Male or female, who cares? Take responsibility for your kids.
Traditionally, women raised children while men went into the workforce, but this “Leave it to Beaver” scenario has become antediluvian. Nowadays, both men and women share equal responsibility for raising the children and bringing home the bacon.
However, the legal field changes approximately as quickly as a snail can travel, and as a result, many family courts still exhibit strong bias against fathers and tend to rule in the mother’s favor. Evidence is showing, though, that this no longer remains an absolute rule — in recent years, the number of women ordered to pay child support or even alimony has increased exponentially.
However divorced and divorcing parents split the child-rearing responsibility, they must keep in mind their kids are innocent parties. Just because you and your spouse grew apart, your child still deserves the financial and emotional support of both parents, except in cases of abuse. Those grumbling about paying child support need to remember their little one hasn’t stopped being their responsibility even after divorce.
Why Parents Refuse to Pay
Parents reluctant to pay child support express several reasons they feel they shouldn’t pay. And while most of these reasons consist of nothing but malarkey, it helps to understand the thought processes of parents who refuse to pay when negotiating potential changes to the child support agreement.
Some men and women alike tie child support to the “guilty party” in the separation. For example, a man whose wife cheated on him may feel unfairly pressured to pay support, even if he earns substantially more than his former partner does. Likewise, a woman whose husband walked out on her may resent having to pay support when she feels he was in the wrong.
Some resentment stems from the way separating partners divide other assets such as the family home or investment accounts. The partner who moves out of the home often bears the financial brunt of starting over, from finding a new abode to furnishing it. They believe they should pay less or even nothing at all because their ex kept the majority of joint assets.
Other parents deliberately misrepresent their income to avoid paying their fair share, which holds particularly true for self-employed individuals who itemize deductions, as their net income reflects what is left after expenses. Others claim to have no income at all due to unemployment. While sometimes people do lose jobs and experience financial hardships, family courts take these extraordinary circumstances into account, and most will temporarily adjust the amount the individual must pay in support.
The Psychological and Physical Effects of Poverty
Children growing up in impoverished households, particularly those in single-parent households where the noncustodial parent refuses to pay support, sadly suffer many consequences. When a parent refuses to pay support owed, the custodial parent may lack the financial resources to take care of their children’s basic needs.
Children growing up in poverty may miss out on essential vaccinations because their parents lack health insurance or money to pay a doctor. Poverty pays dividends in poor health outcomes. For example, children with minor cavities a dentist could easily fill may instead end up losing teeth if their parents lack sufficient funds for dental care. It can create a ripple effect trapping the child in the poverty cycle, as potential employers may hesitate to hire employees who mar their company’s image with a gap-toothed smile.
Also, poverty leads to hunger, and hunger makes it impossible to focus on school-related tasks. This inability to concentrate impacts a child’s grades and may cost older children valuable scholarship opportunities as their grades plummet.
Psychologically, living on the edge of poverty creates an enormous amount of chronic stress. Children raised in struggling households suffer higher rates of anxiety, depression and addictive behaviors. Sadly, as obtaining mental health care may cost far too much, children with untreated mental health disorders run a higher risk of teen pregnancy, incarceration and even suicide.
Piles of research indicate that the average child support payments don’t even begin to cover the costs associated with child-rearing. It’s the least a parent can do to keep their kids out of poverty, even from afar.
What Options Do Parents Have?
If your former partner, male or female, refuses to pay child support, what options do you have? Many parents withhold visitation rights when their former partner fails to cough up the support owed. However, this approach can backfire in several ways.
Parents who deliberately withhold visitation rights due to non-payment trap their children in an unjust tug of war. Children, especially younger children, don’t understand why they can’t see the other parent and become resentful of the custodial parent. Parents who refuse court-ordered visitations violate their agreement just as the non-paying spouse does, which hurts their chances in court.
Parents refusing to pay child support face costly court fees, fines and penalties. Courts can garnish the offending spouse’s paycheck or tax refunds. Non-compliant parents may even face criminal charges and jail time in particularly egregious cases where people try to hide income and assets.
The Bottom Line
Look, I get it: The mere thought of contact with your former partner makes you nauseous, and the idea of having to go back to court induces a headache. But don’t take out your frustrations on your innocent children. They didn’t cause the rift between you and your former partner, and there’s no reason to penalize them, either financially or emotionally, for a crime they didn’t commit.
The bottom line? I don’t care if you’re male, female or anywhere in between on the gender identity spectrum. Take care of your kids.