Chris Bosh, Jermaine Jackson, Terrell Owens, Usher, and Halle Berry are all either rich and/or famous people embroiled in high-profile, sometimes bitter child support and custody battles. And just as I was about to hit send, a new alert hit my email box. The headline reads, “Steve Nash child support: NBA star contests support payments for ‘spoiled kids.’”
Every once in a while though, a case involving ordinary people will make the news, like this one involving a former U.S. Marine.
Romel Smith, says he’s paid nearly $30,000 in child support for a child who isn’t his. He found out that the 15-year-old girl wasn’t his daughter when she was four years old after his own mother prompted to him to get a paternity test.
Mr. Smith has gained lots of sympathy from men and women who are enraged over the fact that he was forced to be financially responsible for a child he didn’t father.
Or did he father her?
I guess it depends on how you look at it.
We get too caught up in what parents want and have too little concern about the kids involved. Not saying that $30,000 isn’t a huge amount of money to pay, but if we took the money out of the equation, how would it change the story? Whether he gets his money back or not is less of an issue as to what his relationship will be like with his “daughter” now that this story has gone public. How will it impact her security, trust and self-esteem?
The laws may be flawed on the issue of how easy it is to have a man’s name placed on a birth certificate and how difficult it is to have it removed if it’s proven he’s not the biological parent of a child. But here’s where I agree. If you have raised a child as yours, if you have assumed responsibility for their livelihood, if you’re the one they call daddy, you don’t get to take that back.
I’m a single mom and if I began to add up the monthly monetary cost of raising my children with not that much help from their dad, it would probably make my head spin. There’s $500 a month on groceries, $300 a month on child care – throw in entertainment, clothes, baseball basketball – not to mention the mortgage, light bill and monthly trip to Urgent Care … Hey, they’re 11 and 12- year-old boys – and it really starts to add up.
But I don’t expect their father to share these expenses equally with me because we have an agreement that works. To me, quality time spent between my sons and their father is more important than dollars. When I hear about people who aren’t in the same situation, explain away what fathers should and shouldn’t do, what they should and shouldn’t pay, I’m tempted to tell them how ridiculous they sound. Even in good marriages, there’s no true equality in how much money each parent contributes to each child.
Now while I’m not advocating that anyone be financial irresponsible – I also know that when it comes to matters of divorce and child custody issues – nothing is as simple as we would like.
The bigger picture is that we nurture our children.
What is more important, more valuable and more difficult to measure is the time parents want to spend or are allowed to spend with their kids.
Women and men who keep their exes from seeing their children because they’re behind in child support need to stop. And dad’s especially who purposely remove themselves them from their children’s lives because they can’t contribute monetarily have got this whole thing twisted.
Whether the father – Romel Smith, who was duped by the system gets his money back or not, I hope he will remain a part of the life of the girl who knows him as Dad. If he was a positive male role model, letting a legal matter come between them is crime.
We can add up the money and material things, but a child’s opportunity to have a relationship with both parents – whether by blood or not – is priceless.