Dear Chump Lady,
I’m a mom of two young kids. (My son will be 3 in August and my daughter turned 1 two weeks ago). Six months ago my husband of four years (together nine years total) told me he wanted “out.”
He said he tried marriage, but it wasn’t working out for him. He went from being all in to being all out. No in between. No counseling. Nada. I was wondering if you had any advice about the financial struggle I find myself in?
The kids are going to live with me, but I can’t afford the rent on my own and he doesn’t want to pony up enough child support to help us out. Child support probably won’t be enough either. California seems to be in favor of deadbeat dads these days. I’m so stressed out. Any advice you can offer is appreciated.
Also, any advice you can offer towards… well, I’ve never felt lonelier in my life. He never fought for me, our kids, our family and that makes me feel worthless… and I’m scared I’ll never find love again. I know I need to focus on my kids right now and stay positive, but those other thoughts start to creep in. “Is there another woman?” “Was he ever faithful to me?” I know I shouldn’t care about now because what’s done is done.
Suddenly a Single Mom
Dear Suddenly a Single Mom,
I’m sorry he doesn’t want to pony up child support. Let him know via the legal system that the whole deadbeat thing isn’t “working out” for you. Impose consequences at once. How about he explains his penchant for abandonment with the heavy boot of the law on his neck?
I know it’s a huge pain in the ass to deal with Child Support Enforcement and I know from personal, painful experience that the State often does seem to not give a flying fuck about single parents and enforcing court orders, but you my friend are at the beginning of this shit show, and you’ve got at least 17 years of child support to bleed from that stone, so get started. DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT. FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!
Whatever you do, don’t give into the chump urge to absolve him of his legal responsibilities because it harshes his fuckwit buzz. Wow, you’re so demanding the way you expect him to pay rent and buy diapers. Don’t accept his entitlement as normal or wonder if you can make your children’s needs smaller. Child support isn’t a favor to you — it’s a FRACTION of what he owes THEM as a parent. You will be there on the ground doing all the work. Child support is essentially a tip jar that should in no way be confused with a living wage. Paying his child support is the LEAST he can do. The very, very LEAST.
I realize that chasing after child support can be an exhausting process, but DO IT. So long as he has a regular paycheck to dock, you should be okay. If he works under the table, or skips states, or voluntarily impoverishes himself, things get harder — but you still need to get in the system, because it will keep track of his arrearages.
In some states you can use debt collectors (or private child support collection agencies, as they call themselves) to get those arrearages, but the agency takes a cut. Then again, so do the lawyers you would need to hire to get back child support too. Your cheapest and best bet is to stay on top of the state agencies who collect your child support.
It is VERY important to write into your divorce decree EXACTLY what happens and WHO pays if child support isn’t paid. I’m not a lawyer, I’m a chump, so I can’t give legal advice, this is friendly BTDT advice — but you need accountability built into your decree — ASK FOR IT. Like Bozo pays your legal fees if you have to go back to court on this.
If you cannot afford a lawyer, I urge you to call your state bar association and ask about pro bono services and legal clinics in your area. See if you can’t get a law student or pro bono attorney to take your case. There’s also “low bono” or sliding scale fees for lower-income folks too. Be RELENTLESS in your pursuit of justice on this. Call CALL CALL. Find help.
If you were 15 years into this suckfest and wanted to give up, that would be one thing, but you’re just starting. It’s essential that you not give up support for those kids because Uncle Fuckwit’s not “all in.”
Next, let’s turn our attentions back to you. The best way to not feel stressed out about your fuckwit-free future is to invest in it. I know it’s tough with two small kids, but consider what kind of career will support you all and work towards it. I’m counting on the other single parents who’ve lived this to weigh in on how they made it. But there are lots of jobs that don’t require a ton of training that pay decently. I’ll try and find the post we had on technical education. Work towards a situation in which you don’t NEED child support. Your kids deserve it of course and are entitled to it, but if you can earn enough so that you’re not all playing the Pick Me dance with him for essentials, that’s ideal. I know you’re not there now, and it might take a few years to get to that place — but WORK towards it. Nothing feels better than to have a Fuck Off fund.
That will help too with the feelings of worthlessness and loneliness you’re suffering right now too. You ARE NOT worthless — you are MIGHTY. You’ve been dealt a huge blow and you’re fighting back. You are Mama Grizzly and you’re not going to let anybody hurt your babies or you. Do grizzly bears wonder about twinkie bimbos? (Well, beyond the empty calories.) Do they find themselves wanting and consider their squidgy midsections? NO. GRIZZLY BEARS CAN KILL YOU. Mama grizzlies are badasses.
Be a badass.
I’ve never felt lonelier in my life.
You have two kids who need you. Do you have family or friends you could move toward or in with? This is all a lot easier to bear with a support system.
And there is no reason to feel alone in single parenthood any more. When I went through this crap 16 years ago, there weren’t mommy blogs and single parent resources online. Now the inter webs are awash with them. You can chat in real time with real parents facing the same obstacles you are. CN is more about infidelity here, but our forums are great. On the single parenting front, a big shout out to the Happy Hausfrau’s Front Porch. It’s a Facebook group now, but check her out, and tell her I sent you.
He never fought for me, our kids, our family and that makes me feel worthless
Don’t internalize his rejection. I know it’s hard, but he’s an idiot. You’re the sane parent here. The loving person who SHOWS UP. He, on the other hand, is a fuckwit. There is NO comparison here. Don’t make one. Don’t give this asshole that power and centrality. His abandonment has NOTHING to do with you and everything to do with the empty elevator shaft in his soul.
… and I’m scared I’ll never find love again.
Love is everywhere. Your kids love you. I’m sure you’ve got friends and family who love you too. Invest in those good people. Don’t rule out a partner again some day, but don’t self medicate with other people now — you’re vulnerable. Focus on regaining your strength and building mightiness. Romance can wait a bit. Real validation comes from within, from wresting the motherfuckers of infidelity and abandonment to the ground, and triumphing. These things take awhile. Be patient with yourself.
My son was a preschooler when I became a single parent — I’m on the other side of custody trials and travails with a deadbeat (spoiler alert — he still owes me money). My kid is nearly 21 now, a young man, and a good person. I got to parent him with my values. I got all those bedtime stories and warm fuzzies. Okay, I also got driver’s ed, and years of 6 a.m. cross-country practices, and endless sports banquets. I got teenage angst, and playing the heavy on every. single. unpopular. decision. And on the fringes of my well-ordered new life, I had a fuckwit either constantly harassing me, or conspicuously ignoring his child and his responsibilities. I survived. I’m mightier than a fuckwit. My son is mightier than a fuckwit. YOU TOO ARE MIGHTIER THAN A FUCKWIT.
You’ve got this. It’s a tough road, but the rewards are great. YOU CAN DO IT!
We’re cheering you! Now, call that child support enforcement.