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October 9, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

How many divorced men would take to heart advice from a woman whose blog is entitled “Divorced Girl Smiling?” Probably not many, and, if this article by that blogger, Jackie Pilossoph is any indication of her level of comprehension or empathy toward divorced men, that’s a good thing (Huffington Post, 9/30/13). From here it looks like Pilossoph figures that, because she’s divorced, she’s got a lot of good advice for anyone else who’s divorced and she doesn’t need to do anything tedious like, say, read a book, to learn something about her topic. Frankly, she doesn’t know much about the consequences of divorce for men.

The article is about why men shouldn’t take the obligation of paying child support so hard. Pilossoph’s take on why men should feel better than so many of them do about paying child support to their ex is that it’s all for the children.

Guys, you aren't giving your ex-wife money. You are giving money to your children.

Of course technically, that’s just not true. The money doesn’t go to the child who may well be too young to deal with it anyway, it goes to the mother. It goes into her bank account, no one else’s. And, since it’s her bank account, she can spend it in any way she wants. Money is a fungible asset, so money from Dad is exactly the same as money from Mom’s employer. All of it goes to pay the bills and some of it may get saved.

So the real issue, that Pilossoph never mentions, is whether Dad’s paying more than it takes to provide his share of the child’s needs, less than it takes or just the right amount. The answer to that question will vary from person to person, but we certainly see plenty of cases in which some wealthy man is paying tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars every month in child support. Pilossoph wants us to join her in her fantasy world in which that money is all going to the child.

Nonsense. Let’s say we’re talking about former NFL star Deion Sanders who, when last we saw him, was paying his ex $10,000 a month for his child. Now, we all know it doesn’t take $10k to keep a child in food and clothing for a month. So, unless “Neon” Deion’s former wife is setting aside, say, $8,500 a month in a special account for the child’s college education or just for later in life, that money is emphatically not going to the child. It’s going to her, and she’s using it to finance her everyday life.

I understand that not every divorced mother was married to someone with the earning power of a Deion Sanders. Most fathers pay some reasonable facsimile (at least in the U.S.) of what it takes to raise the child, but that scarcely solves the problem of child support. Again, if Pilossoph would just open a book sometime, maybe she’d have a little more understanding of fathers’ pique at the child support system.

One major problem - perhaps the major problem — is the problem of coercion. Dad’s obligation to pay child support is seldom any of his doing. Divorce in this country is strictly a no-fault matter and 70% of divorces are filed by women. They’re the ones to file for one reason only - they know they’ll get the children. That was the finding by researchers Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen. Brinig called that factor, i.e. knowing they’ll not lose their children, as the one that “swamped all the others.” Women aren’t more dissatisfied than men with their marriages, they’re just the ones who stand to lose less.

And if you know you’ll get the kids, you also know you won’t be required to pay child support. Men have no choice in either matter. They can’t stop the divorce and they can’t force the court to give them a fair shake on child custody. In all but exceptional circumstances, Dad’ll go from everyday caregiver to twice a month visitor with his children, and he doesn’t have a word to say about it. The script was written long before he ever slipped the ring on her finger. It’s the lack of volition on his part that so nettles fathers. That’s something Pilossoph never noticed.

Here’s another. When they’re married, fathers are perfectly happy to support their children. Indeed, they tend to see that as their calling, their primary role in life. That’s why there are so few stay-at-home fathers; they’re out working and earning. But of course, when they’re married, they see their children every day, they talk to them, help them with homework, take them camping, to school, to the doctor. In other words, they’re fathers and they have no problem paying the freight. But when Mom decides to walk out on him, Dad, courtesy of the family court, becomes something else, something that’s made explicit and clear in the child custody order. He becomes a visitor, something altogether different and inferior to what he was. I mean, how important can he, or anyone, be who’s relegated to seeing the kids four days out of 30 and forbidden, under pain of contempt of court, from seeing them more?

He’s got all the obligations — pay or go to jail — with essentially none of the benefits. Who wouldn’t be resentful?

All that applies even if Mom plays by the rules, i.e. abides by the court order. But of course she may not. Custodial mothers know very well that they can restrict Dad’s contact with his kids and pay little or no price for doing so. That’s another place in which Pilossoph could have benefitted from reading a book or two on the subject. For example, back in the 90s, Sanford Braver discovered that, generally speaking, non-custodial fathers are happy enough to pay child support, but the thing that really gets under their skin is being required to pay a woman who, at her whim, interferes with their time with their children.

Pilossoph is a custodial mother who receives child support. So what about it, Jackie? Have you ever denied your ex his visitation time with his kids? Did you ever tell him the child was too sick to go with him on the appointed day? Did you ever arrange for little Andy or Jenny to be at Aunt Sally’s that weekend? Did you ever let the child go on a school trip on Dad’s visitation day? For that matter, before the order of custody was made, did you urge equal parenting time for you and your ex or agree to his proposal on how time would be allocated? Or did you fight tooth and nail for every minute you could get and the hell with his wants or needs?

Of course Pilossoph doesn’t mention any of those tawdry details, and maybe she was and is an ideal ex-spouse. I hope so. But the point is, none of those all-too-real issues facing non-custodial fathers makes the slightest blip on her radar screen. For her it’s just “remember, it’s for the kids,” and that’s all there is to it. As if fathers haven’t thought of that.

But Pilossoph’s cluelessness about fathers kicked to the curb by Mom and the family law system doesn’t stop there. No indeed.

Also, think about this scenario. A woman was a stay at home mom. The husband left her for another woman. Now, the husband expects her to go out and get a job, which is fine, but do men realize how hard that is? Not only is the woman traumatized that her husband of two decades just dumped her, but now he expects her to go out and find work, like it's easy.

I can tell you firsthand how difficult it was for me to gain employment after staying home for 10 years.

Let’s see. Here’s a woman who actually wants her ex to feel sorry for her. He’s the guy who supported her and their kids for 10 years. She contributed not one penny to the household expenses, not because she couldn’t and not because it wasn’t needed. She utterly neglected that part of her duty to her family because she wanted to. She wanted to stay home with the kids and so that’s what she did. Yes, they saved a little on daycare bills, but the finances of the arrangement aren’t why she stayed home. After all, any moderately competent person can earn far more than the costs of daycare. No, she left 100% of the earning up to him because she wanted to be Mom and Mom alone.

Having done so, the financial aspects of her divorce were much improved. Since she can show the court essentially no ability to earn, his child support to her is higher as is his alimony payment. Of course, Pilossoph neglected to mention the many benefits to her of not working. Her ‘woe is me’ pose won’t work for anyone with sense enough to simply think through the realities of her pre- and post- divorce situation.

And what’s this about “the husband expects her to go out and get a job?” No Jackie, that’s not the husband doing that, it’s what some people call “real life.” See? You’re divorced which means he no longer supports you 100%. Oh, the child support and alimony get close, but they don’t do the whole job, so that means that, yes, poor you have to go out and sully your hands with commerce. I know it’s brutal, but there it is.

To her credit, Pilossoph does get one thing right. Well, sort of right.

Why not set up an account that is for the use of kids only? A guy can put the child support check into that account and the woman can write checks against it for rent/mortgage, food, utilities and kids expenses? This way, the guy who is writing the checks can see firsthand where the money is going.

If she’s suggesting we change child support laws in that way, I think it’s a good idea. Many people have touted the benefits of the non-custodial parent’s funding something like a debit card that can be used only for certain child-related things, and her suggestion is along the same lines. That would in fact do at least something to assuage the resentment non-custodial parents feel at forking over money to their exes.

But if Pilossoph believes a couple can do this on their own, she needs to consult the laws on child support. Of course nothing prevents them from establishing such an account, but it’s in no way legally binding. If Mom wants to use the money to buy vodka, she can do so and nothing Dad can say or do will prevent her. Put simply, restrictions of that sort on child support aren’t legal. If Mom and Dad agree, fine. Otherwise an account like that is entirely worthless.

It’s too bad the Huffington Post and other mainstream publications don’t hire someone to write on family law and family courts who actually knows something about them. Pilossoph may feel that her own divorce and a sunny disposition about the trials and tribulations of non-custodial fathers — trials and tribulations she’s never experienced — are all that’s required to opine on the subject. But that’s no excuse for such a shallow, know-nothing article.

National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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