Why do I care? BF's child support situation

Amber3902October 10, 2011

Just trying to figure out my feelings here.

My boyfriend's son recently came to live with him. BM has agreed to let the son stay with my BF for the school year. She's going to school right now and agreed it would better that the son stay with my BF. Right now the court order has BM with primary custody, and BF paying her child support. However, since BF's son came to live with him he has not paid child support. BM so far has been okay with this agreement, however, I am concerned that several months might pass and then one day BM gets pissed at BF and takes him back to court and sues him for all the months of child support that he hasn't paid. I told him he needed to meet with an attorney first, before he had his son move in with him, to find out what he needs to do to protect himself against this happening.

But he was like, no, I have to get him away from her RIGHT NOW and my son is better off with me. Not that I don't disagree with him in that regard. But it was not an emergency situation, BM was not abusing the son or anything like that, it was more a case of neglect, a couple of times she's left him home alone, she yells and screams at him ... bad stuff but nothing that you could take to court and get custody changed for.

Anyway, BF has had his son with him for over a month now, and he has been saying he doesn't have any money to consult with an attorney, so when I got some extra money I gave him $50 to talk to an attorney and get some legal advice.

So he met with an attorney this last Wednesday. She basically told him what I had been telling him, that unless he gets a new court order submitted, there is nothing to protect him from BM suing him for back child support and him having to pay back all the months of child support he hasn't paid.

She said he could get something written up that both of them sign and notarized and MAYBE a judge might consider it, but the ONLY way to guarantee that BM can't sue him for back child support is to have a new court order submitted in court. She said it would cost $750 to do this. Of course, BF doesn't have the money to do this.

I'm worried that a few months down the road BM will turn on BF and sue him for all the child support he hasn't paid. My girlfriend said I need to stop worrying about it, I'll do all this worrying and nothing may ever happen.

And I don't know why I'm letting this get to me. I guess I'm annoyed that my BF made a very poor decision in moving his son in before consulting with an attorney first. I understand the desire to want to have your child, I just feel he went about this all wrong. He should have talked to an attorney first before moving his son in.

You know what else annoys me? The other day he was helping his son with his homework and he wasn't doing his subtraction right. He told me now he sees why BM was yelling at the son about his homework. And that was the main reason why he wanted to get his son away from her! AUGH!

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Could you write a carefully-worded email for Hubby to send to BioMom confirming their verbal agreement that while DS was living with him during the school year, that he would not be liable for child support payments to her, and also that SHE would not be liable for child support payments to him. Or maybe flip the order around and put her not owing him first...

Not as good as a court order, but much better than nothing, and I'd bet if she were to agree to it, that a court would uphold it.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 4:03PM
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Thanks Sweeby - My BF asked her about that- basically just having a written agreement without submitting it to court and the attorney said that it is very unlikely a judge would take it into consideration.

Just to clarify- this is my boyfriend, and we don't even live together. Another reason why I don't get why this bothers me so much.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 5:17PM
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I cant say that your bf's decision to move his son in with him without consulting an attorney is a "very poor decision" Sometimes you just do what you have to to get your kids. In our situation, since day one BM is supposedly custodial with DH EOW and one day a week... it hasnt been this way since day one. And, he should be paying child support. Fast forward through a whole LOT of BS and the situation is now that one week with her (or rather of few days out of one week with her), one week with us and no one gets any money. Ofcourse, on paper it is still the original agreement. But, she will NEVER go to court amicably to change it. We have tried. And there is simply no money for court battles. Whatever, yes it's dangerous but we have our kids. And, that is what is most important. If it comes down the line then so be it. But, we have done what is best for the kids whatever the risk.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 7:07PM
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Amber, I'm not sure what state you live in but I know that in mine, if parents have a notarized agreement changing custody a judge will take it into account. It's not the same as a court order - but they'd be asking some probing questions as to why someone was trying to get CS for a child that doesn't and hasn't lived with them.

Perhaps this bothers you so much because you are someone who likes to have their life under control and organized; bills paid on time, important papers in safe deposit box, savings for emergencies, that kind of thing - or at least you want to be that kind of person. It is very difficult, I think, to adjust to the complete uncertainty that can be dealing with an erratic ex. There are NO guarantees in family court. No matter how strong a case may seem to be, there are some true horror stories of judges making appalling decisions.

I'd guess your BF is playing the odds as to what will best benefit his son. As much as it stinks, they are the same odds I'd hope my DH would have played too. Here's why - if BF were to insist that BM agree to formal custody change, in many states CS has to change with that, and BM would have to pay it to BF. Do you think she'd agree to that? When she did not, then the child would remain living with a neglectful mother, who leaves him home alone, who screams at him. (I'm not sure how old this child is but if he still needs help with subtraction, I'm guessing much too young to be left home alone!)

Or, BF does what he is doing now. In several months he can file for a change in custody based on the changed circumstances - that his son is and has been living with him. His chances of winning primary then are much better. CS can be addressed at that time. I know several people who've had physical primary custody and continued to pay CS, just so their kids are safe.

It's not an ideal situation your BF is in, but unfortunately too often there is no "right" solution.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 8:52AM
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"Perhaps this bothers you so much because you are someone who likes to have their life under control and organized; bills paid on time, important papers in safe deposit box, savings for emergencies, that kind of thing - or at least you want to be that kind of person."

Yes, maybe that is my problem. My BF once said I'm a planner, I like to know what's going to happen ahead of time.

Of course I don't think the son should remain with the BM, but I also think there's a right way to go about things. I told him if he thinks BM is such a terrible mother, he needs to find out what he needs to do to get custody of his son, not make sneaky back room deals that won't stand up in court.
I guess I'm the type of person that does not take the law into their own hands. I could see if BM was really abusing the kid, if he had bruises on him, of course I could understand the urgency of the situation. The kid is 8 years old, she left him home alone for a few minutes while she ran to the store and he had his cell phone. Not good, I grant you, but even when my BF called the police about it they didn't do anything. Yeah, she yells at the kid, but what parent doesn't yell at their kid every once in a while? I'm not saying she's a great mother, but the kid is not doing bad, he gets good grades in school, no emotional problems. When I see him he's a happy, outgoing kid. And how do I know how an abused kid acts? Because my mom beat me when I was a kid. I mean BEAT, with belts, brooms, fists. I didn't dare speak without her permission and it took a couple of years of therapy to get over it. I know how an abused kid acts, and this kid does not act abused.

So to me, if the kid's not being abused and the courts do not consider what the BM is doing worth a change of custody, it's not worth risking being sued for thousands of dollars in child support. But at the end of the day I guess I just need to step back, respect that this is his child and his decision to make.

But that brings to another issue. My BF and I had plans to move in together at the end of October when my apartment´┐Żs lease expired. Then before that happens, the BF moves his son in without even talking to me first about it. Not saying that he had to ask my permission to move his son in, but I feel since we were going to be living together and sharing expenses together, it would have shown a little respect to talk to me first about it. This decision would impact our finances if he was sued for back child support. Again, I could see if his son was being seriously abused, of course he needs to do whatever to get his son away from BM immediately, but I don't feel it was a situation where he needed to get his son away from BM at any cost. I think he should have done it the right away and go through the courts. I feel this is a decision that if we were living together would have impacted me. Say we were living together and then he decides to do this, if he was sued for back child support, that would have impacted our finances.
Something like that should have been discussed, and while BF might have been willing to take this risk, I was not.

I suppose that makes me a bad person, but I am on here, trying to work through these feelings.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 10:43AM
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I would think you care, Amber, because you care about this man. Just like in a slightly different way you will 'care' as your own kids grow up and you see them maybe making mistakes. Nobody wants to stand by and watch those they care about make mistakes or as I say to my kids 'leap before looking'.

And it may affect you at some point. If you continue on in this relationship and perhaps marry/co-hab, you know as well as any of us that verbal agreements mean diddle. I have a friend that is in process of trying to settle up to $50,000 to his child's BM because he trusted her and now has no proof of any of the actions that transpired...years and years worth. I just want to look at him and say 'what the heck were you thinking'!

I can understand your BF wanting to get his son moved in and settled and start the school year on time and without distruption, even wihtout any actual abusive unsafe/stable home the child was leaving. But you're dead on that he needs to get it all properly transfered and documented now. But just like when your kids grow up, are on their own and you witness them doing 'stupid' things, except for calmly and politely stating your personal opinion in an attempt to purely be helpful in in guiding and/or advising, you have to let the guy do his own thing. Even if it's stupid and may come back to kick him.

Caring and being concerned is not 'wrong', Amber. Partly here because you KNOW you are right in this particular case and partly because you really care about the guy and you'd like to 'fix' things before he actually 'breaks' them. KWIM?

I'm glad you made the decision to remain in your own home at this point. You're doing all the right steps to protect yourself, your children ...but you can't 'save' other people from themselves. You know what you want, what you personally need to do for yourself and your children and you're putting it front and center where it belongs. But at the same time you choose to continue to have a relationship with this guy and to be a part of his life for now. The day may come when you decide to cut this guy loose and move on....in the meantime, you're being wise and protecting yourself.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 12:00PM
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Amber, first of all, even if it was an almost slam-dunk that the courts would feel that BM was horrifically neglectful and BF should be awarded custody, he would still have to spend thousands of dollars - in attorneys fees. And proving someone to be neglectful or even abusive is a lot more difficult than it might seem; just ask some of the posters here.

There is one thing that family courts like very much though, and it's easy to prove. That is status quo. Is the child doing reasonably well in their current situation? Often judges are loathe to change an arrangement that is even somewhat adequate. There would be a huge difference between BF in court in a year defending the status quo of his son living with him and doing well, or trying to convince the judge to overturn the son living with his mother and doing somewhat well.

Here's an analogy that might help. You are offered a dream job, a once in a lifetime opportunity, but it requires you to quit your current job without notice. Your current employer has always treated you fairly decently and you know that if you up and walk they will be left scrambling. It's not an emergency situation; you have a job that is tolerable and you can get by on the pay if you scrimp and go without - but the new offer is just incredible. What would you do? If you don't try to grab the brass ring now you know that the chances are very good that it will never come your way again.

That's your BF. He was handed custody of his son from an at-least-somewhat neglectful mother. It may not have been an emergency, but it is an opportunity that he probably should not let pass him by.

Parents are generally allowed to come to a private agreement regarding custody; some parents have never had a formal court order. They don't need one; they have made the best choice for their kids on their own.

There is no guarantee that BM cannot sue for back CS - but there is no guarantee that she will win if she does. CS is meant to support the child; since the child is living with BF there is no reason that BM should be receiving it for such time as the boy is not with her.

Amber, I feel like the real problem might be the way that this all went down. You like to plan, you had plans to move in with BF at the end of this month, and now it's suddenly all turned upside down, and it sounds like this was presented to you as a done deal. I can understand why you'd be a bit upset; now you have a choice of moving in with BF and his son, finding a new place, or staying where you are, and you only have weeks to decide. I wouldn't be thrilled if I were you. But if that is a lot of what is bothering you, then you need to address communication issues with your BF. Custody is a red herring; the lack of communication is the problem.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 12:26PM
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"Parents are generally allowed to come to a private agreement regarding custody; some parents have never had a formal court order.."

Absolutely...that's how me and my ex did it with regards to custody, finances, assets, etc...we never even got lawyers except to draft the final documents, and never had to see the inside of a courtroom or stand before a judge. We used a Mediation center and probably saved ourselves tons of $$ if we had gone the lawyer route. My ex tells me about the BS her boyfriend and his ex go thru...always dragging each other to court, paying attorneys, forensic accounting firms, etc. Thank god I've been spared that....divorce is hard enough.

Although this approach only works if you are willing to put your bitterness aside and work together on what's best for the kids....which I understand is usually not the case.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 1:08PM
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JMT and Mattie - thanks to both of you for putting things into ways I can understand them. Both of your stories have helped me better understand this situation and how I'm feeling.

"Just like in a slightly different way you will 'care' as your own kids grow up and you see them maybe making mistakes. Nobody wants to stand by and watch those they care about make mistakes or as I say to my kids 'leap before looking'."
JMT- Yes, I see him heading towards that cliff, and want to stop him before he falls and hurts himself. But you are so right, I have to let him do his own thing, even if the consequences come back to hurt him.

Mattie - "He was handed custody of his son from an at-least-somewhat neglectful mother. It may not have been an emergency, but it is an opportunity that he probably should not let pass him by."
Your analogy was so very helpful for helping me understand why my BF took the action he did, thank you!

I do have to say though, while some parents are able to do things without needing a court order, BM is not one of them. BF had to take her to court just so he could see his son. BM said she was paying day care and had it included in child support but had her mother watch the son for free. I would not put it past her that she would not sue BF for back child support one day. But then again, this is his decision to make.

"You like to plan, you had plans to move in with BF at the end of this month, and now it's suddenly all turned upside down, and it sounds like this was presented to you as a done deal."
Yes, the situation was presented to me as a done deal. We did talk about the whole situation, however. My BF said he could tell that I wasn't excited that his son was coming to live with him. I said I'm sorry, but I can't be happy that something has happened that I know is going to cause problems in our relationship. I said you had to have known that your son coming to live with you full time might be problem. What is the one thing we argue about? Your son. What is the one thing we have disagreements about? Your son.
I said how could you not know that it wasn't going to be a problem? He said he guessed he didn't realize how much of a problem it was.

And I told him the actual problem wasn't his son, the REAL problem is him getting defensive when I tell him things about his son. I told him that for a while he had gotten better, but lately it seems he has regressed and has been getting defensive again whenever I say something to him about his son. I told him sometimes I feel like I'm walking eggshells. He apologized and said he will try not to get so defensive. After talking some more he realized the reason why he gets so defensive is because when we first dated I didn't say anything to him about his son and then after about a year I started saying things. So he didn't understand why his son seemed to be okay before but then I started saying things about him. I told him I didn't feel comfortable at first telling him about his son's behavior, but as things progressed and especially when we started making plans to move in together, I had to bring my concerns to his attention.

I do want to tell him I feel he should have talked to me first before moving his son in, but I didn't know how to say it without him getting offended. I'm not saying he needed to ask my permission before he moved his son in, but I feel since we had made plans to live together, that he should have at least consulted with me first since we would be sharing bills and it would affect our finances.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 1:53PM
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Should probably add so I don't confuse folks- the conversation I mention above that my BF and I had was AFTER he had moved his son in.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 3:01PM
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Amber, my dh got custody of his son last October. We had already started a custody case though... when all of a sudden bm moved to another state and TEXTED my dh that ss could stay with him and go to school here. That she'd give him custody. She didn't want to go to court though and she didn't want to pay support. Because we were already in the middle of the battle by Monday morning a hearing had already been scheduled for that coming Thursday. BM could NO LONGER back out of the deal because she TEXTED it to dh. Text messages are allowed as evidence in a hearing. Has this bm done any of these changes in this form? Or by email? Because that could be the thing that gets your bf out of her being able to sue him for back support. There are forms online to go to court pro se. He could do this all himself. Does the school recognize that bf has custody?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 3:16PM
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No, none of the communications have been via email or text, this has all been done via phone conversations. I have thought of BF doing this pro se, will mention it to him again.

About the school, since BM lives almost an hour away, BF had the son transfered to a school closer to him. When he registered the son at the new school, BM provided him with all the necessary paperwork, SS#, birth certificate. The school didn't give him any problems registering him. I do have to say, however, since my daughter attends the same school, that they don't ask any questions about custody on any of the forms.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 8:20PM
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Keep copies of school records showing the son has residency with dad. He can petition the court on his own to modify the support order as well as the custody order. If he did that, would the BM run to scoop up her son & resume being CP? If she is busy & really can't take him back, she is stuck with it. The courts generally want a support order as both parents are obligated to support the child. Or as in CA, it says the child is entitled to be supported by both parents. Either way, BM may end up having to pay something. Dad can't "waive" child support but he can say he makes enough money to provide well for his child and that he does not need the money and putting mom under an order could cause undue hardship on her and that would adversely affect the parent-child relationship between mom & son... and it could affect her ability to afford frequent & continuing visitation, which he doesn't want to upset. He can make a case for not putting mom under an order if he wants to just remove HIS obligation while the child lives with him. At the same time, a court may be inclined to put in the order that dad has custody based on the living arrangements, if dad wants. When BM did the same thing.. moved away & told DH in an email that he can have custody. I, right away, drafted a judicial council form that is used for agreements in family law, stating that DH has custody & BM has visitation... specified the days/times as well as holidays. BM signed it, DH signed it. Legally, it meant nothing until it was submitted to the court & a Judge reviewed it & signed it. That happened a few months later. However it did not address the issue of child support. DH left the child support order alone for 9 long months where I worried that BM would drag him in to collect on 9 months worth of support and make DH look like a deadbeat when he was the one that actually had the child. So, he filed a modification... and poof, BM wanted custody back but after 9 months of SD living with us & the agreement she signed & had been converted to a court order by the Judge, she could not instantly ask for custody back without showing a significant change in circumstance, which is required in CA. Of course by then, it had gotten nasty between DH & BM so they were not in agreement on anything. The court then modified the support order & issued a judgment against BM & made sure it included wording to keep her from claiming any back support for periods when SD lived with us.

If the son is going to live with dad, then I would suggest that he first address the issue of getting it in writing for legal purposes. He can say he needs it for medical care or school, which is true. If the school were to find out BM actually has custody... they might feel at risk of some sort of liability & have a problem with it. Once he has something in writing (notarized is good, submitted to the court is better), then he has a better leg to stand on when he asks to modify support... and less worry that mom will come back at him to take custody back. The courts do not want children being used as pawns or meal tickets. IF mom sends child to live with dad for whatever reasons, the court will assume that mom had good reason & felt dad was the appropriate place. If they suddenly want to change it during a support proceeding, it becomes suspect that mom is more concerned about the money than what is best for the child. In my DH's case, BM making accusations that I am abusing SD in her response to being served with support papers was as transparent as can be. The court was not very sympathetic with her at all.

It's hard to say who the better parent would be. Raising kids is frustrating at times and yelling at kids or getting frustrated is not a reason to change custody... if it were I could say that I see kids every day that would be going to live with someone else. It is very sad to me that children are shuffled around because the parents want to do their own thing, want some convenience, have their own agendas. When you have children, the child becomes the main priority in life but I see that is not always the case. I would suggest parenting classes for the parents that are frustrated. I've found it helpful for myself.

AS for your original concerns... why you feel this way? I think it may be because you really have no control over what is going on. You are on the outside looking in & dad tells you what he doesn't like about mom, then does the same thing. But him having his son is also going to change his schedule, his finances, his whole life which you are a part of and YOU have no control over it... or much say in the decisions, if any. That would be very hard to take for anyone. And they may not be raising their child the way you would if it were YOUR child. That is one thing I know is true in my situation & why I get frustrated when I'm expected to contribute (financially, emotionally, or physically) to the raising of a child that my input is very limited. (or even when I am allowed greater latitude with my input, it is disregarded by the child or her mother)

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 1:37AM
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Ok, so you still have the school as proof he's living with dad right now. He needs to document everything. Anyone that knows the kid is living with dad is a possible witness. He needs to file emergency custody hearing.... even if pro se. This will get him legal custody. He can then deal with the issue of support. My dh's support order was stopped the day he went to court... which was 4 days after bm gave him up.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 8:11AM
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Ima, thanks for all that info.
I will talk to BF about getting something in writing and notarized, something is better than nothing.

Yes, there's the issue of control, but there's also the issue of money. Like JMT said, her friend is now in the hole $50,000 because he didn't do things the right way. If BM decides to sue BF for back child support, that could be quite a bit of money. If we're living together and then BF has to start paying all this child support money back, then I'll have to pick up the slack because he'll be broke.

I divorced my husband because he would blow his money on stupid stuff, and then expect me to pick up the slack when it came time to pay the bills, I don't want to go down that road again. Not saying BF's child isn't important, but I just don't agree with BF on the way he went about this. As I think about this, I'm starting to realize the real reason all this bugs me is because my BF went and made a huge financial decision without discussing it with me first. If we are living together, that decision would have impacted me financially and I think THAT is what bothers me the most.

Momof3- BF does not want to file for custody. The agreement he and BM have set up is for the son to only stay with him for the school year and he has promised that he will not pull any dirty tricks and file for custody while the son is with him.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 8:55AM
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Ok, well, that's shuffling the kid around a lot. Pulling him to this school then taking him back to that school next year. That's not right. He needs stability. Our bm tried to pull one of those when ss was 1. She wanted to move to Florida for one year and leave ss with us. DH agreed to the same thing your bf did... BUT we had a lawyer waiting in the background to get custody for abandonment. BM never went to Florida then.... she waited to go to her new state this past year. This just doesn't sound like it's really what's best for the kid.... but what's best for the parents.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 9:05AM
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Good point, I didn't like that BF transfered the son two weeks after school had started, either. The only reason I wasn't that concerned is because the son is pretty much a loner. He does not have any friends. My BF invited his whole class to his birthday party last year and only one kid showed up. His son was oblivious to it, though. I had my girlfriend bring her two sons to play with him, but he went and played by himself.

BF says he knows what's best for his son, and that means being with him and not BM. He's not going to stop the son from seeing his mom, but he thinks his son would be better off being with him for most of the time.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 3:11PM
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