A case study of the perverse correlation between child support and parental love of a child disenfranchised and alienated from a parent paying child support.
New York State requires child support to be paid until 21 unless the child is emancipated after they are 18 (marriage, in the military, working full time, etc.). And so when my youngest child (of 2) quit college and started working full time I looked forward to finally get out from under what I consider an extorted child excise tax. What I wasn’t ready for was the emotional response by my child akin to abandonment of her. It was plainly clear that she had developed a view that child support paid equaled parental love, and removal of child support was removal of this love. I relate this example here in the hopes that it prepares others for the day they also file and get the resulting emotional backlash.
I had lost a 3 year custody battle in 1997 which left me bankrupt, in debt, and under an order of protection based upon false allegations made when I tried to gain access to my children which if violated would result in me being charged with a felony and losing my job (beat dead, dead broke, disenfranchised). As there is no access enforcement in NYS I informed my ex that she could deliver the children whenever she wanted but her profanity laced long winded “no” and her actions to keep me from my children for 3 years prior let me know that I was to be fully alienated from my children. Additionally I was garnished at 65% of my gross salary for the next ten years to “support” children I was forced away from.
The child excise tax (see the “Ten Myth’s of Child Support”) to my ex was set at 25% of my income (standard NY order). And like most orders, there was no mention of payments for college expenses. NY Courts have used the standard State University Rates to set payment levels with both parents paying a prorated share based upon their income. My older child came of college age and was attending but I was surprised to not be dragged back into support court. She had finished college by the time my youngest turned 18 and started at community college.
The order setting my child “support” was now many years old and over the years my income had increased and by the time my oldest started college the 17% for one child would have been higher than the 25% for two at my lower salary and so I never filed to emancipate my oldest. It is the dirty little secret of “child support” that if college is attended the custodial parent will lose payments while the child is staying at college and also now have to pay part of the tuition, room, and board. So it is in the custodial parents interest to have the child living at home so they can continue to get the child support for themselves and not have to contribute towards college. After one year of community college my youngest stopped college and went to work full time and here was my opportunity to get out from under the system.
I filed my emancipation petition which listed both children but as the oldest was over 21 it was a given. The Judge could have simply asked my ex and youngest of her status and ruled to emancipate but instead he put it on for a hearing date some 9 months down the road. I had filed Pro Se but now hired an attorney as I could see the fiasco of a hearing gone wrong and a bad ruling which would cause me to have to appeal. This was a real fear as the Judge was a political hack who was the most overturned NYS Family Court Judge and who resigned his position to escape judicial review.
On the hearing date it would have been easy for the judge to go on the record to ascertain if my youngest was working full time and my petition valid. Instead he allowed a hearing and as my ex was Pro Se he allowed her and my daughter to question me. And it was through this process that I saw the emotional damage that was done to my daughter by a system which only values a fathers financial contribution. Is it any wonder that a child brought up in a system which devalues time and personal connection between a father and a child results in a child which yearns so for their fathers love that they correlate a check as love?
I sat in the witness chair and got the third degree from my own child. I’m sure the sharp tongue of the alienating parent had set the focus of blame onto me. Why are you emancipating me but you didn’t emancipate my sister? Why are you emancipating me now? Lost on her was the father-daughter relationship had been reduced to an adversarial legal relationship. Lost on her was it wasn’t about her, it was about obtaining my freedom. Lost on the entire system is the fact that if she came to me and said, “Dad, I need some financial help with college” I would have given it to her. Lost was the fact that if she came to me looking for room and board I would open my door and care for her. The system and alienation of a parent is so complete that the perverse response is to force the parent to pay, and then blame them when they don’t want to. To take by force that which would be given freely.
And so for me the emancipation ruling was bitter sweet for to escape the yoke of injustice I had been under these many years I had to endure the emotional assault upon my daughter. I can’t help but be sad, and very mad, at a system and a parent which causes so much emotional pain to a child. The Judge made sure that I paid right to the end as his ruling was emancipation from the date of the hearing, not the date of petition filing as required by law. One last unjust act done with a “feel free to appeal” given over the attorneys objections.
Many studies correlate the lack of parental contact with increased health risks and the power of touching, physical proximity also counts. Forcing one parent out of a child’s life is certainly a form of child abuse, one which the “child protective” systems do not look at. Indeed, if mental health experts were looking to intervene in at risk families and children they would first look at a system which routinely removes and marginalizes one parent, usually the father. Lacking a fathers love and touch, the child holds dearly to any connection. Those parents who have been marginalized and seek to financially emancipate their children need to be aware that the child may have an emotional attachment to the money and that your attempts to free yourself from an unjust system could result in the child construing it as an act against them.