When a deadbeat parent fails to pay child support, ultimately it’s the children who suffer the most. One woman, Angie, said the father of her child is more than $20,000 behind in child support. She, and others, have expressed frustration.EagleHerald /Rick Gebhard
When a deadbeat parent fails to pay child support, ultimately it’s the children who suffer the most. One woman, Angie, said the father of her child is more than $20,000 behind in child support. She, and others, have expressed frustration.
EagleHerald /Rick Gebhard
Angie had been dating Tyler on-and-off since the sixth grade. She knew who he was and what he was like. She knew he was a self-centered, smooth talker who had a way of fooling people.
But even Angie was surprised when Tyler won a big jackpot at a casino and instead of stocking up on items for their upcoming baby, he bought an inexpensive high chair for the baby and a snowmobile for himself.
"That's the epitome of who he is," Angie said. "I couldn't believe it. I was beyond frustrated. We had nothing for the baby. He goes to Walmart and buys a $30 high chair because it was the biggest, cheapest thing he could find. At that time, I was under his control. What could I really do?"
That was more than 12 years ago. Angie no longer feels controlled by Tyler, but he's certainly in her life because of what he doesn't do - he rarely pays child support for their daughter, Olivia.
Tyler - thousands behind in his payments - is a living, breathing definition of a deadbeat dad.
"It's never been consistent with him," Angie said of child support. "He racked up at least 10 grand by the time she was 3 or 4. Right now, it's over $20,000 and she's 12."
Because she knew Tyler's history, Angie said she got the child support order soon after Olivia was born.
"He wasn't supportive of me during the pregnancy," she said. "He was not good for paying half the rent. I was supporting him. I knew, long-term, just because of his history and the kind of person he is, he was not going to be around. I wanted to make sure I'm covered, Olivia's covered. I went for it (child support) right away."
Angie said adding a baby to their relationship didn't change Tyler's personality.
"The first week he was great, hands-on, all excited, changing diapers," she said. "Then he got bored with it."
She said the only reason Tyler stuck around was because he needed a place to live.
"He would go out and do his own thing," Angie said. "But he'd come back and weasel his way in and crash. At that point, it was kind of like with me, I have Olivia to worry about, I don't need to worry about you anymore. Get the hell away. I know you're not a good thing. But he wouldn't leave. He's a freakin' leach. He'd sneak back in through a bedroom window when he was ready to come back. He's a sociopathic manipulator."
The relationship continued in this manner until Olivia was about 2. Tyler's been out of the picture ever since. He's never had visitation rights. He rarely sees Olivia. And he'll pay a meager amount of child support only when he has to.
Angie described the original order as a "cookie cutter order" of about $170 per month. She said she rarely saw any support.
Angie said the first time Tyler went to court criminally for lack of support was when their daughter was 2. She doesn't remember getting much, maybe "pennies on the dollar."
She said in the early years, Tyler was ignorant of the system and had the felony charge against him. But he quickly learned the ropes and now he'll make a small payment if he's getting close to 120 days without making a payment.
"Even if it's a $2 payment, the 120 days start over," she said.
Angie said she can't figure out why someone is allowed to continually beat the system. She compares it to someone who fails to make their car payments.
"If I had a car loan, and I didn't send in my car payments each month, the bank wouldn't give me a million chances to keep my car," she said. "If I didn't make my payments, I'd lose my car. Simple as that."
According to Angie, the only time Tyler makes payments is when he's forced to sit in jail.
"That's the only time I know he's going to be consistent," she said. "He's motivated to get out on work release. This guy won't have a job to save his life, but as soon as he's in jail he finds a job."
Angie said Tyler doesn't care about going to jail.
"He's not in fear of anything," she explained. "He knows jail. He's been there, it's a reunion for him. He's like, 'I can handle this.' At least he's got someplace to stay instead of finding a girlfriend because the last one dumped him. Jail isn't that big of a deterrent. But in this instance, prison would be a huge deterrent."
Like many men or women in deadbeat relationships, Angie learned quickly she can't budget money from child support.
"You want to be able to rely on it, but you can't," she said. "Because if he doesn't make a payment that week, then you're in a deeper hole and you have to dig your way out."
Angie said she really doesn't blame the child support system because she knows they have incredible caseloads.
"My caseworker is very good," she said. "They are familiar with my case. It's a slow-going process, a waiting game. I'm lucky I've got a good caseworker."
Angie admits she's frustrated with the probation office because she feels Tyler is not being strictly held to the rules and has a way of "slipping under the radar."
She said the amount of money owed, coupled with the span of time, should make a difference. "When you're only set up to pay $170 a month and you're 20 grand in the hole - how long did that take to get racked up?" she said. "Do I hope to see the money? Honestly, no."
Despite the lack of support, Angie said she's tried to make Tyler a part of Olivia's life. She said she encouraged her daughter to text Tyler and she said she's pleaded with Tyler to get his own place, instead of living with different girlfriends.
"I really want them to have a relationship because she's getting older," Angie said. "Even if it's not a typical American family, at least we have a consistent thing so she knows you're there for her. But it never works. I think he's done with us now, it's been about a year (since Olivia visited her dad). We've made attempts. But why keep trying? He never follows up."
Angie said she's never bashed Tyler in front of Olivia.
"I never had to," she said. "She figured it out for herself. He always set her up for disappointment. He would never show up. It's too bad she can't trust her own father."
Despite the strain, Angie believes the entire process has made Olivia independent and a stronger individual. She's described as an outgoing child who is involved in numerous activities.
"I can't wrap my mind around it," Angie said. "Olivia is such a great kid. Why wouldn't you want to be proud of that? Forget about the financial piece of the support. The overall support in general, as far as the emotional and physical. Just any kind of support, there's nothing there.
"On the other side of the coin, 'screw you.' I'd rather you just go away. This is what I'm doing. This is all me. I don't want to be bothered by you. I don't want your support because you're not giving it anyway. And it just turns into more stress because it's never consistent."
Angie said Tyler is missing out.
"Memories are worth more than child-support payments," she explained. "People don't look back on their childhood and think about child-support payments. They think about whether their parents were there for them. Tyler is too selfish of a person to step up and be there for his daughter and misses the opportunities to make those memories with her.
"It's just really sad. I'm proud to say I know firsthand what a wonderful young lady Olivia is, whose personality and morals have been molded by myself and my family and that's something he will never be able to take credit for."
While it's been a long time since she felt under Tyler's control, Angie describes him as a "nagging cloud over our heads." She said she hasn't seen him in more than a year, but he still brings stress in her life.
"In the beginning, I was brainwashed by him," she said. "It's all about power, control and manipulation. I see it more that I'm away from him. I'm embarrassed I was with him as long as I was."