little rain cloud but just keep in mind that it's relatively easy to stay sober for a couple of months in and out of rehab but something else altogether different to do the things that are required for the psychic shift that is necessary for sustained sobriety to occur.

We say that selfishness and self-centeredness are the root of the disease of alcoholism, and the "shift" that I mentioned above is a turn away from living a life centered in self and toward one that is centered in helpfulness, service to others, and a focus on being of maximum usefulness to God (as we individually understand him) and our fellows.

It is really easy for an alcoholic or a drug addict to lie and tell you what they think you want to hear - we've spent our entire lives becoming expert in it.

So look at what she's "doing" rather than what she's "saying".

That'll be the true test of whether or not she's really making a change.
 

Joe51

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Look, I don't want to take anything away from what she has done to this point in respect to her recovery from alcoholism and addiction.

But speaking as a recovered alcoholic myself I can't tell you the number of times I've seen guys or gals come in to AA with the weight of the world on their back and a figurative gun to their head with the sole intention of getting "cleaned up" enough to get back something they've lost (a relationship, a job, a drivers license, whatever).

Occasionally one or two will make the necessary transition from doing what they're doing because they were "forced", to doing what they're doing for themselves, and will develop the attendant willingness to do whatever it takes, and go to any lengths, to maintain their sobriety.

Again, I don't want to discourage you or be the gloomy little rain cloud but just keep in mind that it's relatively easy to stay sober for a couple of months in and out of rehab but something else altogether different to do the things that are required for the psychic shift that is necessary for sustained sobriety to occur.

We say that selfishness and self-centeredness are the root of the disease of alcoholism, and the "shift" that I mentioned above is a turn away from living a life centered in self and toward one that is centered in helpfulness, service to others, and a focus on being of maximum usefulness to God (as we individually understand him) and our fellows.

It is really easy for an alcoholic or a drug addict to lie and tell you what they think you want to hear - we've spent our entire lives becoming expert in it.

So look at what she's "doing" rather than what she's "saying".

That'll be the true test of whether or not she's really making a change.

I appreciate that perspective. From the outside looking in, there is no way for me to tell if we did any good or not. I'm sure she can beat a drug test, and she still carries around the little styrofoam cup from the restaurant she works at. What is in it is frankly none of my business other than what happens with the kids while I'm not looking. I'm choosing to give the benefit of doubt at the moment, but there is no way to know. Now she knows and the kids know that I mean business when it comes to partying, drugs, and drinking around them. That could compel her to stop. It could also compel her to hide it better. I just won't know. I often wonder why people can't just do what they are supposed to, but I'm not qualified to understand that.

I'm really proud that you seem to have overcome your vice. That takes courage and dedication, I know. As for my ex, those are two words I would never use to describe her, so I'm not all that confident. Any advice on actions to look for? I mean like subtle things she wouldn't think to hide from me. We don't talk much, and never really visit with each other. We do exchange kids, attend their functions, etc., but like you've said, she's likely an expert in making everything look like it's good.
 
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