Child Support Laws Need an Overhaul

Two years ago, my ex-wife left me for another man. Granted, she probably would have left if he hadn’t been around, but he gave her the initiative to speed up the process . . . as well as the SUV in which to leave. Buckling my daughter into that vehicle and watching that man drive away with my world was the most painful experience of my life.

Unfortunately, the story didn’t end there. It wasn’t enough that my ex tore my heart out and stomped on it. She also had to take me to the cleaners with our divorce. I got my paycheck from work today. Keep in mind that I didn’t miss any work during this period. This is a full paycheck. My gross pay was $970.83. I even got $0.78 in accidental overtime pay. My total Social Security, Medicare, Federal and State taxes were $119.10. My total insurance charges were $212.50. My Child Support was $426.25. My take-home pay to live on for two weeks?

$213.76

What she has done to me shows that the custody and child support laws, at least in ….Missouri…., really need an overhaul. I have no problem with doing my best to take care of my daughter. But the laws shouldn’t make it impossible for me to live. I’m not a deadbeat dad who, for example, would quit his job to avoid having to pay child support. But, if that person is in the boat that I’m in, then I can certainly sympathize with him. The Missouri Child Support system is literally sending my ex-wife twice as much as I get to bring home. Perhaps the most aggravating thing is that my wife, stepchildren and I struggle to meet our bare necessities (relying on the good nature of many Brothers and Sisters in Christ), while I will talk to my daughter three, sometimes four times per week from the restaurants that her mother can afford to take her to. The purpose of support is to provide for my daughters needs, not spoil her by taking her out to eat all of the time or letting her pick out $200 glasses frames because they are her favorite color.

I’ve had many people tell me that I should take her back to court. The problem is that the current laws are what allowed this to happen. They figure child support at 1/3 of my gross income. Plus, they awarded it back to when she filed for the divorce, putting me three months past due as soon as the judgment was made. After taxes and the court-ordered health insurance, this ends up being more like 2/3 of my take-home pay. And the courts don’t see anything wrong with this.

I had a conversation with my ex this week over those $200 glasses frames. I told her that I am trying to support a family of four on just over $400 per month and she let our daughter pick out frames that cost half of my monthly take-home pay! Her response to this was that it wasn’t her fault that I have so little money with which to support us. Just because the judge awarded her so much in child support, didn’t mean that she had to take it. Many honorable women have refused to take so much when they knew that it would make it nearly impossible for their ex’s to support themselves.

The only consolation that I have is that the lawyer who helped her to do this messed himself up. She had paid the retainer, but he got it put into the decree that I am responsible for his fees, too. So he gave the retainer back to her, and then put another garnishment on my pay. Since Missouri state law only allows garnishments of up to 50% of after-tax pay (before insurance), he actually can’t collect on it from my paycheck. Child support trumps any other garnishments.

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