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Child Support Enforcement Can Bite Me

In the United States, child support enforcement is a joke. How big of a joke? A $113.5 billon joke. That’s the amount of promised — with a  court order! — but uncollected money owed to custodial parents. $113.5 billion with a B.

B as in braces. Books. Baby wipes. Bicycles. Bulk foods. All the things you could buy with that money for your kid, but can’t, because the system is broken.

I rail about this frequently. But it came up in conversation yesterday with Christina Pavlina, the founder of Jane Does Well — a nonprofit support group for women going through divorce. They asked me to be a speaker at an event they’re having March 30 in Wellesley, Massachusetts. (Boston chumps represent? Will post more details soon.) I asked about JDW’s mission (frankly, I was fearing life coach quacks) and was knocked back on my socks to learn that this badass collective meets with state legislators to reform family law statutes AND have taken on child support enforcement.

Way to be #MIGHTY — we need more of this! Christina and I bonded over a shared fury about child support enforcement. And before I go further and hear from Men’s Rights people, let me say — I know there is injustice on the father’s side. The most recent census shows slightly less than 20 percent of those owed back support are men. And every chump dad knows the shit sandwich of 50 percent or less custody with their kids, after the trauma of being cheated on.

Yet, Sane Parents show up and pay for their children. And fuckwits do not.

Alas, there is a gender aspect to this — over 80 percent of the custodial parents who aren’t getting child support are women, according to the last Census.

So, here are your odds of collecting support from a FW:

Nearly a THIRD of custodial parents do not collect ANY support, despite a court order. That’s an increase from 24.2 percent in 1993 to 30.7 percent in 2015. (Data was updated in 2020.)

Less than HALF (43.5 percent) of custodial parents collect the support they’re owed.

Oh, and are you ready for another kick in the teeth? The average annual amount of awarded child support is…


$5,760 (or $480/month)

Extra ramen all around! Buy that kid a burlap sack!

Now, ready for the kick in the kidneys?

That’s DOWN from the average amount of awarded child support in 1993:

$5,786 (or $482.17/month)

Yes, it’s 30 years later, you’re being awarded $2 LESS than 30 years ago, and a third of you won’t ever see it and less than half of you will ever collect it.

This completely pisses me off. And it’s not just the seven grand or so I’m owed in back support, or the never paid, but court-ordered, medical expenses my child’s father was supposed to pay, or the insurance he dropped, or the way Texas never enforced an out of state order, or sent me a notice to say they stop trying once your kid turns 18 and here’s an IOU, or the Soviet waiting rooms, or the infernal phone tag — it’s the fuck off to my kid.

THAT is what hurts.

It’s not the money, it’s the message.

You don’t matter. Your needs don’t matter. Don’t think your children don’t internalize that. We are what we spend. The sane parent has to do the shoring up. To care. To show up. To pay. Every chump knows the pain of over-performing so a shitheel can underperform.

And this struggle is not just you. It feels personal and lonely and exhausting, but CN, the problem is SYSTEMIC. It’s the bias that the money goes to mom for her lux bonbon lifestyle, when child support should be considered an entitlement for the CHILD. It’s the trope that women are gold-diggers. When the fact is we have ZERO support for parents in this country, let alone single parents. Let alone single mothers. Fuck, we’re not even allowed bodily autonomy since Roe was overturned. Are we going to address child support now that we’re forcing parenthood on a new generation?

If you don’t pay your car payment, the repo man shows up. Commercial debt collectors knows how to find debtors. But when that money is owed to your CHILD? And the state needs to collect it? Oh, we don’t have the resources. Can’t do it.

Priorities. Just like fuckwits. You’re failed because you don’t give a shit.

I’m years past seeing an elephant on my FW’s Facebook page, demonstrating he went on safari, after dumping my child unannounced from his health insurance. I’ve long since given up hope of seeing $7K plus interest. But I’ve not given up hope this shit will change. A shout out of respect to Jane Does Well for fighting the good fight.


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  • ETA — you can join Jane Does Well even if you don’t live in Massachusetts. They’re free, and it’s a growing organization with members from other states. They work entirely by donation, and if you’re in the Mass. area, there are many in-person events.

  • That is appalling! It goes to show you that kids don’t matter to a lot FWs (and govt officials) once they’re out of the mother’s womb! Probably deliberate to create a class of servants to underpay. Glad to hear there are organizations out there like this fighting the good fight! I haven’t had this child support issue, but that’s because my ex would literally die of embarrassment if word got out that he was a deadbeat. Gotta luv those shame-based narcissists! they’ll begrudgingly pay to keep up the image!

    • Like you Stop, I had a child support paying narcissist too. But then he forced me to burn an average of $500 a month for 7 YEARS fighting his nonsense litigation.

  • Applause. I so love that you are still waving the livid-about-injustice flag, CL.

    “Every chump knows the pain of over-performing so a shitheel can underperform.”

    In ALL of the ways. Financial, psychological, emotional. I’ve had let go of the fury and the frustration … because exhaustion. Since Dday I’ve waitressed, been a cleaner and a gardener (oh yeah, I have post-grad quals). I’ve had the broken-hearted, traumatised teenage boys full-time (the fridge is never full enough!) and live a fairly small, quiet life (which I’m actually fine with). Meantime he’s off living #bestlife and #winning. Travelling overseas, holidaying, going out to gigs/plays/events etc.

    The money just has be got together for whatever my kids need, and it won’t be thru contributions from Himself. (He does pay *some* child support, and it saddens me how many people say, oh great, at least he gives you some money. Seriously, that “some” is a standard win over “none” and cause for celebration? WHAT?!)

  • My child ill-advisedly fathered a child in the middle of a mental health crisis. Yea, not a good way to start. He’s been diagnosed as autistic and had cancer.

    He has not done well in most ways and would literally be on the street were it not for me.

    There are twists and turns to this story, but Im paying child support my grandson because I love him and he matters.
    No law makes me pay it. I do so because I know what not-mattering feels like.
    I also took him to London but that is a different story.

    The good news is that after a 10 month terrible stint of unemployment (part of it, he had to be unemployed because then he could be seen at the cancer center for free. Our attempts to get Medicaid failed) my son has a job. I will continue to guide him back to the most independent state possible.

  • I do apologise for jumping on the obvious gender/misogynistic wagon but i seriously feel that if ‘men’ were owed there’d be uproar and jail terms.
    ‘It’s been a woman’s fight so let them suffer’ feels like the societal & governmental attitude. As you say Chumplady – American women can be forced to carry a baby and have to pay for it alone! It’s outrageous.
    I’m owed over £7k but have to get on with it. If I owed anyone else that much I’d be hounded and charged.
    Shout out to the sane and sensible parents who support their kids and respect their kids and want to contribute to their health and well being. Dirty shame on those that don’t (even when it’s only percentage peanuts). To have to be forced to pay up says everything.

  • I dont know where the problem with child support comes from. i think sadly society blames women, ie, u picked him, no he wasnt that them. u shouldnt have to tell someone to provide for their kids. they have money for what they want but not for their kids. I think they know they will get away with it. i think the problem starts with when the babies born, the mum exclusively looks after the baby, the man works, occasionally looks after baby, they dont bond with child, u supposed to be grateful when a man does something. a neighbbour said once he babysitting his kids, there his kids, hes not babysitting them. thats my kids, i could tell u a few stories about that. its like the term domestic violence, what is domestic about violence. some people want you to suffer, and enjoy watching u suffer. another neighbour once said any man is better than no man, another said u have to make men happy.

    • European here.
      The system in the US is so much worse than what we have here. Full medical insurance for a family of 6 here costs me $250 per month with a maximum of $500 copay per year and it’s not tied to a job/employer.
      With each child I have gotten 16 weeks of leave, fully paid (and not being allowed to be fired while pregnant or with a child below 1). Hubby gets 2 weeks. Men get to bond with their children.
      Employers here have to adhere to the labor laws, otherwise they’re screwed (as in enormous fines screwed, having your business closed screwed). So holidays need to be taken (minimum 4 weeks fully paid), overtime is either paid with an upcharge or added to the holidaytime. Parents here have more time with their children.
      After divorce when there is court mandated child support, the receiving spouse can notify a government institution of non-payment and then the paying spouse has his/her wages garnished, needs to pay the costs of the institution for garnishing their wages, or has to prove they actually did pay. Meanwhile the receiving spouse doesn’t need to wait for the money but gets paid immediately (as in: money in your bank account the next day). If the child is over 18 and still a student, the paying spouse has to pay the child directly and the child can make the notification if needed.
      Our country isn’t perfect, but in this aspect it’s a lot better.
      I do hope you will be able to make some changes.

      • ChumpySis , at the age of 61, I’m starting to understand that life for the majority of Americans is much, much worse than it is for most Europeans. We tolerate a system that allows this because we’ve been lied to about social democracy, which is called “socialism” and conflated with communism.

        I don’t know how this is going to play out with increasing economic inequality in the US. In my darker moments, I think about France in 1789, and Russia in 1917.

  • As a male chump to a serial cheating ex-wife, it is still hard to fathom that my legal remedy for getting out of an abusive relationship was to surrender the great majority of time with my children, give my abuser half of the wealth accrued over the decades that she perpetrated her fraud on me, and write her a huge check every month for years ostensibly for child support when I knew she wasn’t spending that money on our children (much of it was spent to coax an AP to leave his wife and marry her, then set up house with her). It’s like Bernie Madoff investors being allowed to sever their ties with his Ponzi scheme only if they promise to give Bernie half their remaining savings and make monthly payments to him. Punish the victim more, much? Rather than a mens-rights issue, this aspect is an issue of basic human compassion.

    The interest of children MUST come first in divorce, and in MOST instances the children are better off living most of the time with their mothers and the fathers paying child support. But as horrendous as the child support non-payment statistics cited by CL are, it is yet more galling to think that a disproportionate amount of the support that IS paid is paid by CHUMPS, not cheaters, and far too much of that goes to fund a continuation of the cheater lifestyle rather than its intended and essential purpose.

    Vent over.

    • I hear you! How awful!
      At the end of the day, despite all the injustice, at least I see my kids 90% of the time to ensure sane parenting is happening. I can’t imagine what you are going through. I hope that when the dust settles and your children are adults they can see the breadth of your actions.

    • Thank you all for your understanding. My individual gripe aside, CL’s larger point is over-arching: child support generally needs to be enforced far more vigorously, and the overwhelming majority of people harmed by non-payment are women and children.

  • YES YES YES — thank you Tracy!

    “It’s the bias that the money goes to mom for her lux bonbon lifestyle, …It’s the trope that women are gold-diggers. (I HEARD THAT SO MUCH!) When the fact is we have ZERO support for parents in this country, let alone single parents. Let alone single mothers. Fuck, we’re not even allowed bodily autonomy since Roe was overturned. Are we going to address child support now that we’re forcing parenthood on a new generation?”

    And that’s exactly where my mind went too. I love that you pointed out that cars and houses are easily taken when payments aren’t made —- but CHILDREN? No payment? Oh the fuck well, I guess.

    And no matter your stance on abortion, if fathers aren’t legally forced to support, then how can women be forced to carry the entire burden with no rights to their own bodies (or finances)? In 2023???

    Every chump — man or woman — deals with abuse … if the law can’t protect against the emotional and financial abuse (and physical and health) for the Chump, can’t they at least “repo” for the child?

    • I get so angry about this. Men fathering children, then refusing to step up to the plate and help cover the expenses of raising said child. I’ve known men who, once they found out they would have to pay child support, quickly burned through their assets, quit their jobs, went to live with their parents or shmoopie as a “room-mate”. All to avoid paying child support.

      I’m thinking an enforced vasectomy isn’t too harsh. If you won’t contribute to the expenses of those you’ve already helped bring into the world, you have no business fathering additional children. It can be reversed, once back-support is paid up.

      • Oh, now that’s the “Handmaid’s Tale”-style constraint of bodily autonomy that I would love to see!

      • I had that discussion with a friend once. She thought it didn’t make sense to send deadbeat parents to prison. I do think it makes sense, correct they can’t work from prison, but they also can’t (most of the time) produce more children; and they don’t have the freedom to live their life while their children starve.

        But sterilization is even better.

  • What pisses me off even more…..they don’t have to pay and they STILL have rights to see their kids, can ensue judicial abuse on the sane parent for YEARS, and can continue to live a lavish lifestyle without their wages garnished. It’s more than broken!

    • Agree, SC. It’s an outrage. I used to have a creepy neighbor who was divorced and kept going on about how child support and custody/visitation are separate issues, telling it to anyone who would stand still long enough to hear him. IOW, the deadbeat POS didn’t want to pay, yet expected to still see his kids, and was rationalizing. The law allows this and enforces it, but support is not enforced. It’s disgusting. I say if you won’t pay, you shouldn’t get to see the kids, nor are you safe for kids to be around, because that is child neglect. If custodial parents can’t afford to care for a child properly because the other parent doesn’t pay, they can have their kids taken away from them by the state, yet these bastards still get their kids. Nobody can tell me that isn’t gender-based discrimination, because most custodial parents are women.

  • It is appalling that people don’t step up to the plate and pay support while the custodial parent is left scrounging for dimes in the sofa to meet their kids’ basic needs. I realistically knew that I would never see a dime from my cheater ex because he was an addict and his money all went to support his addiction. Enforcement would have been impossible as he was rarely working.

    Ultimately his addiction caught up with him and he died shortly after the divorce of an overdose. Thankfully he had worked long enough in jobs that paid adequately so that I now get nice payments from the US government in the form of social security benefits for our two children until they each turn 18. So far the social security administration hasn’t been a deadbeat. Sadly, the ex is worth more dead than alive.

    • Sadly I had the same thing happen. FW paid exactly one child support payment, refused to pay the previous four months’ arrears (over $3K), and “miraculously” was suddenly able to work from home when my lawyer filed for child support (after spending all of lockdown crying about how he HAD to go into the office and being angry at me because my job allowed me to work remotely [actually I had no choice since they made everyone work from home]).

      He was a depressed alcoholic and decided that it was easier to check out than to try to clean up his mess (OW left him for abusing her and he suddenly had to pay for their expensive rental home on his own, the courts were tending my way, his lawyer quit for non-payment, he was up to his ears in debt, etc.). He killed himself with sleeping pills and booze.

      Now my son has a life insurance payout that will be a nice nest egg for college, and gets monthy SS checks that are double what FW was supposed to pay in child support.

      So yeah, ex is definitely worth more dead than alive. Plus I don’t have to deal with his ongoing abuse. It’s horrible to be happier after someone is gone, but that’s the reality. I didn’t wish harm on him, but I’m not sorry his poor choices caught up with him. I felt guilty for awhile, but I don’t know. I put in my time and dealt with a LOT of shit from him. I’m free now, and it’s wonderful.

    • Same here. I had our kids 88% of the time, yet the child support I received each month was a joke because we lived in an income shares state. Since I made slightly more than him, he got to pay less in child support, medical, school, etc. I would have certainly received much more in support had our state not changed from the % model which basically I would have gotten 28% of his net income for 2 kids. Once he unexpectedly died and because he had long term employment, Social Security pays nearly 4.5 times what monthly child support paid. While I didn’t wish death for my ex-h and I certainly wish my kids were spared this heart break, from a financial standpoint my feelings are ambivalent. The truth of not wondering when he was going to pay and if he’d fight me regarding reimbursements for kid expenses, there is no denying that life is simpler for me not having to deal with the narc and now we have more financial freedom. I consider myself fortunate because I know there are parents who frequently change jobs or get paid in cash to avoid child support collection.

    • Why couldn’t that just be the system?

      Don’t pay support for your kids now, fine, it comes out of your future social security. When you turn 65 you get a fraction of what you would have, or nothing, because it went to your kids.

      • I like that. They do it for folks who don’t pay their taxes. You don’t pay your taxes it comes back to the Feds until that debt is paid, then you get benefits if owed.

      • NotAnymore, because it makes too much sense and might benefit women and children, and punish men.

  • When I learned the amount in PA that qualified as “child support” for my kids I was amazed. It puts us just above the rate for any assistance – FW “acquires” six figures every year and I barely make 20,000 (I’m in school but working mostly full time). The phrase that was in my initial decree about “keeping children in a manner they were accustomed” is COMPLETELY ridiculous- My 18-year-old asked for sneakers and a bookbag for Christmas this past year- when we were married we spent $1000 on a birthday present so he could build his own computer, but now this kid KNOWS how poor I am, so he asks for very little (my younger son asked for NOTHING for christmas- of course, I got him what I could). We used to go on vacations (that I paid for) and they wanted for nothing. It’s SO sad to not be able to provide for your kids. I’m trying to finalize my divorce and we had almost come to an agreement when FW decreed that the agreement was not based on 50/50 custody- he wouldn’t provide for half of their needs in addition to the calculated child support (which would mean I would have to shoulder the burden of all expenses)- I have no idea how he thinks I will be able to feed his kids- he just doesn’t care because he’s never around and his Daddy has always paid for everything for him. I’m so disgusted with the system and how it “provides” for children. I am also disgusted with that constant cliche that women “make out” in divorce. While I will be allotted some alimony, child support is so low that EVERY SINGLE CENT will go to feeding the kids. It’s so ridiculous that I’ve been forced to consider letting FW have full custody so at least they’ll be fed. That would be awful and I hope my terrible lawyer can get me what I’ve been fighting for but I am absolutely devastated at how children are treated in this system.

    • Yep the “women make out” bilge is just that. I have seen very little evidence of it. Most live hand to mouth, and the lucky ones get some help from family and close friends.

      I have never been through that as my son was grown at our D time. I have know plenty of women who have gone through it. My best friends ex quit paying support. She eventually remarried and her H supported the kids with her also working. Her H wanted to take the fw to court and she asked me my opinion. I told her I agree with her H. Even if the legal fees are a wash or worse; make the asshole pay one way or the other. Once she filed he came around because if he left his job he was giving up a cushy retirement, so he bitched and moaned and tried to lay a guilt trip on her, because he had to borrow from his mom. I told her not her problem; that is between him and his mom.

      Asshole had plenty of money to spend on a woman 16 years younger than him, go on expensive golfing trips and buy himself top of the line clothing.

    • chumped48, I hope that you, and other American chumps here, will vote for the political party that wants to help families rather than just give lip service to “family values.” I’ll be voting for that party at every relevant election for the rest of my life. And I expect to live for many more years.

  • My ex emptied his seven-figure retirement accounts, quit his mid-six-figure job and fled the country, leaving me and our two pre-teen boys. Ex hasn’t seen or spoken to the boys in years and, because he’s apparently transferred his money to Europe (and/or his girlfriend), the state can’t collect any of the child support he owes.

    The unpaid amount is now approximately $100k, but I doubt the kids or I will ever see a penny of it.

    • Perhaps we were married to the same deadbeat 🙂

      Mine didn’t have any retirement accounts to empty, but did flee the country when I was a stay at home mom with 2 preschoolers. We ate lots of potatoes and eggs for a few years until I got back on my feet, while he called occasionally from exotic locations and drove a new Mercedes. He now owes $90,000+, and occasionally goes into the local Child Support enforcement office and either flirts/bullies the ladies there about how he needs his passport to travel around the world (the latest was a Greek cruise), despite claiming that he’s “indigent” while living in a $400,000 newly built home (that’s a really nice home in our part of the country). In the USA, I believe any arrears in excess of $5,000 keeps you from renewing a passport, but he claimed that everyone he knew overseas was dying, and they did renew it last time. I was told that they all hope it expires when he’s overseas somewhere, and that he’ll never be able to get back. A girl can dream…

      My only comfort is that the six figure balance he will own CAN be garnished from his Social Security payments some day…if he lives/I live that long. In total over the 15 years, I believe he’s paid on the average maybe $2,000 a YEAR, and much of that was either captured tax returns (he files jointly with the new wife, so that’s pretty much her money) or Covid stimulus money they were able to grab. So yeah, non-payment of child support pisses me off big time.

    • Evil bastard. I’m so sorry, Jane.
      What do you want to bet he’ll come back and expect them to take of him in his old age, once the schmoopies have all fled.

  • Here is my ultimate 💩sandwich. My ex cheated, got less than 50/50 custody and I HAD TO PAY HIM CHILD SUPPORT. He owns his own business and was able to hide money. Our order stated I paid all the kid’s expenses, carried their insurance BUT had 50/50 legal/medical decision making. The only thing he had to pay was 50/50 medical expenses. He had wifetress write reimbursement checks for one kid, but still owes and refuses to pay medical expenses for a hospitalization for this other for 12 years. Of course I paid it, but he still owes me. When this same kid got married, who paid for the honeymoon, rehearsal, clothes for sons, that’s right, me and stepdad.
    I rage to my MrChump regularly about how he treats the kids, now adult men. But not to them, they are adults but still kids. He can trash me all he wants, but I don’t unload on the kids.
    My MrChump was smart, he was able to finagle the support situation by having it in the paperwork that any expenses he owes ex for daughter comes out of the support amount. He knew she wouldn’t pay him a dime. Being an accountant, he has receipts and paperwork to prove what he paid. Hopefully some of you could use his experience to help you out.

    • Same here GG, I have to pay alimony because my deadbeat refused to work. I won more custody, so my alimony payment is a net value. I honestly doubt he will pay child support after I no longer have to pay alimony. Since the hearing, he has reminded me 2x!!!! I was never late. Do you think I will have the same luxury? Just a mile high pile of excuses. This is why women walk away. Why pay a lawyer 5k to collect 5k? Sad.

      Just sucks.

    • My ex is self-employed but his ego is so fragile he had to look good in front of the judge so he didn’t try to hide money. He had to look Successful and Wealthy.

  • As a grandparent with complete and sole legal custody (all parenting time and all decision making), I am grateful that I do not have to go through co-parenting struggles any more, and neither biodad nor granddad (my ex) are allowed any contact. Biomom has not wanted or requested any contact for over a decade. NOBODY pays child support, although both parents were ordered to. It’s particularly egregious that biodad was court ordered to pay a minimum of full time at minimum wage, yet somehow, without my knowledge, was able to reduce that to $5o per month, which he gets out of paying by refusing to work. Repeatedly when biomom is working, Child Support Enforcement fails to garnish her wages until I report where she works–quite difficult since she’s no contact. It should be automatic. And remember those COVID payments? Per government, at least in my state, only the first payment could be garnished. Subsequent funds went solely to the bioparents. That money should have gone to help these kids.
    Fortunately, there are programs that help grandparents and other kin raising these kids. If you are, or know someone who is, look for local resources for grandfamilies or kinship families, and check into Generations United which supports us and advocates for legal changes, including child support.

    • Yes, only the first Covid stimulus (the smaller one) could be garnished for child support. The bigger one could not. Talk about some bullshit politics on that one!

  • Mine ex husband is over $80,000 in arrears. He moved out of state so I called enforcement to learn what they could do to enforce the court order that says he must prove he’s looking for work. They can’t do that. Oh, because he’s out of state? No, they just can’t do that period.

    • I suspect that’s a lie, but it’s easier for a bored phone answerer to tell you that to make you go away. Court orders ABSOLUTELY can be enforced across state lines. Check with a lawyer.

  • This hurts so much to even read because I’m living it every day. I loved all the “use an attorney” guidance yesterday, but I can’t afford it. I can’t afford it in part because my ex doesn’t pay what he owes. It’s a vicious cycle.

    • SecondSelf, if you’re in the US, have you tried contacting Legal Aid or your state/county bar association? In many states there are Modest Means programs or ‘talk to a lawyer for an hour for very low cost’ programs.

  • The pisser on top of the shit is the amount of resources-time, financial, precious energy etc the has to be invested for a small hope of recovering anything. The ex was ordered $250 plus medical. I paid insurance which 250 didn’t even cover. I was so happy when the youngest turned 18 blockity block blocked. I still pay the insurance cause I care about their mental and physical health.
    I spent the first year after the divorce filing contempt charges because he has you’re not the boss of me syndrome with out of sight out of mind no benefit to me mixed in. He was responsible for direct deposit. He was a self employed sleight of hand there issss nooo money hereee. I brought the receipts and won each time. It cost me but not him a dime. I was never awarded attorney fees until the last time and it was only half. I’m just floored they don’t tack those onto what they owe because otherwise it’s just paying what they were supposed to to begin with without consequences of being continued controlling abusive jerk. I think four different judges went through that courtroom. The final hearing was him taking me to court to amend the agreement. He used the system to abuse me. Thankfully he lost that too. As I was walking out I heard the judge sarcastically say,” we wouldn’t want you to go to jail would we mr. ex?”

    • Hindsight, I should have added all attorneys fees are to be reimbursed if contempt charges are needed. I had no idea what I was up against.
      Secondly, I wish I’d have gone nuclear and sent subpoenas to everyone as a stance to not fuck with me. But I was/ am terrified of him and wanted a non confrontational break.

  • I plugged those numbers in the US Inflation Calculator. Talk about a real kick in the gut.

    Inflation Calculator
    If in
    (enter year)
    I purchased an item for $

    then in
    (enter year)
    that same item would cost:

    Cumulative rate of inflation:

    FWs who do not pay their child support are criminals – IMO.

  • I had to take the decision that it was just not worth pursuing Ex-Mrs LFTT for child support on the grounds that it would become another area in which she could drag her feet and cause me stress, and also knowing that she would take it out on our children …… this is a woman who willingly agreed to pay half of the costs of the therapy that our daughter needed to help her deal with the harm that Ex-Mrs LFTT had caused her, only to then gripe to our daughter how much it cost and that she couldn’t afford it. Youngest daughter felt so guilty that she insisted on stopping the therapy (which caused further damage) and only agreed to restart if I agreed to bear the whole cost.

    As an aside, she tried arguing with the Judge in our divorce case that she should only pay child support if I agreed to pay her spousal maintenance (we had agreed a clean break FFS); the Judge put her straight on that one in very short order. I guess that she short-changed our kids out of about £20K over the years, but that’s on her.


    • Sounds familiar LFTT. After 2.5 years of trying to get the FW to engage in a plan, my lawyer and I decided to mediate rather than court (long wait times in my country). He was $12k in debt to me already. The mediator pointed out that if I kept with child support, it would mean years of him owing me money and I would have to keep submitting paperwork and playing cat and mouse games with him. He reminded me my main goal was to be rid of him forever. So during mediation we had a ledger and I asked for a lump sum support payment. I wrote off the debt because I was never going to get it. So I bargained away my rights to child support to get rid of him and save my sanity. You see, he was one of those parents who thought child support was a “pay as you go” type system. Our daughter wanted to live with me full time to be with friends and school so ergo he figured he didn’t see her much, thus no money. I asked him once if she lived with him would he be willing to pay and he said yes 🤨 So I concluded when you’re dealing with an abusive, psychopath who doesn’t know how to adult, my chances of having things like child support were about zero. It was like living in the upside down world with his mindfuckery so I threw in the towel and moved on. I got screwed financially but I gained my sanity and I have our child. Priceless!

  • As an employer, I have always been amazed at how inept the state government is at enforcing child support. We are happy to garnish wages and mail in support payments when the order authorizing this finally gets to us, but it is often sooo slow in coming. All it should take is a software program cross referencing once per week social security numbers of those owing support against social security numbers reported on income tax withholding reports from employers (i.e. employed fathers). The orders go out, and the employers follow the orders. But I have known employees who went for years owing before the government finally produced the paperwork we need to garner wages. Government sucks at everything. There should be a commercial alternative. Like private debt collectors who flat fee this processing to ensure the garnishment orders quickly follow the employment of the father.

    • I agree. I had this glorious period of child support in the beginning when I got money due to garnished wages. So then the FW quit his job and did “contracting” work to hide money. It’s a playbook of lies out there!

    • There are simply more legal protections for money than children.

      Wages could be garnished, taxes could be garnished, future social security could be taken away and used to pay for child support. It’s all doable. But in our system money sways votes to change laws, and children and single mothers have no money and therefore little representation.

      Meanwhile rich men have been shaping financial laws in their favor for hundreds of years. I’d love to see stats on how many members of congress (and presidents) fathered illegitimate children they never paid for. I bet it’s staggering.

  • I didn’t have custody issues (both kids in college), but my ex didn’t care about their well-being (or mine) with how he handled separation and divorce.

    Partway into the divorce, my ex created all kinds of conditions on the college money and health insurance, and I took those items out entirely. I knew my ex would pay little or nothing and/or cancel their health insurance on a whim. Going to court to get what a well-off parent should help with didn’t do it for me. And it was a bargaining chip. So I said no. I told our offspring they might have to borrow, but they scrambled, and we got it. The older one got a remote job quickly despite the pandemic and chose to live at home, so having two people covering household expenses helped.

    Completely a good call. My ex canceled ALL of our health insurance before the divorce was final. Thankfully, I had the kids lined up but went without myself while I untangled that. My ex made the closeout long and expensive, like the divorce.

    The system is genuinely broken all around. I’m at the point where I wonder why anyone gets married, but I keep those thoughts to myself. I thoroughly appreciated every member of my legal team, but I don’t know how they stay sane. My original attorney retired the day after the judge signed, and he was frank that the whole field of divorce law had become so mind-blowingly complicated and unfair that he had no problem letting go. Thankfully, he got mine done.

  • The two real concerns of mine today are the uncanny ability of a cheater to morally disengage from their treacherous actions, and the injustice of cheating and abandonment of spouses and children becoming mainstream. Thank you very much, Chumplady, for addressing these topics.

    The instinct of cheaters to pursue another person until obtained, with no thought of damage caused to existing family seems to outweigh the centuries old learned morality that holds society together. You would think that the results of their immoral actions would cause cheaters to reconsider, like watching your spouse shaking with trauma, or vomiting with disgust, or losing 30 pounds, or hearing your children begging you to come back. You would think ( if you are a chump) that these results would shake a cheater into reality.

    Some might think that there is a spectrum, upon which people fall in terms of moral integrity, but there is not. There is morality and immorality. These entitled people, without a conscience, are the ones who start wars in the world, who commit genocide, who put children in residential schools and beat the crap out of them, and are the people who drive over animals on the road deliberately.

    Serious transgressions exhibiting entitlement, extreme selfishness and the absence of any emotion for spouse and family, and other living things, is psychotic. I hope I am wrong but it seems that about 40% of the population falls into the immoral camp.

    The result for me, of realizing that this is the case, is serious depression. Can you talk me out of this? Is there a way to accept this and live with it?

    • Hi Ironwood,

      Since you asked to be talked out of it, I’ll just respond to what your words made me ponder. I do think there are many, many people who respond to tears and shaking and to all the signs of distress we display with something more akin to cold curiosity than empathy. They think, “I caused this reaction?” like they’re fathoming that if they throw a stone into a lake it causes ripples. Our tears are just ripples; our voices, just the sound of the wilderness making a noise as a response to their only-human-in-the-universe actions. They look on and gauge the degree of their power, not the degree of our urgent need for care.

      I don’t think 40% deliberately drive over animals on the road. My grandfather was apparently exactly such a person (my father has a horrible story about a bag of new kittens). But I do think many people who consider themselves good people would put kids in residential school, use corporal punishment, sign a regressive anti-women’s choice law, dismiss their Black colleagues’ concerns, divert that grant meant for Native redress into a corporate initiative that benefits “everyone,” passively condone their co-worker getting bullied, etc. That for some, their own children and spouse are included in the “less powerful people that society expects me empathize with, but that I definitely don’t have to if it comes at a cost to me” and are a subset of people with the human propensity to put others after their own self-interest, surprises me less and less. For me, the risk of serious depression is seeing how many people don’t have to drive over kittens in order to enact a mundane, low-key, ongoing evil in the world. Maybe that is about 40%? I actually think it’s higher. Sorry, I’m thinking of some people at work! Who are otherwise lovely and have friends and teach young people how to write great sentences but will watch my Native colleague crying in a meeting and then shit-talk about her in the hallway.

      What’s been helping me is realizing this IS in fact other people’s orientation, not my failure to explain or justify my needs. Believing that showing the shaking and losing weight SHOULD give them pause has been such a mindf*ck, because that IS what our stress responses are for, to indicate distress so that the system, the healthy social/familial ecology, can respond with care and repair. A healthy person should respond to their partner’s tears, and to their children’s vulnerability, with concern. But that so many in the world are not emotionally healthy, that we live in societies that cultivate emotional numbness / coldness in the service of personal profit, means there will be many who flip into self-preservation mode when confronted with our emotional integrity and basic sociobiological, interdependent need.

      I’m not sure that’s any less depressing. I guess what I’m getting at is that accepting other people being effed up emotionally makes me less depressed because I stop feeling there’s something I could / should do about how others fail to validate my needs. It’s still horrifying to watch someone actively damage a child. It’s still horrifying to watch women’s rights be stripped. Coming to expect dehumanization from others, rather than shocked, has helped me stop feeling gutted. It also makes me appreciate the rarity and preciousness of communities that offer integrity and support, like CN!

    • Ironwood, I can’t say I agree with the notion that there isn’t a spectrum. I do know, for example, that not every FW is a deadbeat parent or a potential serial killer. So a spectrum exists.
      I do think you’re right that at least 40% of people are morally challenged, but I don’t believe all of them are so bereft of conscience that they are capable of the most heinous acts. Most of them are the more ordinary, trivial kind of assholes like my FW.

      The only way to live with how shitty people are, in my experience, is to actively resist it and remove yourself from society as much as is feasible. Speak up. Take on bullies if you can, but keep your home as a private sanctuary from the pitfalls of the human race so you can rest and regroup after dealing with it. It’s how I’ve always lived with it. Maybe it will help you, too.

    • Thanks for your replies, Magnolia and OHFFS. very much appreciated as I know I am off topic in this thread.
      Perhaps there is a level of cruelty spectrum, but as far as cheating on your spouse goes, there’s a very distinct line one has to cross. Yes or No.
      Luckily there are 60% of the people (or so) who would never cross that line. But they could have a cruel streak.
      I was inspired yesterday by seeing a new book come out by David Johnston ( former 25th Governor General of Canada) titled ‘Empathy: Turning Compassion into Action’.
      An excerpt from the preface, “He is devoted to his family’s happiness and uses the emotional nourishment he gets, relies on, and cherishes from them to teach us why and how empathy starts at home. Yet he is also a public intellectual and servant, so he finds guiding metaphors in the public sphere too, especially those he has personally seen or experienced, to help us understand how to improve our economy, save the climate, protect refugees and minorities, invest in ideas, stay healthy, listen with an open mind, strive for fairness, and be brave.”
      I am looking forward to reading his book.

  • I have always (to this day) found the issue of child support ridiculously circuitous and confounding. Start with the way it is calculated… number of days, who’s the custodial, who earns what (but what if FW earns under the table), is it safe to ask for a review of the amount when the FW stops showing up for visitation, how do I really know what I’m eligible for – I still look back at court documents that were modified on site by the attorneys with a pen to revise the numbers the last minute. It feels like it is purposely confusing to make us already tired sane parents just give up the fight and accept crumbs (if we’re lucky).

    My child support was set in 2016 when Mr. Sparkles had dinner 2x/week and visitation every other weekend with our son. Six months later, he moved in with a new girlfriend (see definition of parasite) and cut his rent in half. BUT on our support calculations it was the full amount (same with expenses). In 2019, he was down to 1x/week dinner at pizza place or chik fil a and zero weekend visitation. He had a new job where he was earning 25% more in his salary and he and the GF bought a house together. But, if I want child support reviewed, I have to go back to court. And my fear – what if the courts LOWER IT – so, I put my head down, figure out a way to give my child what he needs with what I have and move on.

    College is around the corner. I’ve got a 529… I’ve set an expectation with Mr. Sparkles of what his annual contribution is likely to be – but there will be no way to enforce it. None. And then, as it has been since forever, it will be on me.

    And what keeps me going… MY KID. He didn’t ask for this shitshow. He survived the insanity of NPD parent abandonment. He’s on a good path and by hell or highwater or Mr. Sparkles, I will be the sane parent. He deserves that much.

    I could vent forever… but want I really want to say is THANK YOU… to people like you CL and others who are advocating for the narrative to change and the inequities to be addressed. It is an unsung hero role. And, even if we can’t change everything we would like to… we are finding our voice and that is something to celebrate!

    • My kids kept me going too. They were commuter college students but still showed up in the negotiations.

      My ex was all about providing funds for them for living expenses, tuition, and health insurance, but he quickly dropped the first category, and I took out the other two, knowing that it would never happen. I gave him the information from the college on how to contribute whatever he felt approach to their accounts in lieu of putting that in the agreement, but he never did.

      Thankfully they rode the bus to a wonderful state college that met all their criteria and dug up ways of mostly paying for it themselves. I covered living expenses and helped here-and-there. In way that was better because they weren’t beholden to him and had the satisfaction of figuring it out. Both are acing their professions and adult lives.

      • Elsie – couldn’t agree more… I don’t want my son to have to feel like he has to “kiss the ring” of his fuckwit father. Glad your kids can see him for who he his… I pray my son gets there, right now there is still some hopium toking going on, expect that to lessen as he gets older and wiser.

  • Thank you Chump Lady for shining a very brilliant and bright light on this issue as only you can. Your analysis is so incredibly articulate, cut and clear. The comparisons you make to the repo man, etc are right on point! We need you addressing Congress! You truly are a wordsmith – thank you for everything you do.

  • “Every chump knows the pain of over-performing so a shitheel can underperform.”

    This. Every single bit of this. That was my life in my marriage, during the divorce, and after the divorce.

    In my state (Tennessee), the legislators cleverly put a cap on the amount of child support that can be levied no matter how high the other parent’s income. Probably because too many of them think women and children don’t count for much. And of course the ex eventually decided to stop paying child support and alimony. When I took him to court to get what he owed me, the asshole tried to claim that he didn’t owe anything (I guess he was conflating child support and alimony?) because I was cohabiting with another man. But the “man” in question was my other son who was a college student. The judge asked the fuckwit’s lawyer if she was implying there was some kind of incestuous relationship going on. And when the judge asked what his income was, the ex told her it was $200,000 a year. The judge was so FURIOUS! And the ex had sufficient funds to write me a check to cover the unpaid child support, alimony, and my legal fees the next day. Because the required child support was much less than you’d think based on his income. Child support in this country is a joke.

  • The system is and has been broken. Seems like no one in power cares to change it. My experience: in a progressive western state, youngest’s child support was at the “max” and amounts to 1/90th of XH’s monthly income. I put every dime received into her college account because I have the privilege of earning enough to do so and pay for our lives and I knew XH would use $$ to threaten and manipulate her if I didn’t save $$for her college. Fuck him and his threats now — she doesn’t need his filthy money to get educated. I got sole custody. It cost 5x the child support to actually support her and that’s living a life far economically reduced from what it was during our 25 year marriage. That’s reality of divorce. I earn 1/7th of what XH earns. I am so glad I divorced him — he’s a monster.

  • My dad left in the 1970s and never paid a dime of support. Three young children. He had a great job. Recently, I found the divorce papers where he agreed to nearly $1,000 a month is child support and alimony. A few days after signing this agreement, he skipped off into the sunset with his newly revealed second family and never looked back.

    He chose to resettle in Texarkana area – an Oklahoma address but just a few miles from both Texas and Arkansas. The local sheriff would receive paperwork occasionally and drop by his house saying, “Sam, I have some paperwork for you. I’ll be back in a bit with it.” And Sam, schmoopie and new family would take an impromptu day trip across the state line. This went on for a decade. Never a dime came through in support.

    • I plugged $1000 into that inflation calculator, used 1975 as the year and in today’s dollars he was an even bigger FW and thief than you may have suspected.


    • I consider people like this sociopathic. If you turn your back on your children you are a sociopath.

      I would like to share with you, and hope that it might give you a chuckle, an account given to me by a coworker of sorts. In my state these people who work for the government go after absent parents in every way. Because there are so many deadbeats they only go after the bad ones in court. The rest of them they try by talking to them. In this case a man came into her office, all 105 pounds of her, and loomed over her in his dog collar with studs in it and whatever else he had on that day. He told her there was no way she was going to make him pay the thousands of dollars he owed in child support. She said this is how it’s going to go either I’m going to come around this desk and get your balls and put them on that windowsill and chop them off or I’m taking you to court but either way I’m getting your money. He paid

      • LOL. Great story.

        Yes, it’s a hard heart that doesn’t value your own children. My attorney (now retired) was a very dedicated family man from all I knew during my divorce, and he said that in 40+ years of practice, he still didn’t get how a father could ever ignore the needs of their children, much less their partner in life, regardless of what ever slight they’ve committed.

        He commented that there certainly are people who divorce, pay their obligations, and actively stay in their children’s lives. But given that he was at the level where he picked only the cases he truly wanted and his love of complicated high-conflict cases, most of the opposing counsel’s clients were like my ex. And he LOVED fighting his way through that sort of thing. Gosh, lucky me, but he was an outstanding individual.

      • “I consider people like this sociopathic. If you turn your back on your children you are a sociopath.”

        Great story. I believe my FW meets his financial obligations in part because he is afraid I would beat the shit out of him if he did not. This is very useful, so I do not disabuse him of that notion.

  • I’m fortunate that I don’t have to pay because of almost 50/50 and I cover medical, but it’s still a kick in the teeth to pay half the bills when she’s making more and used me as a bank account and cheated, and is sooned to be married. My fault for trusting someone like her.

    I really wish there was at fault, but that’s not going to change.

    • I don’t place fault on a trusting spouse. That is kind of what we are supposed to do. I also don’t think there is anything wrong with our pickers, if they hid who they are. Especially those of us who married young.

      Lots of con artists out there and I would say most of us unknowingly chose one.

  • I got sole custody of our 15-year old son. X was ordered to pay $665 per month in child support. That amount got paid because the state of Texas garnished X’s wages. X was also ordered to pay half of Son’s medical expenses. I would send X a copy of the bill and request reimbursement. He would drag his feet, stall, ask for the doctor’s report, etc.

    The most infuriating was the following exchange after a routine dentist checkup, where X acquired the nickname of Flouride Truther.

    Me: Here is the dentist bill. Please re-imburse me for $12.50, which is half of the $25 for the (non-covered) post-cleaning flouride rinse.

    Flouride Truther: No

    Me: ???

    FT: Flouride isn’t real. It’s just a made-up gimmick by greedy dentists. And, anyway, it was your choice to give it to him. I will not be paying.

    And he did not.

    What is maddening about the court system is the cost-benefit ratio of enforcing support. What would it cost to file a Motion for Contempt? A lot more than $12.50. So, I paid and X smirked at my helplessness. I could feel it through the OFW emails. Ugh.

    How about a Friday challenge for tomorrow? What pathetic excuse for non-paying did you get, fellow Chumps?

    • Eve that’s the stupidest most conspiracy theorist comment I’ve heard and I’ve heard a LOT!
      I’m so sorry this is laughable. What an idiot I am so sorry

  • When they’re done, they’re DONE.

    Long before they left you they made a conscious decision to lay to waste their past. Your welfare, or that of their children, is rarely of importance forward. Few are those whose impression management stays the long course.
    Fewer are those that manage to both support and make time for their children. If you get even a few years of support, consider it a bonus.

    The hard truth is that you cannot have expectations nor count on these people to be responsible or obligated to anything but themselves. You have to forge a new life that covers the needs of your family and children without expecting anything from the ex. It’s not fair, but it is reality and bears out that breeding with disordered people comes at great risk.

  • Yes! I was hoping you would do a current post on child support. Currently going through a child support modification case now. I don’t know what is less than nothing but the fuckwit is fighting for it. My state’s child support enforcement seized his bank account. So what does a fuckwit do? Closes all bank accounts in his name. I’m sane parenting, have full custody, working full time, trying to pay all the bills and drowning. While he does nothing.

    • And probably doing the heavy-lifting of parenting. That part bugged me too. He was off doing whatever with whoever, and I was dealing with kids in the crises of their life while working three jobs. Thankfully, I maintained their respect eventually, and we are close. They have nothing to do with their father.

  • My FW makes over $500k/year – he pays child support ( $10k/year) buuuut….he wiped out her $60k college fund- way more than he’s paid. FW gonna FW.

  • A view of the future for those whose cheaters don’t support the kids. No child support from cheater (stalled agreement till youngest was over 18). Supported kids while they studied demanding courses (we lived frugally). Kids have (just) completed quals and have very little to do with their father.

  • Hmm. You give me an idea. Why don’t states turn support enforcement over to debt collection agencies? Or make any FW who is behind on child support pay the chump’s legal fees or sit in jail until they pay up?

    • Great point. States are privatizing everything else willy-nilly even when this brings dire consequences to the public (water privatization schemes and lead-laced municipal water in Flint come to mind). This hints at possible political reasons why states wouldn’t also effectively privatize child support enforcement. Like, em, the fact that a lot of politicians and powers that be go through marriages and families like doses of salt?

  • My ex owes $90,000. I didn’t even ask for half of medical, half of college, half of activities…He also hasn’t paid half of the legal fees/mortgage that was owed. And somehow he was still approved to buy a fancy new house, renew his passport, and sponsor his current wife’s immigration. Talk about some bullshit rules.

    After a rough start, my kids and I have built a new life. They appreciate and are responsible with money; and also have very giving hearts toward people in need. We joke about what would ever happen if Captain Marvelous ever paid what he owed, and they insist that I spend the money on myself so I can relax and “not work so hard”. I have accepted he will never pay, but do comfort myself with a verse (1 Timothy 5:8) that makes it pretty clear God’s not a fan of deadbeat parents.

  • I promise the following is relevant to issues of child support, divorce, abuse and cheating.

    I’m hoping multiple organizations like Jane Does Well will view the Ana Walshe case in Massachusetts as a rallying point to add coercive control legislation to domestic violence laws in that and every other state and will join forces with legislative lobbies like Americas Conference to End Coercive Control (the acecc . com).

    Following the Walshe case has given me nightmares and nausea and I really don’t have the stomach to be a true crime follower but I’ve been transfixed since the first national report of Ana Walshe’s disappearance on New Year’s day. I immediately Googled her name and the word “divorce” after seeing the missing person headline because I sensed the story was loaded with issues that are discussed on CN. I was also thinking of the case of Jennifer Dulos in Connecticut, a situation in which an emotionally abusive cheater– after his wife refused his demented bid to move his AP into his marital home with his wife and kids, left him, filed for divorce, reported his harassment and verbal threats and then filed for full custody– “disappeared” his wife in a case that began with a simple missing persons report just like the Walshe case.

    Also like in the Walshe case, the body of Jennifer Dulos was never found. Like in the Dulos case, there was an apparent history of emotional abuse, threats, coercion and control by accused killer Brian Walshe and also potential money and custody motives. The Dulos case and the very similar case of another Connecticut mother who was murdered by a STBX formed the basis of “Jennifer’s Law” in that state, a “coercive control” statute that was added to existing domestic violence laws that gives victims of “sub-violent” psychological/emotional/verbal abuse, coercion and control grounds to get orders of protections before the abuse spirals into violence or murder. Civil coercive control statutes in Hawaii and California are similar but go farther and aid victims of chronic sub-violent abuse in getting full custody of children. Criminal coercive control laws in the UK and Scotland go the farthest and can involve prison time for offenders.

    As the Walshe case unfolds, even more similarities to the Dulos case are becoming apparent and now Brian Walshe has been charged with murder. I may be jumping the gun but I suspect the Walshe case will underline further reasons to get behind coercive control legislation even if it’s not clear Ana Walshe was actively trying to escape at the time she was killed. Would Ana Walshe, who may have been particularly vulnerable to coercion because she was an immigrant originally from Serbia, have stayed in what appears to have been a messy and menacing marriage if she could have been assured her husband couldn’t carry out any of the classic coercive and controlling threats we can imagine an abuser in this situation making (taking full custody of children, getting her deported, wrecking her career, goading her that he’d never have to pay child support, etc.)? Does the very depth of Stockholm syndrome in victims partly hinge on the viability of coercive and controlling threats or even just victims’ gut sense that abusers will take things that far based on general coercive behavior? What would happen if these types of typical hamstringing threats were made empty? Aside from protecting victims after escape, would effective coercive control laws even lessen the likelihood of victims sinking fully into captor bonding and hesitating to escape until it’s too late? I’d like to see that social experiment.

    Just a side note on the case that may be relevant to child support, there was a report today that convicted fraudster and alleged killer Brian Walshe did a Google search for the “best state for divorce for a man” shortly before his wife’s disappearance on New Year’s day this year. One headline prematurely blared that Brian Walshe killed his wife because he wanted to divorce her (hinting that he decided divorce was too expensive). The problem with the theory is that Ana Walshe may have been secretly making moves to leave the marriage after taking a job in DC and preparing the DC home for her children to live in full time. In any case, Brian Walshe may have interpreted and reacted to cues that his wife wanted to or *could* leave and, being an obviously money-obsessed crook, may have begun to worry about the financial consequences. His wife’s murder may be partly an expression of what he felt about the idea. Some would argue that enforcing child support only increases the motive for spousal murder. But what if she could have escaped with the support of the state before he built up a head of steam about it, based on other controlling behaviors?

    Or did Brian Walshe want to divorce his wife because he had her replacement lined up? Did he kill her in a fit of rage because she was onto him? It’s so far unknown if alleged killer Brian Walshe was so desperate for money because part of his high-spending lifestyle included hookers and/or side bets but, in my experience working in DV, most abusers cheat. In any event, I’ve been watching to see if the hookers and side pieces start cropping up in the Walshe story if just because perp cheating was involved in both cases that “Jennifer’s Law” in Connecticut was based on.

    Here’s the relevant thing for CN: the patterns of sub-violent abusive behavior described in many coercive control statutes would be terribly familiar to any chump. I’m chewing on a theory that DV, in essence, may be largely if not definably based on abusers enforcing sexual double standards but it’s besides the point. The fact is many chumps– male and female– describe patterns of abuse that precisely define coercive control. Though outlawing adultery itself is too problematic to be legislatable in democratic societies, outlawing many the abusive behaviors that typically facilitate cheating might at last provide some justice and protections for chumps and their children.

    It may be a while before legislators and the public come to understand what advocates on the ground know: that cheating is almost always an element in domestic abuse if not the central MO of abusers. One obstacle to a wider understanding of this is that abuse victims seeking justice and protection are typically discouraged from mentioning perpetrators’ cheating because of the tendency of bystanders and even those in helping professions to misinterpret (either willfully or out of ignorance) victims’ descriptions of infidelity as proof victims “fabricated” abuse out of “jealousy.” I’ve seen DAs drop cases based solely on the victim’s inclusion of infidelity in perfectly documented reports of felony battering. Consequently victims are advised to leave those elements out and, in turn, those aspects are less likely to end up in the literature on abuse. Another issue that lends to this misinterpretation of cheating within domestic abuse is that bystanders and less experienced helping professionals don’t understand why discovery of cheating is often the “last straw” that drives chronic abuse victims to finally make a run for it. But the answer for that is easy: victims will generally try to leave when the danger of staying exceeds the very considerable danger of trying to leave (70-fold increased risk of being killed by an abuser within two weeks of escape). And one signal that the danger of staying has ramped up is when victims sense they’ve lost the one remaining reassurance that their abusers might keep them alive– because the abuser still has sexual “use” for them. But when an abuser seems to be seeking to replace the victim, that one last shred of reassurance and window of safety disappear and the danger of staying starts to match or exceed the danger of leaving. Furthermore, even if the culture lags in understanding something fundamental about abuser psychology, victims may have the gut knowledge that most abusers have a sort of Louis XV “after me, the flood!” attitude towards partners. Relating to something called “masked dependency” in domestic abusers, even abusers who seem to have completely switched allegiances to new partners often act like dogs with two bones and can’t bear the idea that their former victims will go on to have fulfilling lives and relationships without them. This can explain why so many abusers/cheaters will relentlessly target their victims’ self esteem so that the abuser can reassure themselves that victims will be left too traumatized and broken to ever escape of their own volition or to move on in the case the victim is abandoned. Apparently some abusers don’t leave things to chance, require more reassurance of partners’ paralysis and will kill their partners. Most situations don’t turn lethal but will still involve degrees of scorched earth psychological abuse, coercion and control. The point being that even an abuser seeking to leave a partner is little reassurance that the abuser won’t kill and that money motives aren’t the only reason why.

    There’s already a worldwide push to add coercive control legislation and I’m afraid if chumps don’t get directly involved in shaping the language of CC laws, the laws could end up overly broad and double-edged similar to dual arrest DV policies in some regions. Dual arrest laws have been criticized for allowing victims to be arrested and charged with assault (based on the word of batterers) when victims were merely trying to ward off blows and defend themselves. Similarly, laws defining coercive control have the potential to be unfairly double edged in the sense that, say, spying on partners’ phones or online activities– something mentioned in UK legislation– is a typical thing for chump to do to protect themselves from STDs or other dangers involved in cheating such as financial abuse. It’s also a natural gesture to find proof before making an accusation since cheaters/abusers lie and gaslight so much or may try to hide assets or take other punishing measures if they sense their victims are onto them (and some will kill). By rights there should be fine points and exceptions in the language of coercive control laws. Of course any abuser could argue that any such loophole applies to them by pretending their reasons for controlling and snooping partners’ phone use and online activities were based on suspicions of cheating but, in well-crafted laws based on overall abusive patterns, snooping would be only one of many coercive and controlling behaviors, not something taken on its own.

    It wouldn’t be the worst thing if finely-tuned coercive control legislation raised cultural awareness for what constitutes coercive and controlling behavior and even betrayed partners were discouraged from going over the top and gonzo in their efforts to sleuth and prevent infidelity. The wiser thing is to get out. But to the extent that evidence of infidelity can be a tactical advantage for victims trying to protect themselves, escape and get fair settlements and support, the laws shouldn’t end up as traps for chumps’ understandable protective responses to signs of adultery and the patterns of abuse that typically come with adultery. I think chumps need to step into the ring on this.

    • Wrinkle in the Walshe case: According to the Boston Globe, Ana Walshe had been married to Mark Knipp, a chef at one of the hotels she worked at, when she got involved with Brian Walshe in 2008 and Walshe didn’t divorce her first husband until six years after her involvement with Brian Walshe began. Some speculate that the marriage to Knipp may have been a green card or open marriage but it’s unclear. If it was straight-up betrayal and adultery, it could lend to cautionary studies on “mate poachers” and psychopathic tendencies. In any event, the punishment exceeds the crime and trolling comments on Reddit and social media along the lines of “no wonder he killed her” are repulsive. As abusive as it is, two-timing is not legally punishable by death so Ana Walshe’s potential former adultery is hardly justification for her killer. No news so far on whether Brian Walshe may have been previously married himself.

    • How many women have to be killed by their spouses or SO’s before people recognize that it’s at epidemic levels and is actually a slow form of genocide, or more accurately, gendercide? People just don’t want to face this awful reality. Thanks for all you do, HOAC.

    • The problem with any theoretical solution such as coercive control laws – more bureaucracy, more
      corruption, and most scary of all more weapons for the abuser…

      I was a victim of severe coercive control with 2 episodes of plain physical abuse and lots of violent rape in 4 years of marriage, 2 kids. Despite being divorced 15 years (kids now 17 and 16), and him long remarried, abuse continues via co-parenting & my and my son’s life remain a terror.

      He’s been convicted of a felony assault on my son and has numerous police records against him, yet he got full custody and all the cops and local court systems support him. One time my son poured a bit of bleach on his carpet and other minor things after an altercation (he’d thrown out all my son’s stuff) and FW got the cops and DA to charge son with a criminal offense 4 months later just because he was mad over other things. They complied. My son was literally getting sick and having nightmares of his dad killing him.

      Finally after escalating abuse, just weeks before HS graduation, FW decided to pull him from school & keep him from graduation & college. It was an obvious abuse move to keep him from his freedom. A school district admin worker had to intervene to get a court order to graduate him. Son stays with me for summer per order, yet FW got the prosecutor to charge me with kidnap and contempt for picking him a week early, ie right after graduating on 5/22 vs on 6/1. They continued to harass us all summer. My son was heading to college but FW wanted to destroy us as he felt loss of his weaponized control. We’ve spoken to social workers, school counselor over the past 2 years, yet the corrupt courts and cops support the abusive scumbag. I heard he socializes with the judge. I still live in fear as my daughter (golden child) will soon be out and I know he’ll get into a massive rage over the loss of coercive power.

      My experience tells me plainly, a motivated abuser will always win over the scared traumatized victim. Protection orders only serve to enrage the abuser and exacerbate the violence. The system is corrupt. Corruption always favors the powerful. No law or police force or bureaucracy can fix this.

      • Get your kids to a counselor who is well-versed in parental alienation. Document everything. The only way a DVPO works is to let the fool expose himself, and you abide every letter of any legal document. Short term pain for long term gain.

      • I went through the criminal process in convicting a workplace stalker and recognize what you’re talking about. I saw it again when trying to protect a disabled child from an abusive school district and corrupt state DOE. I worked in advocacy for DV survivors and saw more things that made me despair of humanity. In advocacy we had to coach survivors around the corruption and biases in the system to get anything close to justice because simply being innocent and telling the truth was rarely enough to do this. But I also saw that effort, experience, out-thinking corrupt operators and well-written legislation could occasionally win the day and improve the system. In the end I know there are things that could fix this but it’s a long haul with a lot of backsliding and the effort never ends. I hope you and your son are getting the support you deserve after that horrifying experience.

  • I learned early on to not rely on any child support payments. Then his wages were garnished…so he worked for cash. I once received a child support check in the amount of $.01. Yes, one cent! I saved it and didn’t even bother to cash it.

  • My eldest daughter’s bio-dad decided to be a deadbeat who wouldn’t work, so I never got a dime from him. Being a single mom with no support of any kind left me vulnerable to the FW who came after him (FW had a decent job), so I do blame him to some extent. FW adopted my eldest after we married. The bio-dad signed away his rights because he didn’t give a shit and was glad to let somebody else take responsibility.

    Deadbeat parents are child abusers. Neglect is abuse. They belong in prison. I am not in Massachusetts, but will send a donation to that wonderful organization, and for a nice touch of irony, I’ll put it on the credit card FW pays the bills for per our agreement. I hope they take Mastercard. 😁
    Thankfully, the FW is too big a narcissist to want to be seen as deadbeat, so he pays whatever I want him to.

    • Yes, “deadbeat” neglect is criminal and it’s insanely hypocritical of the US system for not treating it as such. Since DCF started partially privatizing (cough, “public-private partnerships”) and US-based international adoption companies “came home to roost (and profit)” after getting thrown out of third world countries for stealing children and selling them to the rich, the bar for what constitutes neglect and abuse shifted and non-abused kids started getting removed from homes basically for poverty. Since a healthy baby could get luxury import car prices on the adoption market and private foster care could profit from removal, incentives to remove children rose even as rates of serious child abuse dropped dramatically since the 1970s. Ironically, the most abused and endangered children might be left in place in those dynamics because children with reactive attachment disorder aren’t hot items on the “market.” Last I checked, private prison companies started investing in private juvenile psychiatric centers and juvenile disciplinary gulags in some states so I suppose that’s where the not-hot kids could theoretically be sent.

      Obviously child welfare has to exist and could potentially do good but the system can be terrifying when it goes wrong. I haven’t waded into the issue in a while so I’m not sure if things have improved, though ten years ago the situation was becoming dire, especially since dependency court has no rule of law, jury or discovery. Because courts differ and cases are based on the discretion of investigators, outcomes could vary widely in different regions. The point is, if the above could been incentivized but enforcement of child support has not, it brings up the question of whether letting deadbeat parents off the hook facilitates wrongful but profitable child removal by further impoverishing custodial parents.

  • This is refreshing! I am currently studying social work and love hearing this. I always enjoy reading your posts Mrs CL.
    When I went downtown Detroit to fight for some child support I was told to “go home Mrs…- he isn’t coming”. But if the state was owed a piece of that I truly believe stricter enforcement would’ve been applied. It was so bad that some of my closest people didn’t believe that I WENT! Seriously? Why would I lie about going to get help for my child?
    Anyway, he ended up paying $100/ week from age 14-her 18th birthday when he proclaimed to HER “yay no more child support”.
    Happy birthday babygirl. I’m so sorry he is your “father”.
    Fast forward she’s turning 26. He doesn’t even call her.
    Case closed. May they all pay for what they’ve done to these beautiful humans. She is SO LOVED.
    Thanks for sharing about this organization!

  • I had 2 experiences with child support. When my first marriage ended after 25 years (28 together) – no cheating involved – I chased money across the country for 6 years to pay my child support, provide health insurance for my kids and to help pay for college, cars, and high school expenses. I filed for Ch. 13 bankruptcy 2 years after the divorce to eliminate debt and still paid my child support and did everything I could do for my kids. My first ex was able to retire early and wound up taking care of her sick parents until they died. Both of my kids are very successful but they hate me for leaving home, 1 refuses to talk to me and the other barely talks to me. I understand but it hurts. My second wife cheated on me from day 1, took drugs behind my back and was paid child support for 2 kids who would not visit or stay with her by her first husband. She used my generosity and her child support money to support her drug habit and her boyfriend. No one knew what she was doing until her double/triple life became too much for her and she ran away from home to be with her boyfriend. When she came home from her drug bender she expected everyone to roll over and pretend like nothing was wrong. The father of her children went to court and was able to end the child support. I divorced her. Now she is “happy” taking drugs with her boyfriend and working part time at a health club. Her children love her and yearn for a relationship with her that she is not capable of giving.

    • PS – thanks for the link to Jane Does Well. I’ve passed it on to women I’ve met who are struggling.

    • So many stories from male chumps make it seem like there’s a warped gender theme going on with a lot of she-cheaters– they tend to betray good providers for knuckle-dragging thugs. Male cheaters seem to go for the same exaggerated, cartoon “yin/yang” dynamics but in reverse. Were they all imprinted by porn?

  • Child support is the bare fkn minimum! BARE MINIMUM and even that FWs can’t do. I’ve been to court more times than I care to count and it’s such a ruse, a racket, or however you describe a shitty widget making operation full of depressed lineworkers. The human factor is lost. O FW got a new job he’s trying now, O he has a list of titled vehicles and a new boat(they’re broken and have no value)…not once did anyone ask how the kids were doing or what they needed and required more documents for what I was doing[insurance, wage statements] than FW (he could just testify without documents). The system is built for victims, and that’s FW’s favorite role.

  • My state of Montana does okayish in terms of collecting. Some of it is delayed collecting, but they do seem to take it seriously.

    My ex owed me support when he died (measly $500 a month). The OW sold their house and child support had a lien on the title. I got the back support and his wife was upset because it was HIS debt that she didn’t think she should have to pay.

    She also asked me in May if she could claim MY kid on her taxes because my ex was allowed by the court to claim her for 2021. He hadn’t filed yet when he died, so I claimed her quick on an amended return. If OW couldn’t claim her, she was going to owe $3,000 because he got a huge sign on bonus for taking a job as a correctional nurse and didn’t pay the tax on it up front. So… she got stuck paying that too.

    She got a $150K life insurance policy when he killed himself that she didn’t give my girls a dime of after testifying at a custody hearing how she considered them her “bonus daughters,” and THEN had the AUDACITY to ask me if she could claim MY kid on HER taxes and bitch about how she had to pay his back child support out her house sale. 🤯

    • And then the single mom is shamed for turning to welfare to scrape by while society just accepts all these deadbeat dads without missing a beat

  • I recently found out that my cheater ex raided our kid’s college fund because, in his words to our child, “I had to pay child support to your mother.” He paid a paltry amount for 2 years while I was finishing up my advanced degree (that we had agreed as a married couple I would pursue) after receiving more than half of our assets in the divorce because I was tired of fighting and just kept making concessions. He paid this paltry amount while being gainfully employed as tenured high-level staff. During this time, he bought a giant house and went on numerous vacations. But yea, he “needed” to raid the kids college fund.

    So now, I have a couple of years to figure out how to pay for said child’s college…because I know damn well he ain’t gonna contribute.

    These people have no sense of shame. But, as it turns out, my teenager absolutely knows who’s there for her and who funds all of this stuff and who works long hard hours to do so…that’s me! We’re already talking about college costs and what I can pay and what she’ll need to contribute to. Her dad will have zero say in any of it. Honestly, I’d rather go into debt paying for every red cent then let him have a say or be able to try and hold a college degree over her head.

  • Independently of any -ism’s and -archy’s, human history repeats itself. Forced dialectics work as an invisible hand, like pulling a hare from a hat.

    The more the people are dependent on centralized authorities, the less functional over time is any social arrangement or structure.

    Always be aware of the actions of people. Fuck ideas and ideals, because we as human beings always manage to screw everything up on this planet for our egotist intentions. Look at the actions of people and social collectives who enforce anything.

    Just live with your goals of happiness even when they’re very difficult to attain. There’s always people who love to play with your dreams. Do not let them be, unless you are a authoritarian PoS.

    Our humanhood is flawed, period. Instead of perpetuating grudges for centuries, we should strive to let people organically grow without much BS and self-appointed interests. Start anew without utopical stupidities. Stop expectations and always, always, keep your guard up.

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