Child support: A single father’s perspective

“Paying child support is punishment to those who feel that they need to be punished. It’s mental. Parents need to stop breaking up with their children.

“If you choose to hate the parent, that’s on you, but why take it out on the children?” ponders a single father of five who asked not to named in order to protect his children’s identities.

*Pete spoke to SheHub after it was revealed that currently close to $47 million is owed in child support arrears in Bermuda up to August 31, 2017.

“What type of authority has been regulating this for the amount of arrears to reach this level? Now we can see how people are playing the system and quitting jobs.

“There has to be a realisation that delinquent parents know how to beat the system. They think that they are owing money to other parent but it really isn’t and it’s a selfish mindset to even have that mentality.”

About parents who have the ability to pay for their children but refuse to, he says: “Who doesn’t want what’s best for their children? They are unjustly delinquent. How can you not support what you know is yours? There have been times when I felt I couldn’t pay but I still did. I had to find a way. I pay without having to go through the courts. Always make an effort. If you can’t give $10, give $5. There should never be a situation where you can’t.”

And his thoughts on parents (primarily fathers) who stop working in order to prevent having money garnished from their wages?

“That’s sad. You will do without so you can’t help your child. What kind of spitefulness is that? We call women b*tches but that is b*tch behaviour. There really are some parents out there who are not only looking for the predominant parent to fail, but their children as well. It’s mental.”

The man, who has two sets of children says he enjoys co-parenting, despite its difficulties at times.

“Co-parenting is not easy; you learn to disagree to make the environment good for the children. When my younger children see me and their mother co-parent they are happy and confident. I can see a difference with my older children as they do not see the same with me and their mother.”

He adds: “Sometimes I want to critique their mother but can’t out of respect for her.”

While ideally he believes both parents should be fully engaged in every aspect of their children’s lives, Pete says at times the separation from a parent is imperative.

“Sometimes we have to do separation because it is healthy if parent is toxic. They can cause harm to the child’s psyche. Children should be settled and calm.

“The most excruciating decision is to separate a child from their parent but you have to protect the child; they don’t need to see the negativity.”

Though he would have preferred to resolve issues surrounding his children with the mother outside of court, Pete says he had to do what he had to for the sake of the children. In fact, he says, he has no problem with the Family Court, which is dreaded by a large number of non-custodial fathers.

“In my personal experience, it’s not the courts but a system that favours the mother—a system has always been there to split the Black family apart. The court offers a level of mediation. I have never felt that I have never been looked at favourably. I went to court to seek stability for my children. One key piece of advice I’d offer to anyone who has never been the Family Court; do not go in there like you are on personal attack against the other parent.

“I believe there should be mediation between parents. I think everything is negotiable but both parents have to be open to making it work.”

He encourages, non-custodial parents, particularly fathers not to give up when things seem rough: “A lot of people think quitting is easier. Ones who are parenting children alone will find that hard to conceive. Some parents display an image that does not exist.

“You have parents who have children and are not stable and prevent the stable parent from being around them.

Some parents make it extremely difficult and that is what causes a parent a quit. Some people use social media to pretend they are doing a good job.”

But, still, he says it’s no reason for a parent not to financially support their children.

“People in Bermuda are spoiled. There’s no great suffering. It’s comfortable in Bermuda. We just always tend to think things are supposed to be ‘our way’.

When asked for suggestions to combat spiralling child support arrears, Pete says: “Jail is not the answer. There was a time when delinquent parents went to work; I’m not sure if that still exists. Instead of jail, what about putting delinquents in a halfway house and deduct money from their wages, but then there would be some who would say, ‘I’ll just do the time’.”

“Remove passports. That would be a jolt. Limit their freedom. That would be worst that jail. People would definitely start paying then. Maybe publish a list of delinquent parents in the media.”

Pete is owed thousands of dollars in back child support and refuses to write off the debt.

He laments: “I do not think that Government will be able to recoup all funds but there is hope that parents will do what they have to.”

To parents who choose not to contribute towards their children’s upbringing he says: “It’s not too late to be involved in your child’s life. You try to make sure you look nice and keep yourself together and want to be petty but as a parent I will say, being involved is satisfaction. Anyone who does not wish to be involved in their child’s life must be miserable. I love watching my children grow.”

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