I've been a single parent for 9 years, and I never knew that August was Child Support Awareness Month. The article and comments have some interesting statistics (29.2% of custodial parents receive none of the child support due), but this is a personal blog so this will be my personal story.
I have been in that 29.2% for most of these 9 years of single parenthood. There were some occasions here and there where I would receive a hundred dollars here and there, but nothing consistently; nothing that I could count on to pay a bill.
Child support is just part of the story, actually. According to our paperwork, I am also owed for half the debt incurred while we were married, half the girls' medical bills until they're 18, and half of any amount I've spent on their education. But I gave up on all that a long time ago.
I can't believe I'm writing what I'm writing, but for three + months now, I have received the full amount of child support due every month and on time. I never thought I'd say that.
I am told that he's finally getting his act together. So far, this is the most evidence I've seen of that since before I divorced him.
I have no expectations that this will last, I will not rely on it, but it has already made such a difference.
It's back to school shopping time, Sylvia needs a lot of art supplies for the new school year, and of course, there are always unexpected expenses to try and squeeze into the budget. When the money is actually in my bank account, I can revise my budget and keep us on track.
I have previously relied on my credit card for those unexpected costs, and I still can't believe that I haven't used my credit card in over a month now. I have been able to cover everything with cash in hand.
To be clear, paying child support isn't just about the money. It is about freeing my personal resources to focus on the girls, and not on the bills. It is about being able to spend time with them, and not hovered over my spreadsheet, trying to make the numbers work. It is about giving the girls opportunities that they deserve. Sylvia was able to take a Master Musical Theatre Dance class this summer thanks to that money.
And money, of course, can't buy parenting. While he is working on rebuilding his relationship with the girls, no one can close their eyes to how much he has missed. (He hasn't seen them in two years.) The money doesn't bring them closer, but it is a tangible effort that enhances the other efforts he's making by calling and texting them more regularly.
It's not even a huge dollar amount, but it's enough. It's enough to make me breath easier, to enrich the girls' lives, and it's enough to show us that he even thinks about them.
And now for my disclaimers. I don't believe in sending deadbeats to jail for not paying their child support. I don't see how that does anything but continue to deprive the kids and their custodial parent. And, if a parent is unable to find a job, then the custodial parent should work with them to find other ways to make it up; letting the kids stay with the parent (if they aren't drug addicts, abusers, or otherwise incapable) instead of going to child care, being a coach for their child's soccer team, helping with homework, driving them to school, being engaged in their child's life. There are plenty of ways to actively parent.
But there is no getting around the fact that raising children costs money. It takes two to make a child, and both parties should be actively responsible for that decision.
I know that there are stories of all kinds out there. This is ours.