I just read an article about a child support case that is currently being battled in Kansas. The situation completely humors me. If you haven’t heard about it, the story goes that a lesbian couple used a sperm donor in order to get pregnant. The couple had a written agreement with the donor that he would never be held liable for child support and would have no rights to the child. Meanwhile, the couple was on state assistance (welfare) and so the state basically strong-armed the couple for the name of the sperm donor so that they could go after him for child support. Both the couple (who is actually no longer together) and the donor believe that the case is not fair and the donor should not have to pay child support. Funny enough, I’m gay and I work in child support enforcement so I have quite the perspective on this case. I contemplated stating my viewpoint on message boards on the webpage where I found the article, but there are so many people that voice their opinions (most of them are outrageous) that I knew I would never be able to fully state my case or have people understand what I was trying to say. So, here I am. I figured no better place to give my opinion than on my own blog. Even if no one reads this or is interested in it, I still need to get out how I feel.
So the first thing I want to discuss is the issue that most people, when they first hear about this case, are outraged that the state would basically force the couple to give up the donor’s name and tell them that if they refused then they would deny their benefits. I read comments from people saying that the state was “just trying to get the most money they could” and it was unfair that they would put the couple in that situation. To be clear, stuff like that happens all of the time. ALL OF THE TIME. I deal with it daily. For state child support agencies, we are directly tied with the state welfare division. Most people, when applying for public assistance, don’t read the fine print and don’t realize that when they are approved for certain types of welfare, a child support case is automatically opened for them. Most people do not want the child support case. But as long as they are receiving certain types of aid, they have no choice and the case remains open. Now to say that it is hard to get information from custodians at times would be an understatement. The people I typically deal with are not usually the most forthcoming. But I have a job to do. And if I need information in order to proceed with the case, and the custodian is not complying with me, then yes, by law I am able to terminate their state benefits for non-cooperation. It is one of the only tools we have in order to obtain the information that we need. There’s not much else we can do to someone. And what is unwritten for this specific case is that the couple was probably receiving not only Medicaid, but also cash assistance. What people have a hard time understanding is that states do not have an unlimited supply of money to give out. So while someone is receiving cash assistance, we are actively going after the non-custodial parent in order to get back some of the money that is being paid out. Basically, the state looks at it as that they are paying the custodian “child support” while the non-custodial parent is not meeting their obligations towards their child. The state is paying the custodian money so that they can provide for their child or children, but there has to be a system in place in order for the state to recoup some of that money that is being paid out. That’s where a child support office comes into the picture. If someone truly does not want a child support case then they always have the option of terminating their public assistance. Child support is not obligated for recipients of food stamps or Medicaid for only the children. We only become involved if the custodian is receiving cash aid or medical for themselves; or if they have opened the case on their own. So that’s one fun fact of child support. While I would not have taken the same route as the Kansas child support office, I can understand why they made the choices that they did and why they are, by law, forced to proceed with the case. Trust me, I doubt they wanna be in the situation that they’re in either. I wouldn’t have gone after a sperm donor, but that’s the way my office works. They may have different rules and regulations; every state is different.
The second thing that I find hilarious about the story is that a lot of people are commenting about how this is typical of “unstable lesbians” and that it is another reason why gay couples should not be able to have children. Too bad this situation happens all the time with heterosexual couples. My entire caseload (over 500 cases) is made up of straight couples. So don’t try and tell me that it would happen to a gay couple only. That’s just a lie. Secondly, now this is the really hilarious part (at least to me), what all of these people don’t realize is that the situation is happening BECAUSE gay marriage is not recognized or legal in that state. If the couple had been legally married then the state would be going after the non-custodial parent for child support (the partner that had left the relationship and was not residing with the child). But because a gay couple is not recognized as having a legal standing in the eyes of the law, the state has to pursue the person that is “legally” the other parent to the child, the sperm donor. It’s completely hilarious! People wanna bitch and moan about how messed up gay couples are and how we are not equal; marriage should only be between a man and a woman. But we’re not what’s wrong with the system. When I ask for equal rights in the eye of the law, I am not asking for anything more or less than what my peers receive. It’s the good with the bad. There are negative consequences to marriage and so, when I ask to be legally recognized as a marriage, it would also include the negative. If I have legal obligations because of my relationship, then I should be held responsible for them. If my partner and I were to have a child, then I should be obligated to care for that child even if the relationship is ended. That’s my child. But because the law doesn’t recognize me as a legal parent (if I did not biologically have the child) then I am no more obligated to pay for that child then Joe Blow down the street. Funny right?! The people who are so against gay rights, all of a sudden want the gay couple to pay for obligations that aren’t entitled to them by law. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t tell me that I’m not equal, but then want me to pay for something that you denied me the legal right to. So go ahead, continue to deny me the right to marry. I will continue to deny you the right to tell me what I can and cannot do. People. Makes me laugh.