The term “child support” invokes fear and confusion in the hearts and minds of men on both sides of the spectrum. The man who nervously waits for his day in court, and the man who has made the choice to ignore the receipt of child support papers have one thing in common—a lack of knowledge. So as these men anticipate their future, the fear of fatherhood and the fear of the newly court ordered bi-weekly relationship with their child become even more of a mystery. This is because in addition to the reality of their failed relationship with the child’s mother, these fathers now must deal with the tricks of a knowledge free mind that feeds off of everything negative with respect to being a single father. (I will be broke. I cannot survive on what I am making. Money is the only thing that counts. What will I do if I don’t have money to take my kids out? I can’t do this.) These are the words of single fathers who fail to realize that they can get through this, but it must start with a change in perception—a change in how they perceive the child support system.
Once these men learn the ins and outs of the family court system, specifically the inner workings of child support, they will be one step closer to becoming stronger men and better fathers.
Those who have decided that their child is better off living with the mother have to accept the fact that they will have to pay child support. There is no way around it. This is your child and you are the one responsible. During some of my presentations to fathers I often hear things like, “I was trapped,” “It was a mistake,” or “She wanted to have a child – I didn’t.” To these men I simply say that I understand the circumstances of your dilemma. However, the reality of this “dilemma” is that the child is here, the child is your responsibility, and you must step up and do what is right. This means that in addition to being sensitive to your child’s needs and being involved in your child’s life, you must also be financially responsible.
For men who find themselves in this situation, I suggest that you shift your focus from arguing about child support to finding ways to help ease the pain of paying child support. Arguing with the mother of your child about child support will not change your situation. The only thing that arguing will do is prove or disprove a point of view. Being right or wrong about a relationship issue will not change the amount of child support you will have to pay. At some point during your breakup, separation or divorce you must take a step back and start focusing on your new life, which now includes a different kind of relationship with your child and the mother. Unfortunately, one of the most critical components of this new relationship is child support.
The first thing that fathers in this situation must do is change the way they think about child support. They must stop looking at child support as money that they are sending to their ex-wives or ex-girlfriends. The money that you are sending is for the benefit and well-being of your child and is to be used to help sustain your child’s life.
Once I realized this in my own life, all of the arguing stopped, and I was able to focus more on my new relationship with my two boys. But I had to change my perspective from “giving her money” to “giving her money for the welfare and benefit of the children.” In a sense, I had to start “minding my own business.” Instead of thinking and focusing on what she was doing with the money that I was giving to her, I made a conscious effort to (mind my own business) make some key financial adjustments in my life. For example, I starting asking myself questions like, do I need 100 channels of cable television, can I start eating at home instead of eating out, can I use regular gas instead of premium, can I find a better rate for my car insurance, when I go to the movie could I sneak in a bag of popcorn instead of paying $9.00 for a bag at the theater.
I became extremely conservative with my spending habits, and in a course of a year I noticed that my financial situation started to level off. I was in fact (Reverend Jesse Jackson would love this one) sustaining, maintaining, without all of the complaining. But it took action on my part.
First, I had to accept that this money was for my kids and stop thinking about what my ex-wife was doing with the money. Once the child support check is transferred from your account to hers, anything that relates to how this money is spent is her business, not yours. Once you make it your business, you will inevitably go back to arguing, and soon fighting will follow. I want to be clear, what I am suggesting is not easy. Holding your tongue on every single financial issue with respect to your child never is. But at some point, after the demise of your relationship, you will have to make an attempt to build a new relationship, a working relationship, and ultimately a stress free relationship. You will be working toward a relationship where your primary focus is not about how much money you are giving to her. Instead, your focus will be on doing the things that you are supposed to do as a father. At this point in your life, you should be saying, “YES, SIR!” Yes to being sensitive to your child needs, yes to being involved in your child’s life, and yes to being a responsible, loving, and caring father.
Finally, you should figure out what your child support payments will be. This should be done before your hearing so that you are not in total shock after the child support order has been rendered. (As a barometer, go to www.nycourts.gov and search for “the Child Support Standards Chart.”) Once you know what you have to pay, focus on making some key financial adjustments. You can do this by streamlining and eliminating all of your unnecessary expenses. Your goal is to find some additional income to offset your child support payments.
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