Is Asking for Child Support Always the Best Thing To Do?

In a related thread here, a soon to be single mom is told over and over again to ask for child support from a jackass who abandoned her. I piped in with an opinion that it’s not always the best thing, someone else piped in that not only is it a good idea, it is an “ethical obligation” to your child.

My feelings on this are mixed - I see the obvious plus of having additional income while the mom is getting on her feet, working their way up the ladder, etc., and then presumably saving the rest for kid’s college, a nice graduation present, whatever. But in practice, I have seen in almost 100% of these kinds of situations, that:

  1. The Dad* is a “See You on the Weekend Dad”, if at all, and the attempt to shoehorn some jackass into your kids’ life not only damages your kid’s self-esteem, but also makes them confused and often angry when a new, more stable companion enters the picture.

  2. Moms often become consumed with bitching about too little support, support not being paid on time, etc., which leads to refusing visitation, which leads to dramatic bullshit and more reasons for the child to be confused and unhappy.

  3. Mom/Dad all too often inject personal feelings about abandonment, blame about being “forced” into parenthood, etc., into discussions about support and visitation, leading to confused and unhappy kids

  4. Stress on all parties about money, which to me is the biggest waste of energy in the world. Being broke can be stressful, but having an emotional component to that stress makes it almost unbearable for many people, which leads to - guess what! - confused and unhappy children.

So, is it just the idea that more money = more happiness? Because I don’t usually see that as the case. In my own situation, and in many others I’ve known, my advice has always been to “lose the loser” as I see nothing but heartache for the kids coming out of it.

*Switch genders as appropriate

There are situations where pushing for child support is not the best choice. Often, it’s an exercise in futility. Some men simply aren’t going to pay, no matter how many times they get jailed, license suspended, tax refund intercepted, etc. Other times, there’s been severe abuse of Mom and/or kids, and it’s best to just get away.

Most of the time, seeking support is the right thing to do…but there are always exceptions depending on circumstances. However, if the custodial parent receives food stamps or other public assistance, seeking child support is no longer optional. The recipient of those services is generally required to cooperate with child support enforcement, upon pain of termination of benefits.

Of course asking for child support isn’t always the best thing to do. There are going to be a lot of situations where it’s a bad idea if it means the continued presence of a disruptive, negative influence in a child’s life. In the case of the other thread, though, the mother-to-be doesn’t represent as being all that educated, bright or mature. Telling her she’s going to need all the help she can get seems like good advice in that particular case.

Wait, can I get some clarification? Do you mean that if Mom is receiving food stamps, and then Mom gives birth, and then Mom does NOT pursue child support, that her own food stamps are then revoked? For the newly-pregnant woman in the other thread: IF she is currently receiving food stamps, and she does not seek child support (she says she has no intention of seeking it) then her food stamps are revoked?

I think that in at least some states, you can be denied food stamps/AFDC (or whatever the current terminology is), etc. if you refuse to identify the father. If you’re on state support, the state will go after him for child support, you won’t have to.

I never went after my daughter’s father for child support. It was twenty years ago, so enforcement was more lax, and frankly I couldn’t be bothered to expend the time and effort it would take to get a rather ridiculously meager reward, given his income at the time.

Also, as I know I’ve said on the boards before, I had her knowing he wasn’t interested, and if he’d wanted me to continue the pregnancy and I didn’t want to, he’d have been shit out of luck, so I felt morally that he should have the same “out” of parenthood that I did.

What does the state do if the mother claims not to know who the father is?

Not sure about food stamps, but welfare for a family can be revoked if the parent with custody can’t prove they’re going after the other parent for child support (even if said parent is dirt poor).

If a custodial parent (mom or dad) receive any form of public assistance, the state will try its’ hardest to establish an order for support. The reasoning is if the other party is paying child support, then less government money will be spent supporting the child.
In our state, if the custodial parent receives medical assistance for the child, s/he can decline child support services. If the child receives food stamps, child care assistance, or cash assistance, the custodial parent must work with the government to establish support, otherwise s/he could lose the benefit.

And, FWIW, in order to obtain funding from the feds (which is where a large portion of our funding comes from), we must establish paternity and or obtain an order for support when the child receives public assistance. Now, the order can be a reserve amount (-0-) for someone without any job history or barriers, a minimum $50/mo order if the obligor has had a job history, or an amount set statutorily based on current income. It’s decided on a case by case basis. The problem are the cases from years ago, when the court happily imputed income when it shouldn’t have.

I think there are many reasons when child support is not in the best interest - if there is a history of violence / abuse is the most obvious one. However, I also think if all parties get along just fine, why involve the government in your business? Five years ago it was nigh on impossible for parties to close a case, now a custodial parent can verbally request his/her case be closed (here, at least). I also feel if the non-custodial parent has significant barriers to being able to pay, why bother?

Reading the reasons the OP listed, they all seem to be arguing that the financial aspects of child support will create stress. But I’m not seeing how that stress wouldn’t exist if the child support wasn’t being paid. Sure a woman who has to chase down a man to provide support for their children is going to have some stress. But would she have less stress if she just gave up on getting any support from him? Would the children be better off if their father was doing nothing to support them? The only person who seems to be coming out ahead is the father, who’s turned over the work and cost of raising the children to the mother and is also now free to drop in when he feels like it without having to worry that anyone will suggest he should be contributing more to his children.

Well, I can only speak from my perspective, but yes, it seems to me that the mother would have less stress than trying to force parenthood on someone, and all of the ugliness that entails. And from that, the children would be happier.

I’m also assuming you cut off the father from seeing the children as well - the whole point in refusing the money is to cut them off from your children’s life, because they’re bums/immature/will add nothing.

I could care less about the father getting away scott-free - for me, it’s about the kids entirely.

If Mom is getting stamps for a child, she has to cooperate with Child Support Enforcement (often another office in the same building as the food stamps office) or lose her benefits. Cooperation means identifying the father, showing up and testifying truthfully in court, participating in DNA testing if requested, providing any known address or employment of the father, etc.

When I worked for the Welfare Department, I had limited discretion–I could certify a woman to continue receiving benefits without pursuing the father if there was severe abuse. Before I would do that, I required the women to produce police reports, medical records, or other documentation of the abuse.

One of the most effective tools I had for enforcement was entirely extra-judicial. I did this work in extremely rural areas. Counties so small pretty much everybody knew everybody. If a guy started getting behind, sometimes instead of taking him to court, I’d call his mother. Had one mother that had 7 male children–all of whom produced multiple offspring. Think I locked up three or four of them on the same day. She came down to get them out, and told me I really didn’t have to put her boys in jail no more. If I’d just call her and tell her which one was in trouble this time, she’d whip his ass until he did right. The woman kept her word. I never locked another of her sons up. Didn’t have to call her more than once or twice a year after that. Tough woman.

Sure. Again, I’m sure it’s changed in the interim, but 20 years ago, writing him off and making my own money was far less stressful than trying to get $20 a week out of his ass would have been.

Just to be clear, I’m not endorsing men not paying child support. I’m just saying that if you can’t go it alone, you should probably skip it, since actually *getting *child support is far from a sure thing.

This is a bigger assumption than you seem to think. Just because a guy is a bum, or unemployed, or mentally disordered, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a right to interact with his children. My cousin has a lot of dumb babydaddy drama going on, and the guy is pretty much a lump. But he really loves his kids and IMO he deserves to see them.

I don’t like the use of the word “ask.” Child support is not a request that the father can say yes or no to. It is a legal obligation to the child, regardless of what the mother wants. A mother who does not pursue child support is obstructing the rights of her child. A mother should always advocate for the rights of her child and the state should always enforce the fathers’ obligations. If he is abusive or dangerous, he can be restrained from any contact. It is never an ethical choice obstruct the rights of the child.

I would say that it’s the state’s obligation to pursue child support, though. I wouldn’t characerize it as the mother 'asking" for anyuthing, I would characterize it as the mother reporting a crime to the state.

Right. Also, visitation is not granted as a result of paying child support- they are two totally separate issues. So that whole argument against pursuing child support doesn’t even hold any water.

Does the babydrama effect the mother and her stress level? That would make the kids’ lives worse, for sure.

The dad may love his children, but if he (and the mom) continue to participate in the drama, they are doing their children a grave disservice. The children are learning tons about how relationships develop, how love and respect are given, and how the parents needs compare to the needs of the children. And the ones they’re getting at this point are probably terrible lessons, IMO.

I met up with a guy I used to know in high school last year, and hadn’t seen in years. He didn’t turn out very well - marginally employed, still looking for that “skateboarding career”, past drug problem, etc. He was going on about how “that bitch”, the mother of his three year old, was screwing around with custody, support and making it hard for him to see his kid. From what he said, the mother seemed to be doing well and looking for a nice, adult life.

I just wanted to ask him “What do you possibly think you’re adding to this kid’s life?”

I am always surprised at how good judgment in child rearing takes a back seat to blood and genetics…

Honest question - why does he “deserve” to see them?

What about legal paternity? Does a child support order automatically mean the biological father is listed on the birth certificate?

So how does that work exactly? The mother stands in front of a judge and says “It’d be very stressful if I had to get junior to his father’s every other weekend and make sure he knew about report cards and stuff.”
And the judge will say “OK. Dad you’re history.”

Actually your premise there is flawed. You can’t avoid stress, all parenting is stressful (at times). The decision is what is best for the child and having two parents who love them, support them and are involved in their lives is generally best for the child.

I’m not talking about people who are interested in parenting - I’m talking about people who are not really involved in their kids lives. Seeing them on the occasional weekend does not qualify.

I’d go so far as to say parenting is stressful most of the time. If it’s not direct stress, like discipline and sickness, it’s worrying about college and car accidents and childhood cancers. It’s worrying about how to discipline and how to love and how not to screw it up.

Parents who only participate in the fun things are not parents. They are buddies, and are not full partners. And any mother who had a problem with transporting their kids to their dad’s house and sharing school information is equally as bad.

Having a non-parent “parent” around screws up the role modeling for the child, adds to mother/fathers stress levels, and just generally teaches bad lessons to kids. A good young, single mother/father who is unselfish, growing more mature and working hard to make a good life for their kid shouldn’t have to deal with the bullshit that comes along with a bum.