Saddam, Osama and Me
By Daniel Grubbs, December 11, 2002
There aren't many pariahs that Americans can really despise nowadays -- just Saddam, Osama and me. Me... I'm a "deadbeat dad"; I owe back payments for what is commonly called "child support." I am currently unemployed but used to work as a computer programmer, making a decent salary.
Unfortunately, the market for programmers seems to have dried up. At this point, about the best job I can get around here pays about $10 an hour or about $400 per week. After the $200 per week in "child support" is taken out... and after taxes are taken off (remember, there is no deduction for the "child support")... and after I pay for gas getting to work... and after I pay for child care for my daughter, I would be left with about $100 per week to live on. That doesn't even cover our rent.
This is a terrible shame, as my daughter and I will soon be evicted from our home. You see, my daughter actually spends more time at my house than at her mother's. I buy her clothes, food, and provide a home for her. I take her to the doctor and dentist (I would like to get her to the orthodontist, but what with the "child support" and all, I cant afford that.) I go on her field trips, make pies for her bake sale at school. I read to her every night she is at my house, just as I did every night from the time she was one. (I think I can still recite "Goodnight Moon." We're currently reading "Huckleberry Finn," but we just got the new Lemony Snicket book from the library and I'd like to finish it while I can.)
You see... I was her primary caretaker until she turned six. I was the one who changed her diapers, fed her, clothed her, taught her how to read and ride a bicycle, played endless games of "Go Fish" and held her while she got her shots. I was the one waiting for her when she got off the bus from kindergarten, making dinner for her and tucking her in at night.
Her mother, out with her boyfriend most nights, rarely came home before she was in bed. When she tried to bash my head in one night, she was arrested and convicted of domestic assault. I got a restraining order against me. The "Guardian Ad Litem" appointed to investigate our case recommended that I be given sole physical custody. The judge decided not to follow the GALs recommendations as he didn't feel they gave sufficient weight to "the Husbands as yet undemonstrated abilities as a caretaker with full-time employment." In other words, I wasn't given custody of my daughter because I was her primary caregiver. As Wade Horn, assistant secretary at the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, suggested in a recent interview: "some family courts may still give 'subtle preference' to mothers in custodial hearings."
I have had a "Complaint for Modification" in with the courts ever since I was laid off. It has been over a year now with no hearing. My ex-wife on the other hand, with the help of Mass. Department of Revenue provided attorneys, was able to get hearing date right away for their "Complaint for Criminal Contempt," as she tries to have me thrown in jail and out of my daughter's life.
Given no way to support my child and myself, my future looks bleak. I could go live in my car for a little while, until the Department of Revenue takes away my car registration because Im behind on my "child support." Perhaps I'll be lucky and they'll send me off to debtor's prison (this form of punishment was abolished in 1798 by John Adams and is now reserved solely for "deadbeat dads" such as myself.) I could go into hiding somewhere and try working "under the table," only to be captured and paraded before the press by whatever demagogue happens to be in office at the time (being tough on us despicable "deadbeat dads" seems to be a non-partisan affair.)
Most likely, having had everything I value most in life taken away from me, and given no way to live with any dignity, I will end up doing what thousands of other fathers do every year. The suicide rate for men who have been divorced is 10 times that for women. I have no doubt that if one were to look at just those who have been deprived of their basic human right to be a parent, the ratio would be much higher still.
I'm aware that as "deadbeat dads," we deserve neither sympathy, nor compassion; yet I grieve very much for my daughter's sake. She loves her father very much.