Child Support Is Never Just About the Money

By Anna Gibson According to the United States Census Bureau , 39 percent of custodial parents fail...

By Anna Gibson

According to the United States Census Bureau, 39 percent of custodial parents fail to receive child support in the United States. Even more disturbing, it would seem that even if parents provide child support, it’s too little to support the family. The amount of child support given monthly is estimated to be an underwhelming $280 a month.

When you take into account the sick days needed to take care of the child, food needed to feed the child and the general mental pressures of being an adult, it’s clear that the custodial parent (which it should be noted could be either a man or a woman) needs much more than a person wiring money to an account and going about their day. To fail to provide a presence in that child’s life is the ultimate transgression of love and connectedness you could put them through. It also puts a strain on the relationship between you, the other parent, and the child caught in the middle of everyone’s foolishness.

Many men would complain about the exorbitant amount of child support payments that they’re forced to pay or how women may fall through the cracks of the system, being judged and sentenced more leniently. While this is true in some cases, the system that oversees decree laws in cases of divorce and other kinds of childcare is broken.

This “brokenness” of the system leads to some people paying more child support than they can actually afford and others to pay much less than they make. Which is worse: being responsible for $1000 a month when you’re already struggling to pay your bills or paying $300 a month when you make $40,000 a year? I would venture to say that this leads to resentment on both side of the equation, one that causes strain on both the parents and the child. The problem is this: child support is about so much more than money.

The importance of “child support” isn’t only financial but mental and emotional as well. The non-custodial parent has to be in the life of the child in whatever way is worked out between the parents (if the child is old enough, their input should be an essential factor as well). Even though the custodial parent may love the child, single parenthood isn’t a walk in the park. The child may become psychologically damaged by the absence of the non-custodial parent.

Studies have looked at the absence of both mothers and fathers. Dr. Edward Kruk, in his Psychology Today article “Father Absence, Father Deficient, Father Hunger,” explains this damage in stark clarity. He states, “Children [have a] diminished self-concept, and compromised physical and emotional security (children consistently report feeling abandoned when their fathers are not involved in their lives, struggling with their emotions and episodic bouts of self-loathing)… behavioral problems (fatherless children have more difficulties with social adjustment, and are more likely to report problems with friendships, and manifest behavior problems…).” The child is also much more likely to feel unworthy and unlovable. They often feel as if they have to prove themselves and find love in other places. In an article on called “Mother Abandonment and the Effects on the Child,” Genevieve Van Wynden explains: “He experiences confusion and asks questions about why his mother left him. He feels guilt, believing that he did something so bad that it made his mother leave him behind.... He is fearful of developing bonds with other adults–teachers, stepparents or caregivers. The child believes that if he begins to love the new adult, that person will also leave. He grieves for the lost relationship.”

The presence of the custodial parent also has far-reaching effects. What if the parent has to take a number of vacation days off because the child is sick? They can’t always afford time off so this may cause a lack of cash flow coming back to the household. This could be made even worse by the lack of money for child support I spoke about in the beginning. How will the parent deal with the stressors of not being able to feed the child(ren) and put food on the table? The answer lies in the support and cooperation of both parties involved.

In short, it’s obvious that child support doesn’t simply end with one parent handing money to the custodial parent and driving away. It’s a coordination of support from both parents for the sake of the child. As shown, a lack of physical and psychological support from either parent has far-reaching effects and could have an impact on the child in throughout their life in profoundly negative ways. However, the opposite is also true. Because of this, we have to make sure that we put our children first and allow them to flourish within a fruitful environment. Otherwise, who will carry on our legacy?

Photo: Shutterstock

Anna Gibson is a student at Wayne State University and a lifelong learner. She’s dope as shit and would love to talk more with you. You can reach her on Twitter @TheRealSankofa and on Facebook under the name Anna Gibson.

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