Single Super Mom Struggles Morally with Child Support and Visitation

Some comments are so moving and compelling that I move them to the front page of the Blog. That, because I believe it’s imperative that as many as possible understand the moral dilemma that’s often faced by the many good and loving single moms out there. Those who deserve child support, and whom also must limit the father’s contact with the child(ren) involved so as to protect them and thereby act in the child(ren)’s best interest.

“Karen” is one such mom who posted what follows as a response to this post, and her original comment is found here, and although I re-posted it below, I’ve also made my comments throughout it. Finally, you may be thinking “well how do you know what she says is true, there are two sides to every story?” And indeed there are, three in fact; his side, her side, and the truth that’s found somewhere in between. That having been said, and despite it being human nature for all of us to “tilt the facts in our favor” when telling our side, I believe that Karen’s words are indeed truthful in context.

Finally, (and unfortunately) I’m well-versed in dealing with those whom are immersed in addiction (and in the various “drugs” of choice) and one thing is always true when it comes to dealing with an addict; the addict has only one and one concern; feeding their addiction. All else in life can usually “go to hell” as far as the addict is concerned.
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Hi,

I’m a newly separated mom to a silly, sweet 20 month old girl.

Ziva was born before her father and I were married.
In her short life time, we’re married and now separated.

He’s a struggling, recovering, relapsing cocaine addict.
He is verbally and emotionally abusive.
He is a pathological liar.
Quality time with the baby is in front of primetime tv or football.
He has never had a regular responsibility with the baby – not bath, daycare pickup or dropoff, feedings / meals, diaper changes, bedtime stories.
Their one tradition was napping on Sunday mornings on the couch while I went grocery shopping.

I didn’t know of his habits when we met or before I got pregnant.
I take full responsibility for my decisions.
I allowed him to move in.
I paid all expenses during his unemployment during my pregnancy.
I chose to keep this baby – and she is the BEST part of my life!

Congratulations for making that decision Karen, none of us would be here had our own mothers not made that choice. -Tony Fantetti

I married him after knowing of his habit and hoping he’d keep his commitment to clean it up and be a father to our baby.
I witnessed his lack of ability or interest to parent the baby … and I made myself think it was okay that he “enjoyed” her while I cared for her.

Unfortuately that’s typical of co-dependent behavior and hence makes one an “enabler.” However, such is often done with the best of intentions.” -Tony Fantetti

He has never once taken her to the park, on a walk, for an ice cream, to the pool on his own.

We are both 40 years old.
This is second marriage / family for both of us.
We both have 2 older kids (ages 6-11).
We met through our kids at church.

I’m a college grad.
Held professional jobs in technology and now healthcare industry in quality improvement.
I make good money. But being solely responsible for fulltime daycare is a serious financial obligation.
I have drained my savings (built before this relationship), changed/lowered our standard of living and will now face debt just to make ends meet.

Re-read the paragraph just above Karen, that right there should remove any qualms you have about taking the father to court for child support. However, and as I explain below, that introduces a different problem should you decide to take that route. -Tony Fantetti

He’s a high school graduate and now has a town government job.
Our town does a “good job” of overlooking drugs, pornography, work sex relations, and felonies in their HR hiring process and the same plus taking liberties with “work hours” once on the job.
Meaning, he’s not at risk of losing this job … and so he’s not going anywhere.
He makes enough to pay rent $800 month to a co-worker who doesn’t allow children.
He has never offered to pay any portion of the baby’s basic needs: food, daycare, medical insurance, clothes.

And that right there, along with his unwillingness to spend any quality time with your daughter makes him a genuine and indifferent deadbeat parent. And it’s the likes of him that causes all good and loving noncustodial moms and dads to be demonized in both the court of law and the court of public opinion
-Tony Fantetti

He has never bought her a holiday gift. Collectively, he hasn’t spent more than $50 on her since birth.

That’s both vile and unconscionable Karen. -Tony Fantetti

I believe that I have the following options available (knowing the father) and need ethical / moral / legal help choosing a path, please.
a. I can avoid contact with him, and he will likely make no attempt to see his daughter in exchange for not being legally ordered to financially support her. I believe this may be in the best emotional interest of my baby – at least until she can decide for herself whether she has interest in knowing him.
b. I can file for custody and support and make a case that he have very limited supervised visitation (as he does with older children by court order) and allow the baby to “know” her father, permit him the choice and opportunity to reset priorities, and get “help” financially with her basic needs.
c. I can seek support and then relocate with work far, far away! (Kind of kidding … but not really).

Please note that with regard to a,b and c Karen, what I offer you, is my humble opinion that I personally believe (and hope) is also a morally just one.

a. I agree that given his addiction, that choice in my opinion is surely in Ziva’s best interest, and I wouldn’t trust him alone with her. And not necessarily just because of him, but also because of the other addicts he’s using with and whom would have access to her.

b. Yes you can, but here’s the problem with that; now you’re introducing the court into your life, and thereby relinquishing much decision making to it for the next 16+ years should you choose that. Statistics are on your side, as mothers are granted sole custody in about 84% of cases nationwide. But here’s the problem, you can request limited visitation, and you may in fact get it. But do you really want him having her while he’s using? Additionally, what if the court decided to grant him a standard visitation order? Although the flip side to that is that he might not take advantage of it anyway.

Once that visitation is ordered, you’ll have to comply. And if his behavior gets worse, and to the point where Ziva’s in danger, that order will be in effect until the court modifies it. That having been said, and unless you represent yourself, you’re looking at probably at least $10,000 in legal fees for a full blown custody trial. I suspect you can get temporary orders for perhaps $3,000 – $5,000, but that’s still a lot of money as you know.

But again, if things get bad, and a court-ordered visitation order is in place, you could opt to defy the visitation schedule (that’s legally wrong) but you’d be in contempt of court. However, and in most courts not just in Ohio but across the nation, the courts generally look the other way when a mother refuses to allow a father to exercise his visitation rights.

The odds are once again in your favor, and perhaps nothing would happen if you did that, but if you choose to defy a visitation order and the court didn’t just “slap you on the wrist” and look the other way, you could be slapped with a fine and jail time (although there’s a “purge” condition) and be forced to pay his attorney’s fees if you’re found guilty. Again, I’m “not” giving legal advice, just my opinion based on what I’ve seen in countless cases.

c. Yes, you could, but I think that’s the worst option and here’s why. Suppose he finally cleans himself up, for good, and wants to be actively involved in Ziva’s life? Long distances between a noncustodial parent and the child(ren) usually end up with that parent completely (and permanently) falling out of the child’s life.

Even in cases where there’s cooperative parenting between both the custodial and noncustodial parents “and” they’re both local, the statistics are staggering with regard to the noncustodial parents. The majority of them eventually fall out of the child’s life as it’s very difficult to maintain a strong and close relationship with a child based on “hours per month” in vistation time.

I speak from experience when I say this; whether my daughter is 500 miles away or right around the block, that feeling of court induced (in most cases) isolation that accompanies being an “every other weekend parent” puts thousands of miles of distance between a good and loving parent and their child.

The same would be true if the child was only one street away from the noncustodial parent, as the biggest problem is that they’re not involved (and not by their own choice, but buy both naturally occuring and vengeful separation) in day-to-day decision making that affects the child. In short, the noncustodial parent is unaware of perhaps 95% or more of the things going on in their child’s life and it’s truly sad as it’s not by choice, but merely the nature of the beast.

Rest assured that when Ziva becomes an adult, she’s going to want to know who her biological father is as there will be a hole in her heart. Should that happen, and he’s not interested, you’ll be (I can tell you’re the type with a good heart) guilt ridden for the rest of your life, and Ziva will forever be missing a piece of her life; her biological father.

And that may very well happen anyway if he never stops using, but let that be on his shoulders not yours. Then, you can still be there as that loving mother you’ve always been, to help Ziva through the painful rejection she’ll surely experience should he decide not to be a part of her life.
-Tony Fantetti

My fear is that seeking assistance with child expenses equates to a life of continued anger, entitlement, manipulation, drama. Maybe that’s inevitable?

In my opinion yes, it is inevitable, so long as he’s and addict who’s actively using. Chances are, everything that goes wrong in is life will be “your fault” anyway so long as he’s using. -Tony Fantetti

I read a lot of the posting on your site before writing. I have never depended on ANYONE for financial security. Not my own folks for college or weddings. Never had a honeymoon. Don’t get manicures. Don’t want to ever enter the pool of CSMs. But am very, very tired of being Super Mom … and think that maybe I shouldn’t have to carry the load alone. If he’s not equipped to parent, maybe his only contribution is financial. And it “buys” me time to parent, rather than looking for additional work or short-changing my daughter of life opportunities.

No, you “should not by any means” be forced to carry that load alone. If there’s a case for a mom who deserved child support, yours is it. And you’re right; it does buy you time to parent Ziva. She needs at least one good parent in her life as much as possible, and she’s not getting that if she has to be in extended daycare so you can earn more money by working additional hours just to make ends meet. If he decides (as he already has) that he doesn’t want to be sober and contribute to the time and costs of raising her, then that’s what court ordered child support is for.
-Tony Fantetti

Other considerations:
I am his second wife. He has court ordered child support for his other 2 children. It’s minimal (in my mind) at $160 / mo. But the mother has no living expenses and chooses not to work.
He regularly offers her additional money “under the table” for additional visitation time … and before our relationship … for sex. She often accepts it.
They take each other to court twice a year to fight over visitation. He consistently asks for more. And then consistently doesn’t show up for what little he’s granted.
He’s currently entitled to 2 weekends a month, but he only chooses to take his 1 hour weekly supervised visitation and no overnights.
He has IRS debt that is drawn from his income. He owes EVERYONE. He will always pay himself (drugs, dinners, entertainment first), others as ordered by law.

I am financially responsible for my older 2 children.
Their father pays child support as his income allows. It’s always used 100% on the kids.
And they know that Dad makes it possible for them to have karate or dance lessons or school book orders.
If it comes, it comes. If it doesn’t, we don’t count on it.
Their father does more for and with them now then he ever did when married.

Please help. Money is one issue … but my internal dilemma is really one of principal. Is it “right” that he should be held to some level of accountability to this child? Is it “protective” or “possessive” of me to want to distance my daughter from her father? Isn’t it better to be “happy” (away) than “right” (assisted)?

Yes it’s morally right and just that he should be held to equal accountability with regard to Ziva. As it presently stands, it’s you with 100% accountability and he at 0% and that is what’s not right and is therefore morally wrong.

“No”, in my humble opinion, if what you’ve stated is true, and he’s actively using coke, then no it’s not “protective” (in a wrong sense) or “possessive” of you to want to distance Ziva from him. I personally feel that it’s the right thing to do, but moving her away from him (over a long distance) wouldn’t be right in my humble opinion as the day could come when he cleans up, wants to see her, but can’t for financial or other reasons. -Tony Fantetti

This puzzles me Karen, and I believe that you probably already know the answer, but are just hoping it’s not what I suggest. You said, “Isn’t it better to be “happy” (away) than “right” (assisted)?”

Happy for whom, you or Ziva? At 20 months, she’s incapable of understanding what the difference is between “home in Ohio” or “home in Florida” would be. So “happy” with regard to Ziva and locale is irrelevant, because “home is home” to her.

But on the other hand, “happy for Karen” is a completely different story and one that is in fact directly related to locale. You’re dealing with a very emotionally abusive addict who’s also a pathological liar (as most addicts are) and who probably disgusts and sickens you to no end. But unfortunately, he’s the same one who is also the father of your daughter, and whom I also suspect that you may have had reservations about marrying to begin with.

Allow me to start with this Karen; no one, and I mean no one deserves the unwarranted and never-ending, very hateful, and equally ugly blame and emotional abuse, that an addict dishes out to those around them. However, there’s a big difference between getting away from it, and moving far away from it unless there’s a true fear of imminent bodily harm or ongoing job interference that would prohibit one from living locally.

With that having been said, and in my humble opinion, I believe that he should be made to pay for half of all daycare costs associated with you working at your primary job, and 100% of the daycare costs beyond that. Additionally, he should be forced to pay 50% of all other expenses associated directly with Ziva.

If that means you must use the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) to collect his financial responsibility through a child support order, then do it, and without any shame whatsoever, because you should have none. Although when and if that child support comes down, if you feel that the amount ordered is not morally just and is excessive, then you should return some of it. In short, you, not a judge or some CSEA case worker, must determine what a morally just amount of child support would be.

Also, you could try threatening him with taking him to court for child support, but don’t do so in a provoking way, just be matter of fact, and see where it goes. But since he’s snorting coke, the chances of him regularly sending you an amount that you decide is fair is about as good as hell freezing over. With him being an addict who’s using, putting his money up his nose to “create snowstorms” will be concern number one, not his financial responsibility towards his innocent, precious, and silly daughter.

What you can count on though is the one lie after another that he’ll tell you about the money he’s “going to send.” The lies will be regular, but the money won’t be, if at all.

That having been said, you working more hours to make ends meet is not morally right in my opinion. I don’t care if Ziva was an accident, at least half the costs of raising her is his responsibility. And in your case, I think the only chance of you seeing dime of that money is if the Child Support “Extortion” Agency takes it directly out of his check.

You don’t need the courts to collect that, just contact your local CSEA. You’d only need the court to establish a visitation schedule, and that’s his problem. In your case, and because he’s using, I think you need to decide what’s reasonable visitation, but never do so out of vengeance or hatred. Only do so out of Ziva’s best interest and your own personal safety, and don’t ever put yourself in harm’s way.

Finally, about moving far away with Ziva; I don’t think I need to answer that for you Karen. I get the sense you already know the answer to that. And that may change down the road. But for today, think 20 years down the road, and assume you did in fact move far away. And out of nowhere, Ziva asked you, “Mom, why did you move away from dad?” Think of that answer Karen. And after you told Ziva your reasons, would you wholeheartedly and without any doubt whatsoever believe yourself?

With respect to “option c” Karen and if you don’t mind my being honest, I don’t think you struggle with the idea of taking the money nor with moving far away Karen. I suspect that perhaps your struggle (for Ziva’s sake) lies with the morality of moving far away and without just cause for doing so having first been found in your own heart.

Sincerely,

Tony Fantetti
Ohio Council for Fathers Rights
Email: tony.fantetti(at)ocffr(dot)org

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3 Responses to Single Super Mom Struggles Morally with Child Support and Visitation

  1. tarian29 says:

    was told had cancer last week wife said wanted divorce day b4 yesterday was told if
    didnt leave house was gonna be arested this is with no allegations of domestic .then went got daughter from school drove to canton to get check from job was called by minerva police told would go to jail by officer and chief numerous times should them book a fathers rights said the book meant nothing when got to police station with child set keys down went to get drink the dispatcher took my keys said i was allowed to leave now i dont drink was no allegation of spousal or child abuse at times was give constent attitude buy the cops was told i had no right to even know where they was my number is 3302054504 plz help im great father my kids she pulled from school she has left state b4 and also told minerva police that she said if i didnt give her divorce they would leave relationship in body bags by her hand im scared someone help me

  2. tarian29 says:

    that i wasnt allowed to leave she said sry cant type while crying i love kids yet i know wouldnt keep them froim wife even tho she did this why cant i make her hurt like shes made me

  3. Tony Fantetti says:

    Tarian,

    Unfortunately your comment came at a time when I was fighting my own battles. That said, has your situation improved since you posted?