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Newsflash: Child Support Isn't Mad Money

I took JD to the NJ Children’s Museum last Thursday. It was a weekday so the place was empty, which meant JD had free reign and really got to explore the “Please Touch” exhibits. We went on our own so I didn’t have any mom friends to chat with, but that didn’t stop the mom chit-chat.

JD joined a little boy around his age at the light exhibit. I smiled at his mom and said hello (I talk to everyone). Within seconds we were talking about preschool and where we live. When she told me she lived in X town, I responded: “Oh, nice area. We live in the town over.” Her response (and I kid you not): “Whatever. We’re renting. My husband has a kid from another relationship he has to pay child support to and it's basically a mortgage payment.”

There was definitely a pause. I think my face went white or red—I really couldn't dissect the rush of emotions I was feeling. I responded innocently: “Eh, a lot of people are renting in this economy and there’s a great school system in that town.”

In my head, another response: Some kid! Some kid! Not some kid—your husband’s child. Your adorable little boy’s half-sibling. The child support he is paying is not only his legal responsibility, but also provides BASIC needs to his child. These needs include food, clothing, daycare tuition so the other parent can work to support the child, health insurance and other medical expenses. Based on the custody or visitation arrangement the child support also helps the mom pay her mortgage or rent, because in NJ while a home or apartment payment is not factored into the guidelines the amount of time a parent spends with their child can lower or raise the child support payment. If Dad has the child every Wednesday and every, other weekend, that means he is absorbing food, clothing and shelter costs on his own. When a parent chooses to be absent, that means the other parent is doing everything. Providing every meal, article of clothing and a comfortable, safe home. The child support payment is slightly higher. Here is what child support doesn’t provide: Love. A hug. A person to throw a ball to.

I don’t know this woman’s situation. I have no idea if her husband participates in his child’s life. Maybe he cheated on her and got his mistress pregnant which is why she felt the need to complain to a stranger. Maybe she’s just bitter she married a man who has a child. I know she had $21 for admission into the museum. I wonder if her husband's other child can do fun stuff like that. I wonder if she realizes the child support helps the other parent pay for basic needs, so fun trips and events are possible. SMH. I moved JD to another exhibit because I didn’t want her negativity around him. My son is not “some kid” but I bet if I told her about my parenting situation she’d see him like that or feel like a giant a*shole. Fact is, I work my butt off to support my family and it took me two long I’m-too-proud-to-file-for-child-support-years to realize that OUR son deserves his father’s financial support—he deserves more than that. Butt Out Wives And Girlfriends. Let Dad Know His Kid.

So, I’d like to thank all of the parents out there who are paying their court-ordered child support that provides BASIC needs. Single moms like me are doing everything else. Including the savings account and 529 college plan. Oh and all the love and support in the world. Confused About Child Support? Read This.

My advice to parents when it comes to child support: Go to family court (get a lawyer or go to court alone—it's not hard). Submit your pay stubs and tax return. Ask the court to gather same from your ex. Provide documentation on daycare tuition, health insurance and medical fees. Accept the calculation. Do not take random money. Do not ask for random money. File with probation. If your ex doesn't pay, probation is alerted. Yes, this can be lost in the system. Don't let it be. Be proactive. Advocate for your child. You have to.

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