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Child Support (a Discussion of the Ins and Outs and Pros and Cons of the Whole System in Canada)

Today I want to write about a topic that affects fifty percent of the people in our society. I am not talking about divorce for people with children, although you might think of that first. I am writing about what always comes after divorce. During the divorce proceedings a decision about custody of the children is put into writing. It can range from sole custody to one parent with visitation at their discretion to a fifty fifty split of custody between both parents. This is often hotly contested and that is unfortunate, but the ultimate outcome is what I really want to talk about today.

As soon as the decision about custody is in place, the judge will make a decision about a sum of money to be paid by one of the parents to the other for the keeping and well being of the children involved. There are two factors that come into play. The first is the custody arrangement. The most typical arrangement has both parents with shared custody. The children spend a portion of their time in one home and another portion of their time in the other home. Most often, the mother takes the lions share of the time while the father is relegated to visits every second weekend. This is the agreement that I will focus on as a specific example of what happens next. It is all about money.

There is a specific table for child support that determines how much a father will pay to the mother. There is also an agency that enforces these payments. A father is under the thumb of these tables and this agency.

I want to give a specific example about the tables and the share some cursory thoughts and observations. A father who makes forty thousand dollars a year and who has two children is ordered to pay five hundred and seventy nine dollars a month. On top of that there will be s7 expenses for things like school necessities and dental care, for example. This can range from a hundred to two hundred per month. We will keep it at a hundred for this specific example, even though it is always nearly double that. The fathers monthly before taxes income is thirty three hundred dollars. Taxes take just over nine hundred dollars from that, so take home income is about twenty three hundred dollars. After paying the child support and s7 expenses every month, the father is left with sixteen hundred and twenty seven dollars.

So that is the specific example. Now I will share my thoughts on this. Sixteen hundred dollars a month in disposable income is not very much in this day and age. If one wants to rent a house, they can count on anywhere from twelve hundred to eighteen hundred dollars. Food will almost definitely be around four hundred, driving a car another four hundred and the list goes on and on. You can see how the father is put a distinct disadvantage.

Almost always, the mother will take up residence with a new partner or remarry. The father really does not have this option. Most often, he will be forced into a single life, renting a room in someones house because that is all he can afford. There is the odd instance where he might find a sugar mom who can carry most of the bills, but not many people would say this is an ideal situation.

To the children, living with their mother and her new partner, the father may look like a failure or a shameful character because of his financial and domestic circumstances. This is not fair. It is not a balanced way for the children of divorce to be raised.

Now some may say that the mother needs this money to support the children who spend the lions share of their time in her home. I do not dispute this. I am sure there are many mothers who really need this money. There are also mothers who work and this is taken into account in the whole system. If the mother makes more money than the father, she will not end up getting any child support. But what if she remarries, which is often the case and her husband makes more money than the father of the children. That is not taken into account at all and this is where a large disparity in domestic situations can come into play. The mother can stay home with her children, while her husband earns a good income and provides for everything and she can still collect the child support.

So we see that a father can find himself at a distinct disadvantage in many situations. There is one more point that I would like to make here. The child support tables are fixed. They are the same for everyone, no matter what. It is a one size fits all sort of thing, except divorces come in as many sizes as their are grains of sand on the sea shore. Every situation is different, down to the very last one.

What legal form of recourse does a father have when he finds himself in a very unfair and unbalanced spot. The honest answer is, there is nothing he can do. He might be able to go back to court and claim financial hardship, but this is nearly impossible to prove and where would he get the money to pay the lawyer. He is pretty much stuck. A father who finds himself in this box may start to think of illegal ways to get around the child support. He might just stop paying or he might stop working. He may try to hide a portion of his income but this is nearly impossible. In the end, he will always be found out and by then he will owe a lot of money in back child support. He can dig himself into a pretty big hole. He may get discouraged and just throw his hands up and ask himself why work so hard for so little take home pay.

Another question that come to mind pertaining to this is a very important one. What if the father gets sick and he is no longer able to work. He must go to a judge and prove his illness as the reason that he is unable to earn a fair income. If the court decides that he is not sick enough to warrant his low income, they can impute an income upon him. Basically, lets say he is a carpenter. The court will say that a carpenter earns anywhere from forty thousand to maybe sixty thousand a year. They will impute that income and base his child support obligation off of that. So we can see that there are many reasons that a father will either choose not to pay his child support, try to find some way to get around it or be unable to earn the income that has been imputed upon him and unable to pay the determined amount of child support.

That is when a very powerful agency gets involved. It is called maintenance enforcement. Their mandate is to ensure that all divorced or separated mothers get their child support. They have legal rights to enforce strict penalties if a father does not pay. It does not matter to them in any way, what the intricacies of the case may be. They are under strict mandate to enforce the law that has been put in place by the judge. If a father does not pay, for whatever reason, they start by sending nasty letters. Then as the child support piles up, they pile on the consequences.

They will take away a man’s driving license. I do not know how they expect a father to earn an income as a carpenter, with no wheels. It really makes no sense. They will take away his passport. They will legally dip into his bank account without any warning and take whatever is there. If all that fails, they are legally aloud to place a father in jail. This happens more than many people might think. By the time they get to this point, a father may owe over a hundred thousand dollars in back support plus all the penalties. It may as well be a million dollars for someone who takes home sixteen hundred dollars a month, according to the above mentioned example.

I have traveled this country of Canada from end to end and I lived in a motor home for a time. I met hundreds of fathers who were somewhere along the path of dealing with Maintenance Enforcement. They lived in trailer parks in beat up old trailers for a reason. They were broke and discouraged. They were also angry more often than not. I met men who were being driven to work by a surrogate driver which puts them in a similar circumstance to a person who has been caught driving under the influence on one too many occasions. I met fathers that owed in the hundreds of thousands of dollars who had simply dropped out of the work force and out of society. They are basically in hiding, trying to work for cash or even resorting to welfare.

So what are the statistics. Children of divorce go with the mother ninety percent of the time. Of those children, only thirty percent see their father once a week and a whopping fifteen percent never see their father at all. The worst most shocking statistic is that divorced or separated fathers are twice as likely to commit suicide as the national average for married or single men. There is also a lot of evidence to prove that most so called “dead beat dads” are unable to pay their child support because of a sickness or for some other legitimate reason. This flies in the face of the well worn perception that all “dead beat dads” are in some way neglecting their children by choice and out of disdain for the law.

I share a definite affinity with the fathers that I met in those trailer parks. I was divorced ten years ago. The inc had not dried on the divorce papers and she was already pregnant with her new man. They were married shortly after that and she immediately moved house and did not let me know where. I spent five months and a large sum of money for a private investigator just to find them. Then her serious case of parental alienation syndrome set in. She called her new circumstances her unified family. She used psychological methods to turn the children against me, often referring to me as a bum and a criminal and an adulterer. She made our children call her new man “Dad” and made them call me “Daddy Ben”. Every time I saw the children, she kept a diary of things that she felt were irresponsible or unhealthy for the children. Eventually the list grew to a hundred or more pages.

When she moved without telling me, I quickly got a lawyer and did everything I could to be a real part of my kids lives. I told my ex that I wanted the girls half the time and I spent twenty thousand dollars in legal fees to keep the pressure up until she finally caved and allowed it. Once I had my girls half the time, child support went away but of course there was the large sum in back payments still owed. This arrangement went on for two years while my girls were in their formative years. I watched them bounce from house to house and I also started to hear their mothers views in the things they said to me. It broke my heart to see the so confused and manipulated.

Finally, I put a stop to it and changed the agreement so that they would have one stable home. I was trying to put them first and be unselfish in this act. You would think that might garner some magnanimity from my ex-wife. It was the exact opposite. She saw it as a weakness and jumped all over it. She whittled down the visits from once a week, to once a month to once every three months. By this time my girls were tweens and their attitudes toward me had only soured.

Then came the day I will never forget. My youngest daughter came for a visit with a large lump on her forehead. After much coaxing and not a few tears I managed to find out that her step father had back handed her in the face. I was beside myself with anger and murderous rage. If I had been thinking clearly, I would have just called child welfare, but in hindsight I am glad I did not. I have heard stories of children being removed from homes and I would not want to add to my children’s obvious fragile emotional states.

So I did the next best thing. I went to my ex wife’s house and got into a no holds barred fight with her husband on their front lawn. It was not a good decision on my part, especially since the man has a hundred and fifty pounds on me, but the long term consequences smarted much more than getting the crap pounded out of me. The very next day, my wife obtained a very restrictive restraining order. I was barred from being anywhere near my girls and forbidden to contact them in every way.

It has been four years now and I have not seen my children in all that time. At first, crying myself to sleep at night was a regular routine. Then came the stints in jail. I sent my oldest daughter a birthday card and was incarcerated for three weeks. The second time I emailed my wife asking if she would send some pictures because I was missing them so much. I went in for another three weeks. By that time I was ruined in every way and I even spent a long period of time living on the streets. This only confirmed my daughters negative opinions of me.

Finally, I had enough. I called my ex and asked her if she wanted her husband to adopt our children. She jumped at the chance. There were back and forth negotiations with many phone calls and emails. The child support was supposed to go away but after I signed the adoption papers my ex wife neglected to call maintenance enforcement and inform them. I was still on the hook for forty thousand dollars. I called her again and reminded her of our agreement and eventually after a couple of months she complied.

The final smack in the face came when she called the police and informed them that I had been calling and emailing her. At that point, it was considered criminal harassment. I spent another month in jail and got a permanent criminal record. All the fighting over the ten year period plus the constant state of kid withdrawal that I faced took a deep tole. I attempted suicide four times and was pronounced dead on arrival on one occasion. I have the hospital records to prove it. That started a long string of involuntary admissions to psychiatric hospitals. It was all too much to take.

After a couple of years, I managed to pull myself together enough to attempt to find a way out and away from it all. I was very fortunate in the fact that Maintenance Enforcement had not taken away my passport. I made one final decision and followed through on it. I drove my car to the airport and parked it in a gas station parking lot. I abandoned it and my entire life in Canada and flew to the Philippines.

As of today, I am still living in this third world country. I met a beautiful young woman and we were married two years ago. It has not been an easy go but over time things have settled down. I still think about suicide but thankfully I have been able to forego the urge. I take it one day at a time. I have found activities and an income to sustain myself and my wife and her family. I started writing and now I have six full manuscripts, most of which can be found on amazon. com. I still miss my girls like crazy but the pain has gone somewhere deep down in my psyche. It comes out from time to time and when it does it takes a very conscious effort to control my actions and behavior. I am learning and growing in this.

So I have shared a specific example in detail of one “dead beat dad” in a million. I guess you can see now that the financial and practical details I provide come from personal experience. I know what I am talking about. I definitely feel qualified enough to weigh in on the subject. With this confidence of live experience I have tried to illuminate the other side of the coin. I do it in hopes that anyone thinking of divorce might think twice before going through with it. Living in the Philippines where divorce is illegal and annulments are extremely expensive and difficult to get, I now see how flawed our no fault divorce regime in Canada is. I do not know what is to be done about it but we might start by taking a lesson from the place where I now live as an outcast and expat from my homeland.

I want to say one last thing about all this. I have suffered immensely in the last twelve years, but I am an adult. Miraculously, up until today, I have bared up under it. I do not believe this is the case with my daughters. I watched them cry on too many occasions. I watched them grow from innocent and joyful kids to jaded and cynical teenagers. In my mind, this is the greatest cost of all and I would not begin to compare my suffering to theirs. If I miss them, I know they miss me all the more. All one has to do is look up the large number of negative statistics that apply to children raised without their father and we would also do well to think what all the fighting and conflict has done to their fragile and growing personalities. Honestly, this is the thing that really breaks my heart. That is all I have to say on the issue. Thanks for reading.

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