Shout out to all the mothers and fathers that co-parent like you’re supposed to. I want to be like you when I grow up. Also, shout out to my child, Alicia’s mother for taking care of my daughter day in and day out. I’m not here to talk down on Alicia’s mother or any mother for that matter. I’m just here to talk about my personal experiences with child support, co-parenting, and visitation. Hopefully, we can figure out a solution together.
Being a father has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. When Ginuwine said “God blessed me, he was so good to me when he sent you”, not only did I feel that but I cried. If you are a parent then you know there are no words that can describe the love you have for your child. Parents will go through hell and back for their child and unfortunately, I’ve been through hell. My hell has been what we all know as “baby mama drama”.
Young, Dumb, & Having Fun
When I was 21, I signed the dotted line to join the world’s greatest Air Force in May 2009. My first duty station was in Texas, where I met Alicia’s mom, in 2010. We were a wreck from the beginning. Just young, dumb and having fun. Alicia’s my got pregnant and everything changed. For me, I knew it was time to man up. I not only wanted to be a good father, I wanted to be the world’s greatest father in the world. The summer of 2011 had several life-changing events for me. My father who raised me passed away, I received orders for deployment to Afghanistan and I was about to be a father.
There is no way to be fully prepared for a deployment, but when I signed up, I knew what I was getting myself into. Military relationships can be hard for families. They say deployments can make you or break you. It broke us! She didn’t understand what I was going through and I didn’t understand what she was going through. We argued every time we talked while I was deployed. She resented me for leaving. I felt like she thought I was overseas partying and living my best life. There were some days that I thought I might actually die and not make it home. Why couldn’t she understand that? I was away from my family for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. It was also my family’s first holiday without myself or my father being there. This deployment was very emotional in more ways that you could imagine. I was only 23. I needed support and love not arguments and hateful words. My daughter was due in May 2012. Alicia’s mom would say things like “you can have your daddy time in August or something.” I’m not perfect and I’m sure I said hateful things to her as well, but I remember what she said the most because it hurt so deep. It hurt so deep because she knew the only way to hurt me was with my daughter. I don’t fully know her side of the story but now, looking back, she was PREGNANT. Why couldn’t I understand this? I wasn’t there for doctor appointments, sleepless nights, physical, mental, or emotional changes, or anything else that comes with pregnancy. I could go on and on but long story short, our relationship was over before I got back from deployment.
And we tried hard, but we failed. When I returned from deployment, I put a ring on it and bought a 3-bedroom 2 bath house near the Air Force base. We decorated the baby’s room, our baby was born, and we became a family… but we failed. We argued constantly and never saw eye to eye.
Let’s Discuss The Elephant Before It Even Enters The Room
I CHEATED!! I was wrong and I take full accountability for my mistakes. Because of my mistake, we broke up and she moved back to her home city. We had court ordered child support and visitation arrangements. I deserve all the bad karma that was coming my way. However, Alicia is still my daughter and Alicia should not be punished because her parents could not make it work. My punishment should not be withholding Alicia. Unfortunately, Alicia’s mom moved back home, ~250 miles away from me. The distance made it hard enough to see Alicia, but her mom’s hate for me and the need for revenge made it worse.
If she was pissed about anything then I couldn’t see Alicia. I feel like if I answered the phone the wrong way, like if she didn’t like my tone of “hello”, then I couldn’t see Alicia. It was always a lose-lose situation for me. I learned quickly not to piss her off because I knew the consequence. Speaking of consequences, what is the consequence if I miss child support payments?
We all know what happens if I don’t pay my child support. If you’ve happened to live under a rock all your life, let me name a few consequences: time in jail, driver’s license suspended, wages garnished, unable to obtain a passport, and last but most definitely not least, dismissal from military service. What happens if the mother doesn’t let the father see the child? In my experience, NOTHING! How many moms do you know that are in jail over visitation? I like to point out that this is just my experience, however, I know a few fathers that have similar or even worse experiences. Help me! Help us!
Where do Good Fathers Find HELP?!
I wanted to see Alicia, you know she’s the one that God had blessed me with. Not knowing where to start, I called the child support office. They weren’t much help at all. We already had a court-ordered agreement on custody and visitation so someone told me to call the attorney general. They were a little bit more helpful. They told me that on my next weekend of scheduled visitation to show up with a police escort.
I showed up at Alicia’s grandma’s house because that’s where I always picked her up at. Two things happen that day and neither one was seeing Alicia. The grandma answered the door and told the cop and me that Alicia was not there. The first thing that happened after that was the cop told me I can’t use them as a “power card” in my visitation problems. I’m just doing what the attorney general told me to do but whatever. If this was a movie you would have heard the famous line from Mortal Kombat, “Finish Him.” Next, I received a text from Alicia’s mom and she said “You could show up with SWAT and I still wouldn’t let you see your daughter.” Talk about the feeling of defeat. I was crushed! What do I do next?
Everyone told me to get a lawyer. Between owning a new home, bills, child support and traveling 250 miles to see Alicia, I didn’t see how I could afford a lawyer. This was that feeling of hopelessness. Luckily, I have an amazing support system and my mom helped me get a lawyer. Finally feeling hopeful, things straightened up a little bit but her mom still used Alicia as leverage.
Just When You Think Things Are Better
Two years later in 2014, it was time for my second deployment. I received a text on the day that I was leaving and it said “I’m moving to Mexico, good luck finding me when you get back.” Sigh, here we go again. Friends of mine didn’t come back from deployment to hold their child again. I had a friend that had a pregnant girlfriend at home and he did not get to come back from deployment. I pray for that child because he or she will never get to see their father. If I’m still alive and I want to see my daughter, then why does it have to be difficult to see her. If I love my daughter and my daughter loves me, then why does it have to be difficult to see her? I would never hurt, harm or put my daughter in danger. Seeing her should not be a problem. I know this sounds like a one-sided story but whatever I did to make her hate me so much, has absolutely nothing to do with me seeing my daughter.
Life As I Know It Today
Now I’m stationed in Arkansas and I live 10 hours away and I don’t get to see Alicia as much. I got a call from my daughter one day and she was crying. I said “baby what’s wrong?” She said “I miss you, come pick me up”. Hearing those words and the hurt in her voice, my heart instantly shattered; I couldn’t just go pick her up. I had to wait to get off the phone to cry. It sucks because she’s not right down the road. Although her mom and I have adjusted to the change, I wish I could see her more and obviously my daughter feels the same way.
My address clearly changed and my child support payments changed but my visitation didn’t automatically change. When I got a raise, my child support payments automatically went up. I get it, it’s a part of the system. It’s just the way they did it that I didn’t like. With a week left in April 2018 I get a call from the child support office that my payments are going up. Okay cool, when? I asked. She told me May 1st. First, let me explain that day one of child support payments we had an agreed number that I was paying.
For 6 years My payments never went up because starting out, I was paying more than I should have. So, in 2018, when it was time to go up, it was a substantial amount that I could not budget for in a week. The nice child support lady told me not to worry because the payments won’t come out until the paperwork is processed. I thought that was a good thing but 4 months later when the payments finally processed, I got a letter that I owed back pay child support. I never missed a day of payments but because of their processing, I now owe back pay. Why not let me know earlier, process the paperwork earlier and keep me from going delinquent on my payments. This was on my credit. Don’t worry though. Lucky for me, they took the back pay out of my taxes.
The Flawed System
Money is money but the point I’m trying to make is the child support office goes hard on the father when it comes to payments. Why can’t there be a visitation office that goes just as hard for visitation for good fathers? I am in the military and I don’t know how many times my address is going to change. What I do know is that I cannot afford a lawyer every time I have to move to help me with my visitation. The child support office is well known. I believe in child support 100%. The system needs some change. I wish there was a visitation office that works hand and hand with the child support office.
Money is important but the time you spend with your child is more important. Why doesn’t the system realize that? Why do I have to spend money on an expensive lawyer to see Alicia? I can make more or less money one day but time is something you can never get back. My daughter will never be 3 again.
I called the child support office who answered the phone in seconds with some questions. I learned that they are only trained up on child support laws. That makes sense, I can’t be mad at that. I call the AG again (which answered in a reasonable time) and they told me the same thing but I was given a number to a visitation hotline. When I called this visitation hotline, I was on hold for 3 hours before I gave up. I have the screenshots to prove it. Also, my co-workers can vouch for me because I had it on speaker phone as I waited. They didn’t even have hold music. It just beeped every once in a while, and an automated messaged said something about someone will answer your call. That never happened. They got to do better than that.
It’s been a 7-year journey and I know we still have a long way to go. I just don’t want others to go through what I have gone through. I am passionate about this cause! My mission is to find a resource and a support system for good fathers in similar situations. If I cannot find it, I will build it. No one (mother or father) should have to go through hell to be the great parent they deeply desire to be. The impact of a good father-child relationship is so important. One thing I know for sure is that “Daddin Ain Eazy” and it should be so please help me help us! I hear there is plenty of help for fathers but we just don’t pursue it. I am open to all help! If you know any reliable resources, please share them below so I can tell others. Let’s make it known to all of the good fathers.
Surprising My Daughter At School For the Annual Father Daughter Dance
P.S this is not for the dead-beat dads. We can talk about them later.