The Child Support System Is Broken- Part 3 The Underbelly of Child Support Collection Programs

The Child Support System Is Broken- Part 3 The Underbelly of Child Support Collection Programs

August! Time for kids across the nation to share the common dread of school starting. The stores are full of back-to-school supplies, ready to sell to parents who can afford them.  Meanwhile, programs are ramping up to help poor children who can’t afford new supplies. Many poor children have a parent who is behind on child support.

It is no coincidence that August is also Child Support Awareness month. It would more accurately be described as Child Support Collection month.

Started in 1995, Child Support Awareness has been adopted by states and municipalities across the nation. There will be fewer children needing help getting school supplies with aggressive child support collection programs, right?

Continuing our series about the myth of deadbeat parents, I’m going to show how this national emphasis on implementing a child support collection system is really just a front to fund the states. The truth is in the numbers, so leave your emotions at the door!

Every State Wants A Piece of This Action

You can’t avoid the emphasis on deadbeat child support collections dominating the news this month, second only to the Olympics. Here are a few of my favorite headlines, filled with biased, emotionally charged wording:

– “Texas Cracks Down on Deadbeat Parents”

– “New Jersey Rounds up 1221 Deadbeat Parents Owing $25.4M”

– “New Mexico Governor Announces Crackdown on Parents Failing to Meet Child Support Obligations”

Even the Feds have a Deadbeat Parent Punishment Act to catch parents who move from state to state to avoid paying up.

News outlets revel in hyping the national tragedy of unpaid child support exceeding $100 billion. Very often though, they leave out the details behind these numbers – important details!

First, this is the total running tally of unpaid support since data was kept, meaning decades of debt. The children owed the first $1 million of this figure are likely parents or even grandparents themselves now!

Parents Can’t  Pay From Behind Bars

The first article in this series covered how much of TODAY’s unpaid child support is actually accumulated by people in PRISON, who with their almost zero dollars income, are not likely to make those payments.

Even armed with this bit of common sense knowledge, the government is continuing to add up their debt while also piling on interest. Read the detailed article here.

The Numbers Will Blow Your Mind

Following the money, Part 2 of this series reveals how the National Department of Health and Human Services was responsible for the Enforcement Division of the collection effort. But wait! They also reported (through a separate division) who owed the child support based on annual income and the likelihood of collections.

Turns out, those making a livable wage owed only a small fraction of the total debt! The rest of the debt resided with those barely getting by, and this same federal agency labeled that debt as largely un-collectable! The shocking details are all here.

The Beatings Continue Regardless of Results

It’s terrible how so many parents out there are struggling to make ends meet at a poverty-level wages.

Both parents are struggling to provide for their children. Yet, instead of focusing on ways to educate parents to improve their job skills and wage potential, the authorities attack the parent who can’t keep up.

New Mexico, for example, as part of it’s annual crackdown on deadbeat parents, publicly lists the names of parents with delinquent child support.

Are banks allowed to list all those who are late with their payments? A bank would probably be slapped with a huge lawsuit, but I guess the government doesn’t have to follow the same rules.

Where’s The Money – According to Uncle Sam

So where are these agencies focusing their efforts? You can’t nail it down for all states, but the Department of Health and Human Services provides a clue about where recoverable money resides for those in arrears.

HHS reports suggest that once a parent with delinquent child support made over $20,000 per year, their debt was mostly collectable. But, only 17% of the “deadbeats” fall into the collectable category.

The rest – the vast majority- had little or no income.

The data shows that about three-fourths of the debtors have no reported income, or make less than $10,000 per year! This income group is also categorized by this same agency as one whose arrears are virtually “un-collectable.”

But hey, this is where the debt resides, so the agencies choose to focus considerable efforts towards collecting child support debt from those that can’t afford to pay it!

It’s pretty clear how bloated the budgets are for federal and state collection and enforcement agencies. The government collection agencies could pay off the total child support arrears in the country in just a few short years with only their fat annual budgets.

The government collection agencies could pay off the total child support arrears in the country in just a few short years with only their fat annual budgets.

But these agencies are getting results, and their results are widely publicized in the news. As an example, let’s look at New Mexico again.

The Poster Child For Child Support Collection

New Mexico proudly received a national child support enforcement award for the “Most Improved System”.

This year, they are on track to exceed $140 million in back-due child support collection. That’s a pretty impressive number – that leaves out the crushing impact to those who pay into the $140 million.

The New Mexico Division of Child Support Enforcement has an annual budget of $34 million, roughly 25% of the collections. So, for every dollar the tax payers put in, they received four. Sounds good, but there’s more to the story.

The problem with just showing the raw collected amounts is traced to the Bradley Act in 1986 that allowed states to add interest to arrears. So how much of that $140 million is actually money that was due to the parent versus interest that goes to the state? The answer is not advertised, but we have great examples from real folks.

A Payment Scheme Like You Wouldn’t Believe

Recently, a reader shared his story. Let’s call him Joe. His kids are now grown and out of the care of their mother. He made scheduled child support payments until he hit hard times and missed some. Eventually, Joe got back on track and made payments until his kids were grown. Now he’s making his payments for the overdue amount. Joe pays $100 per month.

Sounds good. He’s paying his debt. Right?

The story gets ugly though, when Joe shares the breakdown of his debt payments. About $25 of his payment goes to his ex. The rest? $75 goes to interest on his debt and goes to the state. Yeah, they can charge interest, remember?

Math time! 75% of that collection goes to interest…only 25% to the parent. Apply that to New Mexico’s success story.

Just Suppose …

$140 million in collections…outstanding! 75% back to the state, or $105 million. So $35 million goes to the parent that’s due. Considering that their annual budget, invested by the taxpayers, was, $34 million, the result was only $35 million to the parents and kids that needed the money, the kids that needed school supplies.

That’s pretty close to a 1 for 1 ratio, meaning the taxpayers gave the state $1 and the state gave $1 to the parent in need. After that, the state made over $100 million profit from interest. This is interest collected from people struggling to meet their child support obligations, struggling to make ends meet.

We aren’t talking about making $100 million from creating an industry that provides products and jobs for the community resulting in taxes collected on industrial revenue. This is money “taxed” on the poor.

Essentially, the states are cracking down on struggling parents to fund their programs. The states are publicly vilifying struggling parents, while crushing them with insurmountable interest and debt.

Wouldn’t the agency funds be better spent by educating parents, improving their income, and then taxing their income? The kids would have a better quality of life and the state would be funded to serve the people, not turn them into indentured servants.

There’s Gotta Be A Better Way

We must create a better system. The money invested is clearly wasted.  Currently we are treating the symptom of the problem, missed payments, as criminal behavior. The state is spending countless taxpayer dollars to collect back due child support from those that can’t pay, as well as interest to pad the state’s bottom line.

We need a system to treat the cause of the problems. Unpaid child support is caused by low incomes, poor job skills, and skyrocketing child care costs.

Children of divorce will be better served if the funds budgeted for child support enforcement and collections are spent fighting the poverty cycle!

Are you fed up with the broken child support system?  What is your child support experience? Share your opinion in the comments below.

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Balancing Your Stepdad Budget Without Child Support What to Do If Her Ex Doesn't Support the Kids

Balancing Your Stepdad Budget Without Child Support What to Do If Her Ex Doesn't Support the Kids

We’re sitting at the dining room table. There’s a pile of bills in front of us and not enough money to pay them all. Again. Another month when her ex doesn’t pay child support. Another month we are at his financial mercy.

This would be the last month we let her ex have the power to jerk us around!

Child Support Affects Us Coming and Going

I look down at my banking app on my phone, shaking my head. Nearly half of my check goes to pay child support for my two sons. Nearly the same amount of my fiancé’s income goes to childcare expenses for her two kids.

We’re going over the numbers for the third time. Which one of these bills can we afford to pay late?

All of this would be easier if her ex would just pay his child support like he’s supposed to.

Sam (not his real name) is a handy guy. He’s the kind of guy who can fix anything. I envy that quality. Because of his skills, he works the kind of jobs that pay cash. Under-the-table, unreported cash. There are lots of parents like Sam, that deliberately game the system to avoid paying child support by not working as much as they could or under-reporting their earnings.

For my fiancé, this means she gets child support from her ex if and when he feels like paying it. The amount he pays varies almost as wildly as the frequency of payment. It’s frustrating.

I never dreamed that another man, whom I have no relationship with, would contribute to my financial problems.

The Weight of Responsibility

From the moment I got divorced, I swore to myself that I would do whatever it takes to support my two boys. At one point I was working my regular 9-5 as well as a third shift gig stocking shelves at a grocery store near my apartment. There were times I thought I was literally going to die from lack of sleep. Many nights I ate cereal for dinner.

Being a Parent – Not Just a Paycheck

I did what I had to do for my sons. During that period, I didn’t miss out on my time with them. I was at the soccer games, parent/teacher conferences, and awards ceremonies.

I recognize that child support is not a substitute for my presence in their lives.

When my fiancé and I first got together I was broke. I pay twice as much in child support as her ex. We knew it was going to be challenging with four kids between us. We reasoned that if we moved in together and split the rent, her ex’s child support payments would offset her childcare expenses just enough for us to make it.

That was our first mistake.

Child Support – Crap Shoot Style

Have you ever gone to a party where there was a White Elephant gift exchange? Most of the gifts are junk left over from people’s garage sales. But, there are always a few gems in the mix. It’s a crap shoot – you could get lucky!

Imagine the moment of hopeful anticipation. You peel back the layer of ugly wrapping paper and expose a white box with the familiar Apple symbol. Recognizing that the size and weight of the box is just about right, you smile as you notice the letters i-P-A-D. You tear open the box ­ and out slides an Etch-A-Sketch.

That feeling. The one you have right now. That’s what we’ve felt every two weeks as we wait to see what Sam will pay toward his child support, or if he will crap out on his obligation again.

It’s maddening. I am beside myself with anger sometimes because I simply can’t understand why a father wouldn’t do what it takes to financially support his children. My fiancé even voluntarily reduced the amount of child support he would have been required to pay. Still, he seems to be perfectly fine with us shouldering the financial responsibility.

It Wasn’t Supposed To Be Like This

These emotions swirl around our home like a wild tornado. Neither of us expected to be dealing with this kind of financial pressure at this stage in our lives. We’re at the age where most people are hitting their stride financially. We both have good jobs with above average pay. Yet, we have to be extremely careful financially. One unexpected expense can put us dangerously behind on the bills.

As a man, I feel responsible to provide. In the early days of our relationship, I felt guilty. Sometimes I couldn’t even fill up my own gas tank. How would I ever be able to provide a for my newly expanded family?

The Emotional Backlash

Emotional pressure that stems from financial trouble is unique. It’s bleeds into every area of life. When her ex doesn’t pay child support, it creates financial problems. Financial problems can lead to serious relationship issues. An article in Psychology Today reports that  7 out of 10 couples report that money issues cause tension in their relationship.

Blaming and Shaming

Because money is a very real need, you can’t escape it. It’s easy to blame someone else. In fact, I would say I am justified in placing blame on Sam. It relieves my shame to blame her ex for not contributing his part. It gives me a place to focus my anger. It allows me to escape (if only emotionally) from the responsibility for our financial condition.

There just one problem with that. Blame doesn’t improve my bank account. Anger doesn’t pay the bills, and it sure doesn’t make her ex man-up  and pay up on a regular basis.

How do we get out of this rut? How do we budget for when her ex doesn’t pay child support?

Sink or Move Forward

Back at the dining room table, my fiancé looks up at me, her eyes soften as she notices the tears welling up in mine. She says, “We have to plan as if he’s not going to pay anything.” It’s not the first time she’s said it, but this time for some reason it resonates with me.

We have to plan as if he’s not going to pay anything.

I had spent so much time being mad at Sam for robbing us of our ability to take care of our family. I hadn’t stopped to realize that I was the one giving him to the power to do it. We are not helpless. His child support payments should not factor into our financial planning. I was giving him a seat at our table!

There were still changes we could make. We could control our own expenses.

We Took Our Lives Back

Our biggest expenses outside of food and rent are my child support payments and her childcare expenses. We have a long-term plan for legitimately reducing my child support, but that won’t help us right now. We needed immediate relief.

Thinking Outside the 9 to 5

We both work full time. We talked about one or both of us getting a second job, but the hours were just unrealistic. Then we got creative. What if we could drastically reduce the childcare expenses by having my fiancé work part-time?

She could be home during the times when the kids would normally be at daycare and work during the hours when they were in school. There would certainly be a dip in her income, but the childcare savings should more than offset that.

We talked about cutting back on luxuries like cable TV and dining out. It’s so easy to order pizza on nights when we don’t feel like cooking. We decided to plan our meals ahead and do more crock-pot meals.

We talked for over an hour, planning and figuring out how we could take back the control that we had given away.

The Energizing Power of Perspective

By the time we finished that conversation our body language had changed. We were smiling. The tension in my shoulders eased. The wild financial storm that we found ourselves up against suddenly seemed manageable.

Anxiety gave way to hope. We decided that we would take that control back. If her ex pays his child support, it will be a bonus.  If he doesn’t, we’ll be fine.

We own the financial problem, and we own the solutions.

Maybe your story is similar. It’s not the details of your plan that make the difference. It’s having a plan in the first place. No matter how bleak your financial situation, you still have control.

Want more inspiration for coping when her ex doesn’t pay child support? Our popular CPA, Janet Berry-Johnson tells you How To Begin Recovering Financially After Divorce.  Don’t miss Sara Gabriell’s article on Surviving Divorce: Protect Your Finances.

Be sure to tell us your experiences with child support in the comments below!

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Seven Tips for Consistent Co-Parenting after Divorce A Step-Parent's Bird's Eye View

Seven Tips for Consistent Co-Parenting after Divorce A Step-Parent's Bird's Eye View

Consistently co-parenting after divorce can be excruciating. Co-parenting consistently if you’ve never done any kind of parenting before feels almost impossible.

There are countless articles out there about how to co-parent with our respective exes:

I’m sure that whatever you (or your ex) are like, you can find an article about co-parenting that rings true for both of you.

What’s far less common is an article about parenting somebody else’s children when you’ve never had any of your own. That’s an article I could have used three years ago when I packed up my entire life, boarded a trans-Atlantic flight, and moved in with my boyfriend and his two children in the UK (at least, we get the kids every other weekend).

Let me tell you something, babysitting is not the same as parenting…not at all. I am by no means an expert in this department, but I have learned a few valuable lessons along the way.

So without further ado, seven tips on co-parenting consistently if you’ve never done any kind of parenting before, and some gentle reminders for all the parents out there.

1. Cut Yourself Some Slack

Okay, if you’re a perfectionist, like me, this one is tough.

My favorite show before I moved in with my boyfriend, and my guilty pleasure once I did, was Supernanny. I’m a highly-judgemental person, and I loved watching (and judging) people who had little to no control over their kids.

And then I met my boyfriend’s kids…

Now don’t get me wrong, they weren’t some of the horror children that you see on Supernanny but, to me, they might as well have been.

If you’ve never had children of your own, taking on a seven and nine-year-old can be a baptism of fire so cut yourself some slack. Not everything you do is going to work out perfectly the first time and, as much as I hate to admit it, we can’t all be Jo Frost so just give yourself a break from time to time.

2. Cut the Kids Some Slack

This one is huge and incredibly difficult to do, especially if you are new to the parenting game.

Kids are kids. Sorry, but it’s true. Kids are annoying, they whine, they wind each other up just because they can, and they’re a pain the ass sometimes.

Kids are kids.

Kids are not mini adults. They don’t have your attention span, they don’t remember anything (unless it involves candy or movies) and they think bad jokes are hysterical and will tell them over, and over, and over again.

So when your partner’s kids are driving you insane, just take a deep breath and walk away. Kids are kids and there is nothing you can do to change them. As long as they aren’t being abusive or rude, you just have to let them be kids.

Recognize that they are adapting to their new situation just like you, but they have a lot less experience to help them cope with the transition.

3. Cut Your Partner Some Slack

You might be shaking your head thinking, “Really? I have to cut her some slack. She is the problem in this whole situation!”

If that’s the case, I know exactly how you feel. I used to drive myself crazy thinking about how much easier it would be if my boyfriend would just toe the line. He used to talk over me, say the opposite of what I had just said, and sometimes just ignore me completely. I was livid.

At one point, we discussed what the house rules should be and laid out a plan to implement them. Guess what? I was the only one implementing. He would “bend” the rules “just this once.”

As infuriating as it is, you have to realize that your partner is the servant of three masters:

  • You
  • The kids
  • The Ex

What makes it even harder for her is that you all want different things from her. To make one of you happy means making another angry, sad or resentful.

What is she supposed to do?

On top of all of that, consider that your partner may not have parented full time for months or even years by the time you arrive on the scene.

She’s out of practice and probably spends so little time with his kids that she just wants them to be happy. She doesn’t want to spend her entire time disciplining and reprimanding.

You’re not invested in these kids. You don’t love them the way she does, so you don’t feel the heartache she does when they cry. Try to remember that your partner is doing the best she can and acknowledge that there are parts of being a parent you just can’t understand.

4. Be the Adult

This is another toughie. About 2 months into the big move I called my mom and said, “You’re going to think I’ve lost my mind when I tell you this, but I haven’t. This is serious mom… I’m being bullied by a 7-year-old girl…”

Okay, we can all laugh about it now! But at the time, it really felt that way. Yes, I’m an overly sensitive person but even so, that girl knew what she was doing!

Anytime her father would hug me, she would immediately ask him for a kiss and then stare me down. If anybody tells you that a little girl with blonde ringlets isn’t scary, tell them to call me!

They’re wrong.

It used to take every ounce of my strength not to sink to her level. Trust me, I realize how pitiful this sounds, but if you’ve been in a similar situation, you’re probably nodding right along with me.

Be the bigger person! Rise above it! Take the high road!

Whatever mantra you need to chant to yourself to make it happen, do it. The fastest way to end your relationship is to make the kids hate you and make your partner resent your behavior.

5. Don’t Let the Ex Get in the Way of Effective Co-Parenting after Divorce

This is where one of the many articles about co-parenting after divorce come in handy. If your partner’s ex is anything less than sweet as pie, you will notice times that he or she gets between the two of you.

In my case, it was my constant need to win that let her get between us. Although I knew there was no competition and, as my dad kept reminding me, by virtue of living with him I had won whatever imaginary competition there was, I always felt like I had to do, or be, better than her.

My paranoia got so bad that anytime my partner would agree with his ex I would go crazy. Even if it was something that was mutually beneficial (a better pick-up point) I would interrogate him about why he was always giving in to her demands. Why couldn’t he just stand up for himself?

Do not let this happen to you! Your partner’s ex will always be around. You cannot change that. As soon as you possibly can, accept that he or she isn’t going anywhere and accept that your partner probably feels more animosity towards the ex than you do. So chill out and don’t give the ex any more space in your relationship than you have to.

6. Be Patient

Successfully co-parenting after divorce takes time. Remember that you are trying to retrain multiple people: your partner, the kids and the ex.

Also remember that you need to do a little bit of training on yourself. It can’t be all or nothing, co-parenting means compromise on both sides.

Be patient with yourself. Be patient with your partner. Be patient with the kids. And be patient with the ex. This is a brand new situation to everybody involved and it’s going to take time (a long time in some cases) for each of you to get used to your new reality.

If you give it a little time, you might find that everybody gets used to having a slightly bigger, slightly more complicated but very happy family.

7. Be Consistent

This is a bit of cheat since I’m supposed to be giving you tips to co-parent consistently but it’s the best advice there is!

If you have laid down rules for the house, make sure you follow them. Always. Be the best example you can possibly be.

Be consistent about never arguing with your partner in front of the kids. If you have just given conflicting instructions, choose one and go with it. Scream at each other all you want after bedtime but in front of the kids, you must remain a united front. Kids can smell fear, and they will exploit it. Make sure you stand firm in front of them and ask your partner to stand by you as you do.

Perhaps the best advice I can offer is to be brave. This is an incredibly difficult thing that you’re doing and you just have to be brave. It’s scary to parent somebody else’s kids and it’s difficult to know when to step in and when to sit quietly. There is no magic solution, each situation is different and you must figure it out for yourself.

Just know that it gets easier and even if you don’t like those kids right now (I’ve been there), you just might grow to love them later (I’ve been there too).

Have you mastered the art of consistent co-parenting after divorce? Let us know how you did it in the comments!

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Is Dating Before Divorce Is Final Okay? Finding the Woman of Your Dreams While You're Still Married

Is Dating Before Divorce Is Final Okay? Finding the Woman of Your Dreams While You're Still Married

Oh, life!

Why does it always have to be so complicated?

Here you are going through a painful divorce, and somehow, you’ve stumbled upon someone that you’ve quickly fallen head over heels for. Regardless of why, here you are.

So, now what?

Do you wait until the divorce closes out its chapter completely? Or, do you go for it now?

It’s gotta make you wonder what happened to the times when husband and wife were together ’till death do you part and divorce was rare. How did you find yourself separated from the first woman you thought was The One? How have you now met someone that you know is the one whom you are destined to be with?

The average lay person, when asked if dating is acceptable before final divorce papers are issued will respond with a resounding NO. And there is a lot of validity to that answer. “No” is the simple, yet correct, way to answer those questions.

But life is neither simple nor correct.

I’m going to be honest here for a moment. I’m happily married to a man I plan to be with forever. We have a beautiful little boy and a great life. He is like no other man I met before. We had an immediate connection that I felt deep down from the first words we spoke to each other.

And guess what?

He was going through a divorce when we met!

I didn’t know at first, but finding out about it didn’t change my feelings for him. If you’d asked me in the past if I would ever get involved with a man going through a divorce, my honest answer would’ve been, “ABSOLUTELY not!” Dating a technically married man was not okay with me.

Here’s the thing though, we have no idea when we will stumble across our soul mate. Divorces can take years to finalize. Life rarely 50139plays by the rules. Life is messy. Life doesn’t care about convenient timing. It’s sometimes cruel. Those who pretend everything is sliceable into black and white pieces are either young, naive, or lying.

So if someone asked me today if I thought about folks dating before divorce is final, I’d have to ask a few questions before answering. My answer might still be no. It could even be a, “Maybe.” I still think you shouldn’t spend time actively looking for someone during a divorce.

I still think you shouldn’t spend time actively looking for someone during a divorce. If you can help it, I would advise against it. On the other hand, I also know there is a chance you might randomly come across someone who might change your life for the better before signatures get put on those docs. You have to be honest with yourself and be smart about your decision.

Dating Before Divorce Is Final: Is She Worth It?

The first question you need to ask yourself is if you really know this woman is The One.

You will be putting in a lot on the line here, so she needs to be more than just someone you think is attractive or you’re interested in. She needs to be the woman you will someday marry and spend the rest of your life with. If you don’t know the answer to that, you probably should wait.

Here are a three other questions to ask yourself:

1. Am I Just Lonely?

Divorces can isolate you and depress you. It’s totally understandable to feel lonely post (and during) divorce.

Are you seeking out this woman because deep down you’re just in desperate need for human contact? If the reason you want to become involved and start dating before your divorce is finalized has to do with loneliness, you shouldn’t risk it.

Instead, call up your buddies and have a guys’ night!

2. Am I One of Those People That Just Cannot Be Alone?

Have you pretty much always been in a relationship since you were in your teens? Have you gone from one relationship to the next in the past? If so, it might be time to slow down. This woman that you’re seeking out is probably just a person to fill that need temporarily.

3.What Are My Feelings about My Soon-to-Be Ex?

Are there still hard feelings between you and her? Do you secretly want to get even? Are you hoping she will find out about your new flame?

Before moving on to a new relationship, you should be emotionally untied from your last one. If there is a part of you that wants your current spouse to be jealous or upset, you probably haven’t moved on.

While it does feel good to be needed and wanted, you need to assess whether or not you’re emotionally ready for this new, and very serious, relationship.

Implications for Dating Before Divorce Is Final

Potential Legal Issues

In the law’s eyes, you’re very much still a legally married man until the last piece of legally-jargoned paper is signed. In some states, dating during your divorce can be seen as a form of adultery and affect the outcome of your divorce. The spousal support and property settlement could be affected by your actions.

The final decree could be affected even if you’ve been separated from your spouse for a long time. Check with your attorney for your states’s specific laws.

Personal Implications

Do you have children with your current wife? If you do, dating is almost always a really, really bad idea.

Your actions could directly affect the court’s custody decisions. How would your children feel to see you with someone new so quickly? Your kids are the most important consideration. Do not put your love life above their needs. They need your attention right now during this tough transition. Besides, your new lady could also become part of the custody investigation, and I really doubt she wants that drama.

Consider your spouse’s feelings as well. Remember that at one time you loved her and cared for her. Is this new relationship worth the risk of causing her more emotional pain?

Still Convinced It’s Always a Good Idea?

Talk to your lawyer. Follow his or her professional advice. Perhaps even after you read this entire article, you still know that you want to pursue your relationship. I have personal experience with this, so take a few pieces of advice from me. I chose to continue my relationship, and I do not regret it for a split second. However, we were smart about it.

Be honest with your new lady. Hide nothing from her. Make sure she knows that you are going through a divorce and what the status is. When I met my husband, his divorce was already approaching the final stages. He was honest with me. We talked about it often even though it was uncomfortable for both of us.

Go slow. Try to keep your relationship as platonic as possible during the divorce. Spend your time getting to know each other first. Avoid moving the relationship to the next level, and definitely do not even think of living together before you’ve signed the last divorce paper.

Keep it relatively quiet. Don’t go out on the town with your new love and parade her up and down the streets. Don’t even mention the relationship to anyone except maybe very close friends and family. Keep it under wraps. You will avoid drama and undue emotional distress from your current spouse. Remember that people’s feelings are on the line here.

If you aren’t completely, absolutely, and without a doubt sure that this new woman is the one you will spend your life with, the best thing to do is wait. Be honest with her. Tell her how you feel. Chances are that if she is as special as you think and she feels the same way about you, she will be willing to wait until the dust settles. However, if you have no doubt that pursuing the relationship is worth everything that could happen, go about it slowly and smartly.

What’s your take on dating before divorce is final? Should you wait until you get your final decree or chance it if it’s worth it? Let us know in the comments section!

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Single Dads, Give Them Emotional Child Support How Making New Memories and Talking to Your Kids Can Meet Their Emotional Needs after Divorce

Single Dads, Give Them Emotional Child Support How Making New Memories and Talking to Your Kids Can Meet Their Emotional Needs after Divorce

Emotional child support is as important as financially providing for your kids. Give them both despite the neverending gamut of emotions you might be feeling, which, and I’ve been there, feels like you’re walking on ice-covered glass in the beginning.

Take each step with caution.

As single fathers, our goals haven’t changed from when we were married. We want the best for our kids and care about:

  • The wellbeing of our children
  • Job stability
  • Friendships
  • Family
  • Ourselves

However, in the midst of stress, arguments, frustration, and good ol’anger, there is one aspect we often overlook: emotionally supporting our children. It’s something they need to survive and cope with the divorce burdens they didn’t ask for.

As a single father of two, I’ve got a few ideas you can think about and use right now to keep you plugged into your children’s emotional needs.

Make Your Children Priority Number One

Divorce or no, once children enter the tapestry of life, they’re your priority. That doesn’t change when the rules change.

Be honest with yourself. Because the of the stigma paying child support brings, men feel there is a “slighting” towards the father. I’ve been there, buddy. But let’s not forget, married or not, the main reason we’re here is to teach, raise, support, and love our children.

“But, Dwight,” you say, “I feel like I’m getting a raw deal! Less time with my kids and more money taken from me. How am I to find the good in that?”

Maybe it’s time to reevaluate our thinking, men!

Make More Memories

Years ago, I sat down and flipped through old photos of my boys. As I found myself giggling at their goofy faces and smiling at the memories we’d made, it occurred to me that I needed to make some more of those. Not so much the photos, but the memories locked within each four-by-six shot in those books.

Make a list with your kids. Ask them what new and fun things everyone can do together to help build more memories. Their responses might surprise you. My list sure did. Here are some I remember best:

  • Make a tent in the living room and camp out
  • Go to a park and explore
  • Lay out under the stars at night and find some constellations

Later in life, when things get tough (and they will!), you’ll look back on those just like I am right now and will smile. The best part? They will, too!

Talk, Talk, Talk, and Talk Some More

One of the lost arts in this generation is face-to-face communication. Talking about feelings has never, ever been easy for me. But over time, I’ve pushed myself and opened up because I knew it was the only way my children would do the same. I let them in.

Keep the “adult” stuff out of conversations with your kids! Keep your divorce, ex-wife’s cheating habits, and arguments out of your mouth. Instead, spend hours diving into what they like, don’t like, do, and don’t do. Ask them what they’re feeling. Then, ask how you can help them.

Tell them you love them! I don’t care if you think they know you do. Always…always…always tell them how much you do!

What Children Want

Read that heading back once more. Notice I didn’t say Need. Children, no matter what stage in life they find themselves, want certain things from their parents. This does not change when divorce happens.

Here are a few first-hand requests from my two boys:

  • Stay involved in my life, both of you
  • Don’t forget about me
  • I want to be as important after the divorce as I was before
  • I want to be in both of your lives; I deserve that
  • Let me enjoy myself when I’m with you
  • Don’t make me the go-between to pass along important information
  • Don’t make me take sides; I love you both
  • Stop fighting!
  • Act like adults around us

When my sons came to me with their demands, I was stunned. It woke me up. Emotional child support is just as important and the more commonly known financial counterpart. It changed my outlook.

Our interactions changed. I quit being the child. And I’m glad to have a great line of communication with them.


Simple Do’s and Dont’s to Keep In Mind


  • Make sure you’re actively helping your kids monetarily
  • Find new ways to strengthen your bond every day
  • Allow time for serious conversations
  • Look for the positives in your situations
  • Understand your children can’t always voice their feelings
  • Without arguing, discuss important “adult” issues



  • Let your kids go without
  • Expect them to know how
  • Always be the one talking
  • Voice the negatives
  • Keep your feelings bottled up
  • Agree in front of your children

Teach Your Kids to Express Their Feelings with Words

During the hard times, concern yourself for how your children express their feelings. Landing down the right words for what they’re feeling isn’t their forté.

As a dad of two boys, I noticed a few things:


  • Had an anger issue growing up
  • Acted out by getting into fights at school
  • Demonstrated a problem with authority
  • Found comfort in music
  • Expressed himself creatively through making his own music


  • Hid his feelings from everyone
  • Distanced himself from social situations
  • Introspective and moody
  • Found comfort in art
  • Expressed himself by creating art

Pay attention to what they say when they’re not speaking. Reading into their body language will help you understand how to best provide them with emotional child support through their ups and downs.

My relationship with my boys got better when I understood their fears, doubts, questions, frustrations, and feelings. It was only then that I began to listen. Listening to them paved the way for some common ground for effective communications with them.

Don’t Forget about You

Yep, Dad, you’re last on the totem pole. But that’s okay. Between making your kiddos Priority Number One, keeping a level head at work to afford your financial child support responsibilities, and making sure we don’t alienate our friends and support squad. There’s one thing that will end up slipping through the cracks…


Taking time for yourself and your mental and physical needs is important. I lost almost 50 pounds after my divorce. As fathers, we’re expected to be the strong one. Showing emotions or how tired you are comes second to being the rock for everyone else. I learned it at an early age.

And while this has a grain of truth to it, let me be the one to tell you this: Show emotion! It’s healthy. My grandfather taught me that. His children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren knew he loved them deeply.

I hope I’ve passed that onto my boys.

The Single Dad Challenge

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go scoop up your kids right now and make new memories with them. Go to the park, ride bikes, friggin’ sit on your couch and break out the Crayolas with them — just do something. Can’t do that? Then, plan it for the weekend. But get off your butt and follow through!

While you’re out, talk to them. Is Marvel putting out the next installment in one of their neverending movie franchises? Is there yet another Batman movie due out? Can’t make that work? Then, just hang out with them.

That’s my challenge! You in?

Summing Up Emotional Child Support

Every family is different. Every child is, too. Life will not be smooth all the time. And when a divorce is thrown into the mix, life takes a whole new view. The constant (if there is one) is our children. They need much more from you than your money.

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve lost sight at times. I’ve selfishly put my needs at the top of my list. But I work at it and remind myself of what I’m here to do. Remembering my life’s purpose, to parent my kids, reminds me of what I’m here for.

Love them. Show them how important they are to you. Tell them, too. Open up to them. Show them by your own example.

Once you’ve reflected on it, go out right now and make a new memory with your kids. Then, come right back here and tell me all about it in the comments! Got any ideas for other dads just like us? Share ’em! I need support just like every single dad out there does! Tell me where I can go to support you!

Learn from my mistakes! I failed miserably at some of these after my divorce. It took me a while to learn where my focus should have been.

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