The legal definition of Child Support is "periodic monetary payments by the non-custodial parent for the care of his or her minor child." In our country, non-custodial parents are usually obligated by the courts or divorce decrees to pay support for their children. After sitting in the offices of Child Support enforcement to find out the status of my particular case, I have had the opportunity to see how many non-custodial parents try to dodge the system by changing jobs, working for cash, and just not bothering to answer summons and phone calls.
The office is filled with mothers and some fathers toting babies and grade school-age children. Many have not gotten any support from the other parent. Most states require food stamp and welfare applicants to pursue child support before they will receive any benefits to take care of these children. As a taxpayer and mother, I believe that before anyone becomes a burden on the state and federal government, both parents should be providing food, shelter and clothing for their children. I, being a single parent of a wonderful little boy, found myself without means to hire an attorney, so the state filed papers to request support from my son's father. He hired a high priced attorney to fight paying the support. The amount he spent on legal fees alone to prevent paying the support was probably considerably more than the two years of previous support I had asked for. I am not the only parent in this circumstance as my observations and conversations in the office confirmed. It is a shame that so many innocent children live in poverty and do not have the relationship with their other parent because of immature and irresponsible attitudes on the part of the non-custodial parent. My hopes for my son and so many other children, is that the other parents in these cases would stand up and support their kids.
The following is an open letter to the non-custodial parents on behalf of the children I met in the offices and those who are living in situations that are less than ideal. I can only pray that this letter would touch the hearts of parents who haven't helped support their child and perhaps they would decide to be a part of that son or daughters life.
Dear Non-Custodial Parent,
The Child Support that you are being asked to pay is for our child (or children). Not for me. We, as the custodial parents, are not using this money to drive around in Rolls Royces or to fly off on a European vacation. The support money is to support your daughters or sons. Any parent can tell you that there are so many expenses in raising a child that you may not have thought about. The amount that is taken from you is a drop in the bucket. Since every child grows, shoes and clothing are needed on a regular basis. As a baby or toddler, kids use a lot of diapers, baby wipes and toiletries. This is a large expense. With all the colds, ear infections and flu going around, children need to see the doctor, and occasionally need medicine. Even the trips to the doctor, if you provide health insurance, include gas expenses, copays and mean that we have to miss a day of work or school. Most daycare centers do not let a child with illnesses back until they have a physician note. This means more time off of work and less pay.
Children need a roof over their heads in the form of a house or apartment, and some of the money you pay goes toward these expenses. They need beds, clean clothes, toiletries, and toys. Education for our children is important at any age, so preschool costs, school fees and occasional payments for summer camp or field trips are required to give these kids a good start in life. There are so many other things a child needs that most people don't think of, so please take this into consideration before you decide not to pay or complain about having to pay support.
No matter what happened between us, we were blessed to have received such a wonderful gift in the form of a child. We would like you to be a part of their lives. Support is not just monetary. These children of divorce and separation need to be loved and taken care of. If you cannot see the child on a regular basis, cards, letters, phone calls or emails let our child know you love him or her and are thinking of them. Circumstances have may have ended our relationship, but please do not take that our on our child. As an adult who helped create a life, you owe it to that child to provide for him or her.
The Custodial Parent
Jennifer Wheeler is a full-time student and mother living in southwest Florida.