I had an Absentee Father on a case one time who deserves to have his real name used. He was a prince. Approached sainthood.
Never missed a payment since the day of the order: even before it was drafted and filed he was sending in the checks. Self-employed professional, we couldn’t do the legally mandated Wage Garnishment and still … never a payment missed or late. Not once, and he always gave the kids or his ex-wife some additional funds if they needed it for extra-curricular activities, some new furniture for the kids or the piano lessons the kid would crap out on after four months.
Even gave the mother a thoughtful and appropriately generous Christmas gift each year because he frankly held no hard feelings:
she was a great Mom, had been a good wife, and it just plain didn’t work out. They grew apart. They didn’t fail: the relationship no longer worked as well as they had dreamt it would. She knew it as well as he did.
As if that weren’t enough, he went to every Little League game, every recital or play at school, every teacher’s meeting and took the kids on amazing, adventurous alternate weekends. Home cooked meals around a dining room table talking and a rental video every Wednesday night that they would talk about some more before bedtime.
Early Thursday morning breakfast at Denny’s before school.
Camping trips to Tahoe, Yosemite, Big Sur and even Rocky Mountain National Park every summer. Two more weeks of day trips to the Sacramento Zoo, Marine World, Great America and Giants or A’s games.
Neither complained about nor questioned the amount of support he was paying. Not once. Even after a modest Modification upwards after the kids were a bit older.
Never mind his real name, I wish I could post a picture of him.
He stopped by at the office one time unannounced. No appointment, and the standard policy was that he had to make one to see me.
That wasn’t necessary. He didn’t even have to call.
I always had the time for him, and if I didn’t then I made it.
Hold the door open for this guy, run him through the metal detectors and show him the way.
This was before the Bulletproof Glass era, and when we met in the interview room his handshake and smile was cordial and friendly. The small talk was a welcome relief from a series of phone calls each day in which two out of every three people on the trigger end of the call thought you were an incompetent, money-grubbin’ asshole.
I actually got called that twice in the same letter once. Flattering, actually.
But (and you knew one of those was in the works) this time around My Man had a question:
he was buying a new house with his second wife based on both their respectable incomes, two kids coming along with her, and he was working on their budget. His sincere question, without any motives behind it, was how we figured it cost so much to raise the three kids he had with his ex.
“I can afford it, and I don’t mind paying it for them, but… I don’t know… I have been crunching numbers and running things around in my mind and a couple of hundred more in my pocket each month sure wouldn’t hurt. Not a deal breaker, but we’d like to have two layers of padding under the carpet in the master bedroom, a full fence around the back yard, plant a few fruit trees. My wife is usually receiving most of her support from the ex and doesn’t need help with her kids, but I really want to get off to a really nice fresh start.”
He acknowledged that he sent in his check each month, never questioned what it was going towards, but admitted he had very little of an idea of how much of it really, genuine, honestly went to the upkeep of his three children rather than his former wife.
Not that he thought she was milking him dry so she could get the new Blazer she was driving: she had gotten enough of a raise to cover half the payment (which was barely more than that on her trade-in), and it wasn’t tricked out with leather on the inside and a sunroof and bum-warmers in the driver’s seat. My Man helped her shop for it, for God’s sake, ’cause he knew cars and she didn’t, knew how to bargain, and she always loved the Jeep Comanche he had but couldn’t afford one. She came to him for suggestions.
And she ended up with the perfect vehicle at a surprisingly affordable payment.
He wasn’t looking for pity. He really wasn’t complaining. He, as was his ex, was getting on with his life and not tossing dirty looks over his shoulder. He wanted to start his new family off as comfortably as possible.
Can you blame the guy? I couldn’t. After all, it would be nice to have a $3,600.00 sound system in the family room, right?
I gave him the factors behind the support calculations: how much each parent makes, how much their combined total income is, their tax statuses, how much time each one has with the kids, yada yada yada, and an additional few yadas. He understood.
He just wanted to be able to wrap his head around the amount he was paying and the validity of its number.
So I explained to him more about the Agnos Minimum Child Support Act back in 1984, which had set up the standards for support amounts.
We were pretty much dealing with the theory, and he was just a bit curious about how it realistically worked out in practice.
He brought up a very good point that I later ended up referring to myself during other much more problematic discussions about highly more contentious circumstances: he realized that it took more money for he and his ex-wife to maintain two comfortable households for their children than it did for them to maintain the same one. He admitted that it might become a concern on his part that some of the support he was paying was designed to, well, “make things easier on (his ex)”, maybe more so than he needed to be responsible for.
I printed out Section 4055 of the California Family Code:
4055. (a) The statewide uniform guideline for determining child
support orders is as follows: CS = K[HN – (H%)(TN)].
(b) (1) The components of the formula are as follows:
(A) CS = child support amount.
(B) K = amount of both parents’ income to be allocated for child
support as set forth in paragraph (3).
(C) HN = high earner’s net monthly disposable income.
(D) H% = approximate percentage of time that the high earner has
or will have primary physical responsibility for the children
compared to the other parent. In cases in which parents have
different time-sharing arrangements for different children, H% equals
the average of the approximate percentages of time the high earner
parent spends with each child.
(E) TN = total net monthly disposable income of both parties.
(2) To compute net disposable income, see Section 4059.
(3) K (amount of both parents’ income allocated for child support)
equals one plus H% (if H% is less than or equal to 50 percent) or
two minus H% (if H% is greater than 50 percent) times the following
Income Per Month K
$0-800 0.20 + TN/16,000
$6,667-10,000 0.10 + 1,000/TN
Over $10,000 0.12 + 800/TN
For example, if H% equals 20 percent and the total monthly net
disposable income of the parents is $1,000, K = (1 + 0.20) × 0.25, or
0.30. If H% equals 80 percent and the total monthly net disposable
income of the parents is $1,000, K = (2 – 0.80) × 0.25, or 0.30.
(4) For more than one child, multiply CS by:
2 children 1.6
3 children 2
Hot diggety damn, more mumbo jumbo. Geek talk. Nerd numbers. And as cooperative and understanding as he was trying to be, it was just getting more frustrating for him.
He didn’t want his children to be short-changed or short-sheeted, but he wanted things fair, and he wanted them fair for everyone involved.
He knew that to cut back on his ex-wife, to make it any more difficult on her, would make it more difficult on his children.
“I can’t really see where it would actually cost me that much to provide for my kids. I’m sorry, I know what you’re saying, but I just can’t see it.”
I told him I knew what she was making, and guaranteed him a healthy chunk of her earnings were going to help support the kids.
Y’see, I never referred to the Absentee Parent as “supporting” the children but as “helping to” support them.
“So give him something to relate to, you marginally insightful, silver-tongued hippie turd“, and following that burst of self inspiration and imaginary pep-talk the first of many of my most storied, legendary historic career Mind Farts exploded into the clean, open air around us:
“How much for a box of Froot Loops?“
(Continued on Page 3)