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Friday, January 22, 2010

John Edwards and Child Support

I'm going to take some time today to write about an issue that's important to me. Yesterday, I watched the ladies on "The View" talk about John Edwards and the baby he allegedly fathered with a woman outside his marriage. Barbara Walters said the woman, Reille Hunter, has kept the child out of the media spotlight and John Edwards supposedly has agreed to financially support them. Sherri broke in saying that Mr. Edwards only had a responsibility to support the child and Barbara Walters corrected her statement by saying he's agreed to support the child. So I guess even women think that a man who fathers child should only financially help the child and not the person who cares for the child.

Forget that John Edwards is married and that this woman should have known better. We have no idea what Mr. Edwards may have said to her in private. The one thing we do know, without a doubt, is that he's a liar.

I bring this up because I'm disappointed that a panel of women still think that men who have unprotected sex should only be obligated to support the child. It's this kind of thinking that has made child support such a ridiculously low amount of money. Yes, I'm a single mother so this is an issue that's very important to me.

Most women can't provide a home, food, clothes, health insurance and school costs on child support alone, unless the father has a sizable salary and is willing to pay above the mandated child support minimum. So most single mothers must work to supplement whatever support they receive from the father, and this is true if the parents are married or not. Alimony and money above child support have become optional as women are now seen as people able to earn an income.

However, what everyone seems to be ignoring is how hard it is to find and maintain work when caring for small children. If the woman is lucky enough to have a good career before she has children, as a single parent, she might find herself unable to keep up her workload without any help from a spouse or family member. Or if she's some one like me, the job that she had before having children may simply not be possible with children. And the idea that once the kids start school, the mom can work is also not accounting for the 50 hour work weeks many people put in now.

Should the child's mother not have health insurance, a home, the ability to care for herself so she can take care of this child? If people argue that some women may be "gold diggers" who use a child to get money from a wealthy man, I say it's the wealthy man's responsibility to protect that money, especially if he's married.

Judging by the women's response on "The View," only women with good, stable jobs who can afford to take care of themselves and provide a home for their children should have children. It seems like birth control and the right to work have served to make only women responsible for the children two people create. Men can go ahead and have sex with whoever they want without having to worry about consequences. Depending on where they live and how much money they make, they might only have to pay $300 bucks a month for that kid. And it doesn't matter if he's married to the mother because unless the couple is married for seven years or more, child support is all he might be required to pay.

Birth control and women's growing numbers in the work force should not serve as another excuse for men to act irresponsibly.

In terms of my own situation with C, many of my friends have asked if he's financially helping me and the answer is yes. I believe C is giving me more money than would be required of him by law. But it still barely covers our expenses and doesn't cover my rent at all. If C had custody of the kids, he would pay a babysitter more than the monthly check he cuts for me. Factor in the cost of school, food and doctor copayments, he'd easily be paying twice as much money per month to care for his kids if he had custody. Sure, he'd get the opportunity to live with them, but the kids would spend the majority of their time being shuffled from daycare to school.

But that's only my side of the story as as you know, it's his word against mine. Only the numbers are provable.

Here are the numbers in the state of New York. By law, for two children, the non-custodial parent is required to pay 25% of his take-home pay, minus any deductions for other child support to the custodial parent. Health insurance for the children, school and child care are suggested, but not required by law. The non-custodial parent must provide a home for himself but does he need 75% of his take home pay for this? But by law, 25% is all that is required for the care, feeding and housing of two children.

Mr. Edwards may be financially responsible for the rest of his life for an extramarital affair he chose to have. But Ms. Hunter, she's the one that has to get up in the middle of the night when the kid is sick or night potty training, she has to prepare and provide meals, take the kid to the doctor, drive the kid to and from soccer practice, tour schools, fill out the required paperwork, serve on the PTA, take the kid for new clothes and haircuts and dental appointments. When she has to work or get her own haircut or maybe even go to the doctor herself, she has to arrange for some one to be with her child. In fact for the next several years, she can't make any kind of plans without making sure some one is available to take care of her child. Is this massive responsibility worth nothing?

The rewards of motherhood are great and worth the responsibility Ms. Hunter will incur. However, please stop letting men off the hook so easily by saying a men should only pay for their children. Women typically still earn less than men and still do the majority of caring for aging parents. Two people create a child, two people have the ability to prevent a pregnancy from happening should they choose to have sex. I think asking men to financially help the women who care for their children is reasonable. After all, she is caring for this wonderful, living, breathing part of him.

6 comments:

Patty said...

Amen!

Shel said...

I guess I would have to come down a bit on the other side. I don't necessarily disagree with some of your points especially considering the impact children have on a woman's ability to work and the financial hit to her earning potential. That's why we have chosen for my husband to work full time and me to work at home. However, I do wonder at the conclusion you drew that %25 of a persons income for child support is insufficient. I can tell you that if we had to earmark 25% of my husband's income for child support, he could not live on the excess and afford housing, transportation, insurance etc, for himself let alone a wife or other children. If a person makes 40,000 then 10,000 per year would go to child support. In theory that should cover 1/2 of the expenses of said child(ren) as the custodial parent should assume 1/2 their expenses as well. I know that I don't work by choice because the childcare and increased expenses from wardrobe etc would mean I wouldn't make enough money to make it worth leaving my girls. I realize that may not work in many cases as single moms often have no choice, yet still have the increased expenses of child care, wardrobe, and other things that change when you aren't able to cook the same way or have transportation expenses that are different. I think that one casuality of a woman's right to choose their own reproductive right is this...it's our body so we get to decide, well now that we have, we get the good and the bad of that decision.

BTW White Collar is a fabulous show, my husband and I both really enjoy it.

Litgirl Mama said...

Interesting comment Shel but as you can read, it's the stay-at-home moms like you I think need protecting. While I'm sure your marriage is very stable and you don't have to worry, many married women are shocked to find out how little their husbands are legally required to pay, even when he wants out. When I work, I would say about 65% goes towards the care and upkeep of my children. And I don't sympathize with men who might not be able to have a second family if he has to pay child support as again my point is about men and responsibility and before a man has more children, he should support the ones he already has.

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Mellodee said...

Your post started out with the story about John Edwards and his illicit involvement with a woman (not his wife), who has since had a baby as a result of that involvement. I fully support the idea that the birth father has a responsibility to support his progeny, but in the case of an illicit affair, I don't believe that responsibility extends to supporting the mother! They both went into this thing knowing it was wrong. Her responsibility should have included keeping her legs crossed! But since she did not, the resulting situation, is just as much her responsibility as his.

Now in the case of divorce, or suchlike, that's a whole different story! The two situations should not end up with the same "punishment".

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