I hear a lot of reasons why women choose to go after their child’s biologic father for child support that I don’t think should even enter into the equation when making that choice. Things like “It’s his responsibility to pay”, “my child deserves to have it’s father in it’s life”, and “I can’t let him get away with what he’s done.”
Look, making the choice is always a complex process, but there are only two factors you need to consider when making the choice:
How much do I (and by default, your child) need the amount I will get from him in order to survive in a healthy manner?
Is involving this man in our lives going to be harmful to either of us, and to what degree?
Weighing these issues against each other are tough enough, don’t complicate it with fantasies of revenge or making your ex realize that he really does want to be father of the year. These fantasies are just that; fantasies.
The truth is that his responsibilities are not your responsibility. It’s his responsibility to show up to work every day, pay his bills, and drive sober, but you’re not trying to babysit him through those responsibilities. Yes, it is his responsibility to take care of the child he conceived, but if he’s not going to stand up to that responsibility on his own you really can’t force him to in any manner that’s going to have a happy ending. Yes, you can take him to court for child support, and in many cases that is the right thing to do, but if you’re doing it to teach him or anyone else a lesson, you’re going to be disappointed. That’s best case scenario.
Does your child have a right to a relationship with it’s biologic father? Maybe. But your child also has a right to food in it’s belly, a roof over it’s head, a life free of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, and a safe and healthy environment free of things like substance abuse and crime. If your child’s biologic father is a threat to any of these other rights, I’d say those rights trump a right to knowing their biologic father.
Is he getting away with something if you don’t pursue child support? Maybe he is. But maybe you are too. Yes, technically child support and visitation/custody are not connected, but the fact is that when you go to court for child support the father is usually offered the opportunity to counter file for visitation or custody, if he hadn’t already thought to do it himself. Child support usually means visitation or shared custody too, which might be something you might want to “get away with” not having to deal with. Sharing rights over your child can be a hinderance at the nice end of the scale, or a disaster on the bad end. Who’s to say who’s really getting away with the most when you decide not to pursue child support? When he forsakes his responsibilities, he forsakes his rights too. If you get away with all the rights and he gets none, I think it can be fairly argued that he’s getting the short end of the stick, not you.
So, here’s what you should think about.
How much does he make and how much do you make? If you make six figures and he makes 20k a year, it might not be worth it to go after child support. On the other hand, if he makes six figures and you make 20k a year, you might really need child support. It might be so needed that you’re better off trying for getting it and trying for no visitation too (say if he’s rich and abusive, for example).
Will he pay what he is ordered to pay? It makes little difference if the courts award you a thousand dollars a month in child support if he doesn’t pay it, and while there are means of enforcing child support, far more men get away with not paying than with paying. Will you pay more taking him to court than you will likely get out of him? That’s a net loss for your child. You might as well have flushed that money you should have used providing for your child down the toilet.
Is this man a threat to me or my child, and if so, how likely will it be that I can prove it in court? It takes a tremendous amount of evidence to probe someone unfit in court, but it can be done. On the other hand, maybe you are confident that even if visitation or custody is granted to your ex that he won’t use it, that also should be considered.
Once you consider everything, you need to make sure that the benefits of getting child support outweigh the risks of having the biologic father involved. If they do, go for child support, and don’t do it for any reasons but the benefits to your child. If the risks of having the biologic father in your child’s life outweigh the benefits of getting child support, don’t go after it. It’s that simple.
It’s about what’s best for your child.