Those of you who regularly read my blog have probably surmised that I am opinionated when it comes to blended families. Some of you might have even been surprised by my somewhat pro-male opinions. Actually, I don't think of my opinions as pro-male per se, as much as they are pro-fairness. I am the wife of a man whose ex wife collected an exorbitant amount of child support from my husband for years for three kids, one of which wasn't even legally his child. As she collected the child support, she poisoned my husband's daughters against him and his family. I suppose she has poisoned them against me, too, though I have only met them once in the past nine years and don't really care if I never meet them again.
As of a couple of months ago, my husband's child support days are over. Both of his kids are over age 18 and can do whatever they want with their lives. I've started to relax a bit, knowing that my husband did his part for them... as much as his ex wife permitted, anyway.
The other day, a friend on mine on a message board posted about her situation. This friend is usually very level headed and reasonable. I respect her a great deal. She has two sons. One is a young adult in his early 20s. The other is a child in grade school. She is still married to her younger son's father and she says she's enjoyed an amicable relationship with her ex-husband for the past nineteen years. Lately, she and her ex have not been getting along, in part, because he has a fiancee who apparently doesn't want him to have any kind of relationship with her.
Anyway, this friend had a child support order in place for her older son. The amount was a pittance-- not even $200 a month. And she never filed the support order with child support enforcement. According to her, the ex husband has never paid child support. He has, however, been good about co-parenting and even maintained a relationship with his former mother-in-law. It all ended when the new woman came into his life.
So now, their son is in college and well past the age of majority. My friend, upset about not having communications with her ex, now wants to file for back child support. Most of the ladies on our board think she's totally in the right to do this. Only two of us, myself included, think she should let it go.
It's not a question of her really needing the money to survive or even to live well. My friend and her current husband live a comfortable lifestyle. Her son even has college paid for, thanks to an inheritance. For nineteen years, she hasn't pressed the child support issue. Now that her son is an adult, she wants the money... or does she? It was pretty clear to me that the money was never the focal point. If it had been, she would have demanded regular child support payments when her son was a minor.
Let me be absolutely clear. I certainly agree that a custodial parent is entitled to child support payments from a non-custodial parent if he or she has the child most of the time. What I don't agree with is custodial parents using child support as a method of controlling non-custodial parents. My friend said that in the past, she had threatened her ex husband with going to child support enforcement to get the money. He acquiesced and she never followed through. Now that she's pissed off that her ex quit talking to her, she's threatening again. Will she follow through this time? Or will she finally go after the child support when her son is in his 30s? When will they get to lead separate lives?
My feeling is that my friend should have gone to child support enforcement from the get go-- the minute he neglected to pay her when their son was still a minor. The child is now 22 years old and about ready to go out into the world on his own. Dad, no doubt, is not prepared to pay... probably figured he'd never have to because his ex wife never pursued it. Now he's going to have his wages garnished. Maybe it will screw up their formerly amicable relationship. Maybe his new girlfriend will dump him over this. Hard to tell... but I have a feeling he will consider it a dirty trick and there will be much drama.
Let me also be clear that I do think my friend's ex husband is a jerk. I think it's deplorable that he didn't pay support for his son. However, had he owed anyone else-- a credit card company, a mortgage company, a car loan company, taxes-- he certainly would have had to start paying long before 19 years had passed. I think it's irresponsible for custodial parents to let things slide and then demand payment with back interest many years later.
I'll tell you what I also don't think is responsible. I think it's irresponsible to make off-record deals that go against court agreements. The reason I think people should stick to their agreements is because that's what any court will go by. You may have an agreement in writing, but if you go off the record and agree to something different, a judge will still go by what was agreed upon in writing. So if you have a child support order that was signed off on by a judge, the judge will go by what you and your ex agreed to in writing.
I don't really feel sorry for my friend's ex husband. I think he is character deficient and has taken advantage of my friend's kindness for a long time. However, I don't think she should spring this on him now. I think she should have insisted on being paid many years ago-- even if it meant she put the money in a savings account for her son and allowed it to gain interest. That would have been a better-- and much more fair-- plan for both parties and their son.