Discussion on the fairness of child support being used to support people other than the children

The main premise of my story/question is, how can fairness be assured in child support scenarios?

The story: You all may remember my past stories about “Greg” and “Susan.” Greg is my boyfriend and Susan is his ex-wife. This story is about them.

Greg & Susan have three sons, ages 14, 13 and 11. They’ve been divorced since 2003. Greg pays child support to Susan.

Susan had three more children (ages 6, 4 and 2) with her second husband, who is now in prison serving a 3-year term. Susan is divorcing him.

Susan recently started dating “Mark,” and within about 1-2 months of dating, they were engaged and Mark moved into Susan’s small rental apartment with his 3-year-old son who he has half-time custody of. Mark is also in the middle of a divorce.

Susan is not employed outside of the home (and never has been her whole adult life; She is 34). Her only income is Greg’s child support, which is $2,500/month. Susan gets no child support from her second husband because he is in prison. She is on food stamps and her three youngest are on Medicaid and that is the only public assistance she gets.

Mark, the new boyfriend, is unemployed. He was previously making $8.88 hourly at a job as a cook, but we just learned (via legal documents) that he is now unemployed and on “state disability insurance.”

So doing the math, we see that there are 2 adults and 7 children living on $2,500 + food stamps + some other small unknown amount from Mark’s disability.

That brings us to the problem, which is: Isn’t Greg essentially financially supporting the whole group, not just his three kids? And is this fair?

From what I have always understood, the child support money is to be used for the benefit of the child, for housing, utilities, food, clothes, travel, etc. We have no complaint about the full amount of the child support money going towards Greg’s 3 kids. And I even understand that by going toward housing and electricity, Susan may herself benefit from this to some extent.

Clearly, Susan is operating a household of 9 people with basically no other significant income sources. Using logical reasoning, one can only deduce that Susan is also supporting herself, her boyfriend, and her other three kids, mainly on Greg’s money.

So I would like to explore this issue with you guys, in a logical and rational sense, and try to understand how to reconcile myself with this situation and its (in my opinion) essential unfairness. Advice or thoughts or similar stories are welcome. Please ask questions if something is not clear or more information is needed.

I am really struggling with this (not on a material level, since I am not financially involved in any way, but on an emotional level). Also I am not asking for legal advice, although if you have thoughts or stories to share with a legal angle, that is welcomed.

Here is a background thread about why Susan’s second husband is in prison. In a nutshell, he was found guilty of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 (or, he molested the 13-year-old daughter of family friends).

Although it’s not really relevant to the question at hand, I thought you might be interested. Previous threads are linked in that thread too.

And before anyone asks. Yes, Greg has fought HARD for custody of his children, and he lost.

2+ years and $20,000 (in legal expenses) later we just found out the bad news yesterday: he is NOT being granted custody.


“They are attached to their mother and younger siblings… It would be traumatic for them to be separated from their family.”

Edited to add: We are very devastated by this ruling. But I am not really surprised.

It’s unfair. The whole system is designed to be unfair. The whole system doesn’t care a damn about distributing fairness.

The whole system is designed to ensure that the burden of supporting children of broken families does not fall on the state, but rather on some available party (typically the father) who earns some source of income. Arguing that a father is actually paying out more $$$ in child-support than he can afford ultimately is a losing argument. (I demonstrated way back when that I was being told to live on less than $10,000 in NYC, pre-tax, while my ex- and the kids were “earning” over $50,000 upstate, and the family court’s response was: Tough.) It’s not remotely about fairness.

Fairness? There’s no fairness. The first month I went into child support the state didn’t even wait a month before they were garnishing my wages for payment. Payment is determined by how much both parents make and splitting between them and good luck getting it changed if someone loses a job. It’s no wonder fathers don’t feel obligated to pay when the state fucks them over at any opportunity.

I don’t think you can nyctea. If I was Greg my hair would be falling out by now. This woman has embarked on another potentially dodgy relationship and Gregs kids are still at risk. He’s not able to protect his kids, a much bigger issue than the money. The court decision is sick.

Once the kids each become sixteen can they opt to live with him? I’m seeing this as a waiting game.

That is one twisted situation.

prr is 100% right, the system is not designed to be fair in any way, and your boyfriend is getting screwed, no doubt about it. Quite frankly, I don’t see any way to work through this problem logically and rationally, because there’s no logical or rational reason this woman should have 7 children without having any means whatsoever of supporting them. Unfortunately, for you I think the most logical and rational thing you could do is be sure you don’t marry him until his child support obligations are over one way or another.

I don’t really see any way that Greg can lower his payments without directly making his own kids suffer. Yes, he is supporting a passel of other folks, and Susan is totally mooching off of him. But if he cuts off her money, the boys will suffer too. That sucks, but I don’t see anything you can do about it.

The courts are messed up; a solid reason for why there should be private courts. Every day we read about different states executing innocent prisoners, divorced families where there’s a “right” and a “wrong” parent who SHOULD have sole custody. Coming to light are situations where a father learns he’s not the biological father but STILL has to pay child support.

I just can’t imagine the situation your boyfriend is dealing with. It is disturbing and sad and it breaks my heart that this is the society we live in. Where a guy who can afford 2500/month to support his kids can’t be with them all day and instead, they live in a home where a child molester (used) to live and a deadbeat boyfriend gets to see his kids and live off of his salary all day long. That is just fucked up.

I have no advice, I’m just sending positive thoughts your way. In all seriousness, I would strongly recommend that you consider getting out of the relationship. Everyone brings their baggage to the table, but we all only get one shot at life. It sounds like you deserve to be with someone with less baggage, fewer kids, etc. It would make your qualify of life improve.

Part of the thing is that money is fungible, so even though child support is supposed to be just for the benefit of the kids, in practice, it’s inevitably just one more income source that goes into the general fund. Obviously, if the kids are being neglected or money isn’t being spent on their welfare, then action needs to be taken, but otherwise, there’s not much that can be done.

It’s not fair, it’s not going to be fair, they can’t keep track of real expenses, it sucks. So they just throw the non-custodial parent’s money at the problem.

It is a rotten system wherein the man is required to part with a not insignificant portion of his income and cannot expect or demand any kind of accounting from the recipient of that income. The woman might be dumpster diving for food for the man’s children while blowing the money on crack; baring an arrest and investigation, no one will know. (Predicated on geographical separation and the man being financially unable to visit said children.)

Thank you for your thoughts so far everyone.

What burns me the most is that is obvious and clear on the face that Greg’s money is the only income source to this family of 9 people. But it’s really only supposed to be for the benefit of 3 out of the 9 people. Basically the mother is stealing money from her own kids to pay for herself, her boyfriend and her 3 other kids. This is money that could be being saved for the boys’ college, or cars or whatever, but Susan is so used to her “stay at home mommy” lifestyle that she is going to do anything she can to ensure her paycheck keeps coming in. When asked about it, Susan replied, “you don’t have a right to know how I am spending the money.”

On top of it, she has brainwashed the boys against Greg. He is falling all over himself to see the kids and communicate with the kids as much as possible but they don’t give a shit about him. The kids point-blank stated in the custody evaluation report we just received 2 days ago that they don’t want to see him or talk on the phone with him, EVER. For no discernible reason whatsoever. And this is just a couple of months after we had them to our home for a 10-day visit in which they seemed to have so much fun. Now all of a sudden they’re saying they have no desire to see or talk to him.

It makes my blood boil.

Wow, Susan just seems like a completely toxic person. I wish that Greg could convince a court that since he can support a family of 9 on $2500, his real obligation should be $833, as he only needs to support a family of 3. Good luck getting a judge to see it that way.

Here’s another thing. As I mentioned, Susan has never worked. Eventually, though, she will have to work, because one day her kids will be grown and she will need money to live, right?

So we were wondering why she wasn’t receiving any more financial aid for her three younger children. So we researched California welfare programs, and found out about California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs), which is a cash aid program for low-income people. It provides child care, transportation expenses, everything. The catch is that you have to enroll in job training and then work through the Welfare to Work program. Sounds pretty good, right? You basically get free money and child care for job training and placement.

So we asked her about why she was not taking advantage of this. All our research supported that she was eligible for the program. But she gave a vague answer that she was denied for the program, or was not eligible.

Our guess (which I am sure is 100% correct) is that she just DOESN’T WANT TO WORK. Why should she have to work when she gets Greg’s money without having to do anything?

But what the hell is she going to do in a few years, when Greg’s children become adults? Her 2nd husband won’t be making any money to pay child support. He has no education, no job experience and a felony child molestation conviction. Her 3rd husband was making minimum wage as a cook, and now unemployed. Chances are he won’t be bringing in any substantial money in the future. So what is going to happen to this family? The problem is, she doesn’t think of the future. She just thinks of NOW. It’s so sad and frustrating to me.


I hear what you’re saying. And you have a solid point. However, not only do I love my BF, I feel like that would be kicking him while he is down. He has been so victimized and abused with all of this, and I have been his lone supporter. I feel so badly for him. I couldn’t leave him over this alone. It is very hard on us though, so thanks for your positive thoughts.

Please don’t let that make your blood boil. Children are easily manipulated, I’m certain it’s the case here.

He needs to accept what he cannot change, and wait. Stay as positive and ‘there’ for the boys as is possible. Call them every week, send them a card for every occasion, give them his cell number with instruction that they can call anytime, remind them every time. And he needs to do so without expectation of any change in the reception he’s getting. Yeah, I know, a herculean task.

His sons will not be young and easily manipulated for much longer. Life cannot be much fun for them at home, as you’ve described it. The day is coming when they will need an ocean of calm and normalcy to take refuge in. He should bide his time, because his time is coming. They will one day be old enough to understand that he fought his hardest to get them, etc.

He needs to avoid being reactive and thereby reinforcing any bullshit she’s laying down. Keeping an open heart in the face of crushing disappointment and circumstances beyond your control is one of the most important lessons you can share with children. Just be open and welcoming whenever you get the chance, always cut them some slack for living in such dysfunction, and they’ll come around, I think. Sooner or later, things will get shitty at their home and they’ll escape to Dad’s. He needs to be ready by being mentally healthy, not bitter, angry, victimized.

It’s not fair, and he can’t change it, and that’s not fair. All he can really do, is do his damnedest to stay positive, and never stop pouring love on them, in whatever way he can.

He has my sympathies, as do his children.

It is fair to Greg because he would be paying that money whether or not there was 3 kids or 5 other kids.

This is where it’s getting lost. It IS fair to Greg. He will pay the money regardless.

It is NOT fair to the kids. They are getting shortchanged by their mother.

The problem is people are confusing the the two situations. It is one act with two viewpoints.

And as you can see once again, the Family Circus has already covered a situation like this

Excellent advice.

Yes, those boys are being manipulated. They may be saying those things only to make their mother happy, without even believing it themselves.