Tuesday, November 09, 2010

#223: Custody Battle

I have had custody of my son since the winter of 2007 and have had it legally since the summer of 2008.  For years, I had been paying $200+ in child support--even when I had custody.  I received nothing from the state while my son's mother received everything--while contributing nothing--for a child she wasn't even taking care of.  In 2008, I sought to remedy that by getting a lawyer, getting everything legalized and reducing my child support to her a nice round $0.  And everything was going good until I received notice from the state saying that I owe child support again.  It wasn't much, just $80 or so a month but still, I have primary custody so I shouldn't owe anything.  In fact, I should probably be receiving something instead.

I just kind of ignored it because I had called them (left a message) and my son's mom called them (spoke with someone).  Thinking it was taken care of, I went about my life until the state began taking money from my paychecks and began demanding money for back child support.  Feeling this was unacceptable, I attempted to call and actually speak to someone.  The first number I called was to the call center and they just took down my information, my story and nothing was solved.  The next number was to the attorney in charge of the case, I left my information on the answering machine and never received a call back.  Meanwhile, I went to SRS with a copy of the custody papers indicating that I had custody and child support is now supposed to be $0 and that was all I heard from them.

After a month or so of silence, I received another notice saying I owe back child support, money will be taken, etc.  So my son's mom gave me the number directly to the lawyer.  She said just speak to the receptionist and she'll transfer you directly to the lawyer.  So I called the number and immediately got someone.  I explained who I was and the issue and her response was "You'll need to call this number," and gave me the number to the call center that never calls me back.

I decided to forget the idiotic game of telephone tag and sat down and wrote a letter pointing out that I have custody, child support was reduced to zero and that I had been given the runaround by SRS and the lawyer's office.  I also implied that what they were doing to me was discrimination and that the state, in these economic times, might not like to have a discrimination lawsuit on their hands.  I sent the pertinent papers in and, what do you know, that got stuff done.

Soon after I got letters indicating they have updated the records and that child support is not owed.  The reason I mention this is because I don't blame the actual lawyers or SRS employees that basically left me hanging in limbo.  A lot of people are left hanging in limbo because there is just not enough money or employees to go around.  It's really a sad situation but it happens.  I'm mentioning this because for the first time in my life, I felt discriminated against.  No one would call me back, no one would talk to me and it took a letter mentioning their possible discrimination and getting a lawyer along with the information to get anything done?  Could I have gotten this cleared up without having to mention the supposed discrimination?  Probably but maybe my letter will make them think twice before just automatically assuming every male that calls them is a "deadbeat dad" that shouldn't be allowed to have children anymore.

Shortly after the case was closed out, I received notification from someone, I can't remember in what state department saying that they were going to take me to court because of the child support they said I owed.  I wrote them a letter with a copy of the court orders saying I don't owe anything with the letter basically saying everything is settled and that if I receive any more communication from them I would consider it harassment and that they would be hearing from my lawyer.  So far, nothing.  Again, could I have possibly just sent the court papers and be done with it?  Probably, yes but I am a human being--and a responsible one and I truly felt like a second-class citizen.  Why anyone would treat another human like that is beyond me but it's happened, people have been killed and wars started because of it.

I was asked at work what job I really would want.  My answer was lawyer with an emphasis on father's rights.  Yes, there are some pretty pathetic men out there but most of the men I know are decent guys but unfortunately the court system favors the mothers in custody cases, even if the mother can barely provide a roof over the kids head and move them around so much the kids live in 19 different places within their first five years of life.

Until next time, I remain...