As a new mother who recently returned back to work from maternity leave, I have found that I am now a new member of the “mommy club.” I’ve suddenly befriended women who I had nothing in common with before I had my son, and we trade stories of what it means to be a working mother. One mother I recently chatted with lamented about not being able to spend that much time with her boys since she works so much and they live with their father. However, her main complaint was not that their father was now the custodial parent, but that she was now paying him child support.
At first I was taken aback. It’s not every day that you hear of a woman paying child support to a man, unless her name is Brittany Spears and he’s Kevin Federline. But upon further questioning, she did admit that he was paying HER child support when SHE had custody of the boys. Now that he is raising his sons under his roof, he asked her to pay him…and I have to say I think I think it’s only fair.
In our conversation, she said she agreed that boys learn how to be men from their fathers – so when they made the mutual decision for the boys to go with him, there was no issue. Sure, she’d miss seeing them daily, but she made the most of her weekends with them. But she then said she was shocked to receive a child support order in the mail. When she asked her ex-husband why he was seeking child support, he simply said that the same expenses she had when she had custody are now the same ones he’d have to pay – and if he had to help her when she had custody, why shouldn’t she help him now that he had the boys? I was waiting for her rebuttal, but she really didn’t have one.
She makes a very healthy salary while her husband makes a somewhat modest one by comparison. Yet that didn’t stop a judge from ordering him to pay a sizable amount of his income in child support. She could have easily afforded to raise her sons on her own without any assistance from him – but according to her…and the law, fathers should support their children no matter how much money the mother makes. And I agree. Both parties should participate in financially supporting their children. But are the laws skewed to favor women, even if they’re in a very secure financial position to care for their children on their own?
According to the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, only 5% of mothers pay child support compared to 85% of fathers. And it’s been reported that in some cases, even if the father is the custodial parent, he may STILL be ordered to pay child support to the mother if he earns more money than she does – but not the reverse.
So why are we quick to label a man as a deadbeat dad if he doesn’t pay child support, but not the mother who shirks her financial responsibilities? One of the primary reasons I’ve heard is that the mother needs sympathy in the loss of her children and should not have the additional burden of paying child support. But if the mother is found to be unfit as a parent, does that automatically mean she isn’t responsible for supporting her child financially? What if the mother willingly gives up her custodial rights to her child so that the father can raise him, should she be absolved from paying child support as well?
In a perfect world, both parents would be able to work together – outside of the court system – to come to an agreement as it pertains to supporting the child emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically…and yes, financially. Unfortunately, there seems to be a double standard where child support is concerned, and some men get the short end of the stick. But there are some women who say that it is a father’s job to take care of his children and that a mother shouldn’t have to pay HIM to take care of THEIR child. Personally, I feel court ordered child support should apply the same standards across the board, regardless of sex. If a woman demands it, I feel a man should be able to demand it as well under similar circumstances. After all, we women demand equality – especially when it comes to money – so women should be prepared to support their child(ren) financially no matter who has custody. And if she refuses…well, the term deadbeat would be fitting for her too.