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Family Life

Readers Get Last Word on Dads Who Won't Pay Child Support

February 20, 1988|JAN HOFMANN | Jan Hofmann is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Quite a few readers still wanted to get a word in on topics discussed in recent columns, even though the subject has been changed. This week, we hear from them and from a couple of previous correspondents with updates on their situations.

The conversation on child support is far from over, with letters still coming in from frustrated mothers who haven't been able to collect the money their ex-husbands owe them.

Barbara, a Huntington Beach divorced mother with a young daughter, says her attorney fees over the last five years have equaled her ex-husband's child support arrearage. She wishes she was still in her native England, where such situations, she says, are handled quite differently.

"In England the custodial parent simply takes the court order to a police station, and they go and pick up the delinquent parent," she says. "It is either pay or go to jail. No attorney is needed; no money is spent."

Jean, who lives in Laguna Hills, is married with grown children and has never dealt directly with the problem of child support. But she offers a creative suggestion for enlisting the support of someone who might have influence over delinquent dads.

"I suggest that mothers withhold the child's company from the grandmother, the mother of the ex-husband," Jean says. "I think the ex will get pressure from his mother so that she can see her grandchild. After all, the grandmother is partly to blame in rearing a son who ducks his responsibilities."

Jean had a suggestion on another of our topics as well. She's a believer in paying children allowances, but only if they earn their "share in the family money" by "sharing in the family responsibilities."

Things went more smoothly, Jean says, when she began typing a list of assigned chores and taping it to the wall. Her daughter, "being very organized, checked off each chore as she did it, and she knew when she would be free to go play."

Since her comments appeared in Family Life, we have heard twice from Gaye, the Costa Mesa mother whose ex-husband sneaked to her door with a Christmas gift for his daughter to avoid being arrested for failure to pay child support.

The first time, shortly after her story ran, she was elated. An investigator from the district attorney's office had contacted her and was closing in on her ex, a self-employed electrical contractor. She was confident that he would be in jail soon and that the money would follow shortly after.

This week, she called back, frustrated once again. The father had appeared in court, paid $300 of the $8,000 he owes her and left. "I was in tears," she says. "My caseworker told me, 'Look around here. It seems to me that you're a lot better off than a lot of people.' It does not help me a great deal to know that I'm not the only one," says Gaye.

Meanwhile, Gaye says the bills for her learning-disabled daughter's therapist and medication continue to mount. "My caseworker said, 'You should feel fortunate that you can afford a $125-an-hour therapist.' But I can't afford it; that's the point."

Gaye says her caseworker told her she would have to wait four to six weeks to get the $300.

Remember Mike, the Newport Beach dad who refused to pay child support because he can't see his daughter? He's paying $200 a month now, but not because he's had a change of heart. "I filed for unemployment, and they're taking it out of my checks," he says. "I thought about fighting it, but I don't think I'm going to." Meanwhile, charges against him for failure to pay are still pending, and his court dates have been postponed until next month. Mike still hasn't been able to see his daughter, but he says he won't give up trying.

Richard, a Santa Ana attorney, found a connection between the child support issue and another of our topics, the adult "boomerang" child who moves back home after failing to make it on his own.

"Often the parent to whom the child is returning is a single, divorced parent," Richard points out. In some cases, he says, the parent can go to court to ask the ex-spouse to help out financially with spousal support, even though the child is now an adult and no longer eligible for child support.

"Obviously, where an adult child willfully refuses to work and thus 'cannot make it,' the court would not order money to the supporting parent," he says. "But there are cases of hardship which exist where relief may be sought in court, and I thought your readers should know of it."

My one and only...

In China, it's mandatory: no more than one child per couple. But so many couples there are violating the rule that a new baby boom is under way, and last week the nation's family planning authorities began a crackdown to keep a lid on the burgeoning 1-billion-plus population.

Here in Orange County, however, an increasing number of couples are deciding on their own that one child is enough, because of tight finances or simply because they want Junior to have their undivided attention. If your child is an only and you don't plan on more, tell us how you reached the decision, and how you compensate for the brothers and sisters your child will never have.

Or is one too many?

Some two-career couples are deciding that they just don't have room in their lives for children. If that describes you, tell us why, and how, the two of you chose to be childless.

Send your comments to Family Life, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, 92626. Please include your phone number so that a reporter may call you. To protect your privacy, Family Life does not publish correspondents' last names.

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