Child support woe: ‘My one night stand is still costing me’
CURRENTLY, Australian law states that a biological father must pay child support until a child turns 18.
There are heated calls for reform, with critics asking: If you have a one-night stand or a few Tinder dates, are you actually consenting to fatherhood?
Here's Patrick's* story. After chatting online to a girl for a few months he met up with her. One drink turned into several, and he says his life hasn't been the same since.
I MET a girl on Facebook in 2010 and we started chatting. I'm in NSW - she's about 250kms away - I drove to see her one weekend, a couple of months later.
We went out on the Saturday night. She had keys to a friend's place, who lived in the city, so we ended up back there.
I'd consumed a lot of alcohol. I actually wish I'd been done for DUI. I know I shouldn't have driven, I wish I'd been pulled over for that.
I got up around lunchtime the following day and said, "Right I need to head home."
I messaged her a few times but didn't hear anything. I presumed she wasn't interested in me.
Around 12 weeks later she sent me a message. I was at work. "We need to talk urgently," she wrote.
I sat at my desk reading the words, my heart started fluttering and I just knew what she was going to say.
I went out of the office at lunchtime to call her. She picked up straight away.
"I'm pregnant," she said.
"Right. How do you know it's mine?" I asked.
"I don't know it's yours," she replied.
"So, you didn't know you were pregnant after four weeks or eight weeks but now at 12 weeks you decide to tell me?"
I felt like she'd planned it.
"You need to have a serious think about what you're doing," I said. "Think about the ramifications for both of us, long term."
She hung up.
I didn't hear anything from her until nine months after my son was born.
A man knocked at the door serving a court order for DNA for child support.
I was sitting at home watching TV with my then partner of nearly two years. She'd relocated to move in with me. We were happy.
I'd mentioned the phone call after my one-night stand and she'd shrugged it off saying, "What kind of woman would do that?"
This guy asked my name and said he was here to serve a court order.
I couldn't believe it. "This lady is a complete fool …" I started to say.
He cut me off, "If you don't sign, we'll seize your assets."
My then partner and I sat on the couch stunned for about five hours. We couldn't even find the words to talk.
I did the DNA test just before Christmas and had to stew on the results until January 20. The DNA cost me $2,000 plus I paid a lawyer, which cost around $5,000.
The Child Support Agency (CSA) then backdated the child support to the birth of my son. Just like that I was $12,000 out of pocket.
I was left reeling, worried sick, thinking, "How am I going to pay my mortgage and bills plus this?" It was an absolute nightmare.
In the end, I had to rent my place out.
My partner and I moved in with my parents.
I was struggling at work and ended up resigning. Life has been a complete disaster since. Actually, that's an understatement. My mental health is in a bad way. I have no idea how it will hold up for the next 12 years while I have to pay this.
Why am I paying 100 per cent child support? I haven't seen him once. A lawyer for the family court charges around $500 per hour. I don't have that financial capacity. I'm left going round in circles thinking, "Why would somebody do this? What do I owe her?"
The government needs to recognise the impact this is having on men's lives.
My partner packed up and left last year. Our split was amicable. We tried to make it work for four or five years but I had no money to be able to do anything.
We went from having our own place to living back with my parents and having no money at all.
The percentage of second relationships that fail because of child support issues dragging from previous relationships is huge.
I'm not surprised so many men give up. There's something seriously wrong with this outdated system. It doesn't work in modern society where many relationships don't last. Let alone my situation. How is this right?
It's affected my health. Sometimes I wonder if I might have PTSD. I've always been a fitness fanatic so thankfully I have that as a buffer. I exercise a lot and practise yoga, I don't drink alcohol at all. I do everything I can to try to keep my mental health as strong as possible.
What about the poor blokes who don't have that? Or don't have parental support themselves?
There are over 20 men every week suiciding - and the government doesn't think this is a national emergency? You've got to be kidding.
The CSA is costing people their houses, their jobs, their lives. It's a complete farce.
I've given up.
I pay my child support and I hope one day my son comes looking for me.
I've lost all hope - in politics, in the system, in life.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.
Court documents have been sighted by news.com.au that confirm this story.
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636