Child maintenance – let’s just get one thing straight . . .

Managing a family without adequate support is like sailing a boat on a windless day. We can only get so far.
Bringing up children without adequate support is like sailing a boat on a windless day. You can only get so far.

I just want to get something straight. I am a good person. I care about people. I even care about the welfare of the man who left me for another woman six years ago. I care about her (his now wife). I care about her child from a previous partner. I care about their child together – a child he chose to have in addition to the three he left with me. I am not without understanding and I am a reasonable person. But when I am lied to and when my children are deprived of the support they rightly deserve, I am not going to sit by for ever and watch them be cheated out of their rights.

They already have to put up with their dad choosing to leave, choosing to live over 100 miles away, choosing to have another family who get to be with him every day while they have to uproot their lives and travel for hours just to see him once every so often.

He made choices. They didn’t. It is not their fault that he didn’t want to live with me any more because I didn’t have sex with him enough. It is not their fault that he found someone else on the internet who could excite him in a way I couldn’t. I was too busy working my butt off looking after our children, keeping our house, studying and working to have the energy to give him what he needed. But he never said. He never told me he was thinking of looking elsewhere. The day he told me he was leaving me it came completely out of the blue. It felt like a dream when he admitted he had been sleeping with someone else. How could I be so blind? I felt like an absolute fool. My whole world fell apart.

I should have slapped him round the face. That’s what they do in the movies. I should have, but I didn’t. I often ask myself why I didn’t. Why did I just stand there and calmly ask him questions about who she was and how it happened? Perhaps I was just in shock, perhaps I was just doing what I had been doing for the previous 15 years: allowing myself to be trampled over. Passive. That’s what I have always been. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I am not a quiet, meek little thing. I am a strong, confident, outspoken, independent woman. If you met me you wouldn’t think I would be dominated by a smaller than average, softly spoken man who is too spineless to talk to his wife and end his marriage before jumping into another relationship. But the problem is (and this is what people have always told me) I am too nice. Too kind. I care too much about people who don’t care about me. Him for one.

The other problem is that I didn’t stop caring even after he walked away and left me and the kids alone. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have a problem getting over him, that happened pretty quickly in fact. For me it only took thinking about him in bed with another woman to make me wake up to what I had been putting up with for years and realize that I deserved better. I had loved him to distraction for almost my entire adult life, but when I discovered he wasn’t the man I thought he was, I’ll be honest, I fell out of love with him pretty fast.

No, I definitely wasn’t still in love with him after he did that. But I did still care. He was the father of my kids. He had been my life partner for a long time. I cared about what happened to him. I cared about his relationship with our kids. I wanted to make sure he was okay and I wanted to make sure they still loved him, for their sake and for his.

I bent over backwards to accommodate him seeing them. I made physical and financial sacrifices so they could have a good relationship with him. And did I ever get any thanks? No. When he was out of work and hadn’t seen the kids for 6 months because he couldn’t afford the train fare I even paid for a ticket so he could see them. Did he thank me? No. He just spent ages thinking about it before agreeing to come. I don’t understand it. I would leap at the chance to see my kids if I hadn’t seen them for one week, let alone half a year.

That’s not the only thing I don’t understand. I don’t understand how, after living with me for all those years he would think that my asking him to share equally in the cost of bringing up the children somehow equates to him “funding my lifestyle” of holidays, two cars etc. He should know me better than that. I never ever spent money unnecessarily when we were married.

I never spent money on myself. I would always put him and the kids first. He should know that. I always bought my clothes from charity shops (and still do), don’t smoke, don’t hardly drink, don’t buy luxuries at all. Yes, I have had a couple of city break holidays in the past few years. One was paid for by Airmiles that I exchanged from three years of supermarket loyalty points and one was paid for by my brother for my 40th birthday. Yes, I do run two (cheap) cars, but my new husband and I need that transport to get to work. And I bought them outright from the sale of the house I had to sell because my ex stopped paying the mortgage.

Why do I feel I have to justify myself? I don’t exactly know. I suppose I just wish he understood how much I give up on a daily basis to bring up our kids. I just wish he respected the choices I make to do the best for them. I just wish he thanked me once in a while for the effort I put in to make sure they grow up happy, well-rounded, valuable people.

Just because I found myself at the last resort saloon, that is the Child Maintenance Service, after asking him to adequately support them when I found out that he was only paying half what he should have been paying and had been lying to me about his (more than adequate) income, I have somehow been branded a money-grabbing bitch.

I waited two years for him to do right by the children before even approaching the CMS. I asked him a number of times to increase his support. He pleaded poverty. He is still pleading poverty. It is now a further two and a half years since I first went to CMS and in all that time I have not received the full amount of support (except when he was on the dole and only needed to pay £7 per week). I gave him chance after chance to “sort his finances out”. He kept telling me it was “going to get better”, but time and time again I discovered he was still just trying to wheedle out of his responsibilities. The CMS have assessed him twice since he complained his liability was too high, but both times they have said he is earning too much to warrant a reduction.

Well, enough is enough. I have been understanding for years. For years I have put his needs before that of the children. For years I have accepted less than they deserve. He currently owes them £2,000 and I have had to resort to telling CMS to collect the money. I can do this no longer. I can’t cope with any more discussion with him about how he can’t afford to pay. I can’t afford to pay either, but the kids still need to eat. They still need a place to live and clothes to wear. I am biting the bullet. I am putting them first at last.

I know my name is going to be mud in his house and I know he will tell everyone how he can’t reason with me, how I am not understanding and how I am just trying to bleed him dry. He might even think I am after revenge for his prior infidelity. But I really am not. I got over that a long time ago and simply don’t care about how much money he pays. I just want him to pay what the government say he should pay. I just want him to give the support to his kids that they rightly deserve.

It all boils down to one thing. I just love my kids and want the best for them. It’s as simple as that.