Just keep paying.
Here are only two mistakes that a father can make regarding this topic. The worst of the two, of course is paying nothing at all and second worst is paying too much. In my case, it was paying too much. If you recall, I gave my ex fifty percent of my income for a period of nine months. I had agreed to give her fifty percent of all contracts that I had signed prior to our separation. Some fathers, like me for example, pay ridiculous amounts of support out of guilt. Well, guilt is something that every caring father goes through when they are the parent that is moving out of the house. Money does not ease the guilt. The sooner you accept the better. On the other hand, leaving your children with their mother and not paying anything on their behalf is just plain unacceptable. This will be a major strike against you when you go to court and quite frankly it makes you a dead beat. Not being able to afford it is no excuse; get a second job if you have to. If there is a problem with giving your ex money, then buy them groceries, pay their utility bills, pay their day care tuition, pay for something and make it fair. You will have your chance to explain in court why you wouldn’t give you ex money. But at least you are providing for your children. Remember this support is not for your ex wife; it is for your children so don’t punish them by not supporting them. If you leave your children with your ex and do not make an honest attempt at providing relief, then you are proving to the court and to your children that you are unfit for parenthood. Make the efforts immediately and be consistent with your efforts. Make the support effort weekly or monthly, but keep it consistent. When I had fulfilled my agreement with ex regarding fifty percent of my incomes, I began giving her five hundred dollars a month per the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, although not yet ordered to do so by the court. This was also reflected in my log.
Keeping a log of every single payment or support effort is vital to your case. Keep receipts of groceries that you may purchase, receipts from the utility companies, daycare centers, etc. Write down the date, the form of relief and the amount in the log. Never, ever give cash. Cash payments can easily be denied because they leave no trail. If you do not have a checking account, then get cashiers check from a bank, supermarket or Post Office money order, keeping the receipt portion for your records. If you are using a personal check, make a notation on the check in the "memo" section that says "Child support January" or "Children/electric bill January" or something similar so that you can prove that a check was issued for a specific purpose. When your ex cashes or deposits the check the cancelled check becomes your receipt. If you are consistent with your relief, your log, receipts and cancelled checks will prove it. And rather than being ridiculed by your ex’s attorney for financially abandoning your children the judge will see you as a concerned and honorable father. This voluntary support impresses judges because many fathers fail to pay anything until it is ordered.
The log is a must. I was fortunate enough to keep a log of my own. My big mistake was that sometimes I gave my ex cash. When we went to court for the emergency hearing, my ex’s attorney questioned her on the stand and she stated that I had given her very little in the way of financial support since the day I had left the house. Her attorney used the phrase that "support payments had been very small and inconsistent at best". During his cross examination, my attorney was able to enter into evidence my log which showed every single cash payment and every single check that I had issued her for the past year. The log, coupled with her bank statements that showed deposits of checks and cash deposits that coincided within a day or two of my entries in the log, provided proof that I had, in fact, paid support since day one. Despite the fact that the first judge allowed her to relocate to the East Coast, she did make a point of commending me for making these voluntary payments when so many fathers fail to do so.
The bottom line here is: pay the support for your children because they deserve it and keep a log of it to use in court because you will need it.
This excerpt from "A Father’s Journey To Custody" by Douglas C. McKee is re-printed in DivorceMag.com with permission. Douglas C. McKee, a father of five beautiful children; two of whom he was awarded primary physical custody from a previous marriage, knows first hand, the heartache of a divorce that involves children and the benefits of maintaining ongoing contact with them during this rough time. The book is available at the author’s website, www.fathersseekingcustody.com.