Suzanne and her husband split up when their son was just a toddler. Suzanne has primary custody and her son is with her about ninety percent of the time. Aside from balancing motherhood and work over the seven years since her divorce, Suzanne regards her most significant accomplishment as being able to support herself and her son, on her own, without any help. Here’s Suzanne:
I purchased a house, I had a car, I was never late on any of my bills and basically I was able to keep it altogether on my own. I had never really been on my own before. I had lived with my parents and then I had roommates when I was going to college. Shortly after that I was married and had a husband. So just being able to do all of this both financially and practically, was a big accomplishment for me.
My ex and I had never gone through a domestics or child support arrangement. It was the,
“I’ll give you something this month”
and then the next month would go by and I wouldn’t get anything. Then a couple of months would go by and I wouldn’t get anything. I always based our living situation on my income only and then anything that I would get in child support, I set aside for my son. Then almost a year ago he actually said,
“I want to go to Domestics, Pennsylvania’s child support system and I want to set up for it to just come out of my paycheck because I can never remember.”
We agreed on the amount – it was what he was always supposed to give me. There’s a whole formula involved but we didn’t do it that way. We basically said, “This is what we want it to be” and that’s what’s deducted.
I think in almost a twisted way, getting little to no child support made me feel I was the one who was doing the parenting. I felt like, he’s not really being responsible with this, so I can say, ‘no, I get to have him Christmas morning’ and ‘I get to do this for his birthday’ because I’m the parent that’s always there. If I’m the one taking care of him every day and taking care of him when he’s sick and putting him to bed every night and paying for his stuff, I feel like I’m the one that gets to make the decisions.
I think I felt more relieved than resentful about the child support because this is the way I wanted it. I would have never wanted my son to be not with me or with me less than he ever was.
The Divorce Coach Says
Suzanne (@ADivorcedMom ) blogs about divorce, debt and finances at Care One Credit so I wasn’t surprised to hear she had a good handle on money even though she’d never really been on her own. What I find interesting in this segment is the association of money with decision-making or with power.
Should the amount of influence you have in parenting decisions be linked to how much you’re contributing to support your child?
I think that may be over-simplifying the question because the other part of the equation, is the amount of parental involvement. And yes, if I was taking care of my children for ninety-percent of the time, then there are decisions that I think I should get to make … such as choice of school and vacation times to suit my schedule.
But what if my ex was paying more than his share of child support?
Does an imbalance of custody and child support signal the need for a more detailed legal parenting plan?