Child Support

Picking a Fight with an Unjust Law

This is a longer, more personal, post than usual, and sharing these twists and turns in our story isn’t easy. I rewrote these thoughts three times and considered deleting them entirely. I love helping others, but I disdain sharing my own pain. Writing about hurts in the past is one thing, but sharing our struggles, while in the midst of the storm, is another. There is the fear of being misunderstood, the fear of coming across angry, and the fear of being vulnerable. However, in the end, I’ve decided to share personal insights into our family’s challenges. I’m doing this for several reasons:

  • First, I believe that other families, who are hurting like ours, will benefit from our story.
  • Second, I share this because positive changes in our broken system will not occur unless stories like ours are told. Sadly, there are many of them–Some are more extreme than my own.
  • Finally, I’m sharing our family’s struggles–both real and raw–because this journey is far too big for us to travel alone.

So today, I’m asking you to join us. Would you consider,

  • Praying for my family and me?
  • Cheering on my wife and I as we share our story and advocate for our children?

This week, our family’s life was flipped upside-down. The past few days have been a whirlwind of emotions: sadness, anger, frustration, and fear. As you know, we are a blended family home. Jenny and I share a 50/50 parenting schedule of our two oldest daughters (Jenny’s step-daughters). We also have a one-year-old, and a fourth girl on the way–In many ways, our family is truly blessed!

Our Blended Family Storm

Last week, either due to a fluke in the child-support system–or because these laws are outdated to the point of being unjust–I returned from family court with devastating news. It broke my heart to inform my pregnant wife that, due to our girl’s biological mother receiving a decrease in pay, our family would be paying their family’s rent in full.

Child support is a touchy subject. When dad’s talk about this, they are often angry, and the first thought in many people’s minds is, “This deadbeat dad doesn’t want to support his children.” Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. Before writing me off, please hear our story:

How Child Support Hurts Our Kids

I work full-time as a marriage and family therapist. I’m also an adjunct psychology professor and write books. My goal is to support our family financially while being the best husband and daddy I can. Due to this recent court decision, I am scrambling to take on additional jobs. This means:

  • I will be less available for all four of my girls.
  • I’ll be working through family dinners.
  • I’ll be able to attend fewer school events.
  • I will have less time to help with homework.
  • And, although I always try to be emotionally present for my girls, this will be more challenging–Staying focused is tough when you’re struggling to keep the lights on.

I’m a firm believer that children–from both traditional and blended family homes–need both their mom and dad in their lives. Although we were living in 2015, the family court system makes it difficult for daddies to connect with their children.

How Child Support Devastates Step-Moms

From my understanding, child-support isn’t supposed to negatively impact step-parents, nor is it supposed to harm their biological children–but it does. Two years ago, when our payments doubled for the first time, Jenny sprung into action. She took-on an overnight job, so the two of us could work full-time and always have one of us home with the children.

When Jenny’s work schedule changed–making the overnight shift a less viable option–she again took action. In a month, the two of us transformed our home into a fully licensed daycare. After our recent court hearing, Jenny is doubling-down on her new career while picking up new, part-time jobs.

How Child Support Harms Step-Dads and Moms

As previously mentioned, child-support isn’t supposed to impact step-parents. This is why, when my payments were doubled, and then doubled again, their step-dad’s income wasn’t taken into account. In one sense, that’s OK. He is not supposed to pay for my children, nor do I  want him to.

Nevertheless, as a result of this court decision, my children’s stepdad and biological son are now living rent-free, in an apartment that my wife and I pay for. This can’t feel good. His overall income is greater than mine, and while living rent-free is nice, knowing that it’s paid for by a pregnant step-mom, has to wear on one’s emotions.

From a Biblical perspective, 1 Timothy 5:8, exhorts each person to care for their own family. Our system–that allows a step-father to live off of his step-children’s finances and drives a step-mother to returns to work to provide income to the biological mother–needs reform. Although giving to the poor is honorable, laws providing low-income families with middle-class benefits while forcing middle-class families to live on low-income wages are unjust.

The Scary Side of Child Support

The scariest part for us is that our family will be paying the other home’s rent first due to wage garnishments. Our living expenses–including rent and utilities–come second. Jenny and I are working overtime so that our children’s biological mother doesn’t have to. Will someone please tell me how this is in the best interest of anyone? If our power goes out, there will be four children living in a dark home. When a mom chooses not to work, she may collect extra child-support, but this doesn’t mean that her kids are not hurt in the process.

Picking a Fight with Child Support Laws

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not advocating for the elimination of child support. These laws were enacted for a reason. Nevertheless, there are genuine problems with our current system.

  • Some aspects of child support were never just in the first place. Surprisingly, child support is determined by a machine–a high-tech calculator–instead of a living, breathing, human being. This is the first thing that needs to change, but I’ll share more about this in a future post.
  • Second, other aspects of the laws are outdated. They allow low-income families to double-dip by taking advantage of low-income resources and child-support. Or to triple-dip, such as when the biological parent decides not to work, lives off of the new spouse’s income, collects child-support, and receives low-income assistance (As is the case with our family).

Will You Pray for Us?

As you can imagine, our family needs all of the help we can get, but not in the way you might think. Our blended family is tough as nails. We fully intend to embrace our new obstacles. Jenny and I will,

  • Take on extra jobs,
  • Find ways to fast-track our careers, and
  • Selling furniture and blood plasma if needed.

What we would like from you is twofold:

First, would you pray for us? Jenny and I believe that everything happens for a reason. This week, my friend Erik made me smile when he said, “Jed, God wasn’t distracted with the dishes when this happened.” Erik and I still aren’t quite sure what God is up to, but we both agree that He is doing something. Please pray for our family’s strength and that God would work this situation for our good and His glory–We are confident that He will!

Second, I suspect that God is calling Jenny and me to encourage other families in the midst of their own storms. This week, I met with a friend for coffee. He is hurting too. After exchanging stories, we agreed to pray for each other. Words cannot express how much this time meant.

After our meeting, I let out a sigh of relief.

I’m not alone in my journey, I thought to myself.

Although Jenny and I are hurting, I am confident–that with God’s help–our family will survive and thrive during this incredible ride. A second thing I would ask of you is, “Would you help us share our story?”

I don’t have the slightest idea of how to reform an unjust law. Nevertheless, our family is going to dive-in anyways. The first step will be to tell our story over and over again. We do this to bring attention to the need for reform and bring hope to other families who are hurting–letting them know that they are not alone.

Would you help us tell our story by sharing these posts with others?

Finally, if you would like to stay up to date on our new blended-family journey, simply leave your name and e-mail below. In the months ahead, Jenny and I will keep you updated on our adventures of paying rent for two families and seeking to reform an unjust law while providing resources to hurting families.

Finally, if you do pray for us, would you “like,” this post, or leave a comment to let us know? Your encouragement helps keep us going!

Sincerely, Jed and Jenny Jurchenko

P.S. Leave your name and e-mail below to receive our weekly updates. It’s the best way to keep in touch. Oh, and please know that we respect your privacy and never share your info with anyone else.

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P.P.S If your and your family are in the midst of your own storm, know–that as my friend Erik Tyler says, 

God was not doing the dishes when your storm hit. You are still in His loving hands!

Jed Jurchenko

Jed Jurchenko is the husband to an incredible wife, daddy to four amazing girls, and a foster dad to one more. He's served as a children's pastor, marriage and family therapist, psychology professor, award-winning writing coach, and life coach. Jed is the author of 23 books on relationships, parenting, writing, and doing life well. In his free time, you'll find Jed reading, preparing for an upcoming marathon, barbecuing, paddle boarding, and enjoying life with his incredible family. Find out more about Jed's books, coaching, and courses at www.ithrive320.com.

15 thoughts on “Picking a Fight with an Unjust Law”

    1. Thanks Daniel. The more I share our story, the more I’m hearing about just how many families are being hurt by this system and just how much a reform that takes into account the nuances of each situation, is needed.

  1. My husband and I were in a similar situation for twelve years. Child support for my stepsons took a huge bite out of our income and it not only took time away from our home but my income as a step-parent had to contribute to the child support. My daughter missed out on a few things that her friends enjoyed – like vacations. I never begrudged my step sons support, but their home was far better off than ours and the money was used on expensive extras that we couldn’t manage in our home. I feel for you and Jenny. The guidelines of the system don’t account for the nuances in each situation. The good news is that my daughter and step sons turned out fine. We all got through it and are happy people. I’ll be thinking of you. Hang in there.

    1. Thanks D.

      It sounds like your family was in a similar situation. Thank you for sharing a small part of your story with us. It brings us hope to know that, in spite of the difficulties, other families have come out safe and sound on the other side.

  2. This ripped my heart Jed! I totally understand….I can’t imagine how Jen feels…

    I don’t know what to say, I believe god is in this somewhere.
    Miracles will happen, Jed. Yes they will!

    I am holding you up in prayers and many other families who are struggling with this issue!!
    Merry Christmas to you and your family

    1. Thanks Ifeoma,
      We are believing for a miracle too. And in small ways, we are already seeing God use this challenging situation to open new doors, and to lead us to new friendships. Thank you again for keeping us in your prayers!

  3. Jed, I’m so sorry that you are dealing with this (especially around Christmas time). I’m praying for you and your wife and that God will bless your ministry and your work. I pray that God will carry your burden and lighten your load financially.

    1. Thanks Valerie,
      We sure appreciate you keeping us in your thoughts and prayers. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

  4. Jed, I just want to say thank you for sharing you story at Sitting Among Friends. It is great to have this perspective to share with my readers. I will pray for you and Jenny that God will work His purposes in your lives and draw you near to Him. I am glad that you write with the idea of helping others and I am glad to hear that you have friends that are encouraging you along the way. We look forward to hearing from you next Wednesday.

  5. Thanks, I sure appreciate you keeping us in your prayers, and the words of encouragement. Thanks for the opportunity to share in Sitting Among Friends too. I have it added to the link-ups I follow, and I’m looking forward to staying connected this year. Wishing you an incredible 2016!

  6. Well written. I will admit that before learning first – hand of the damage that can be caused to a family by unfair child support laws. I would have been completely biased against anyone who “complained”. I have now been close to two separate instances where the ability to parent and to provide a home life at all have been compromised by child support “decisions”. I also encourage everyone to write your legislators and encourage a review of child support law… realizing that a strong bias and a want “not to hear” these issues exists.

    1. Thanks David,

      The more that I openly share our story, the more I am hearing from others, just how damaging these laws can be. I think one of the first steps is to make child support about the kids. It’s funny, the name, “child support,” implies that the money is being used for the benefit of the children (which is why these laws will be so tough to challenge).

      Sadly, what is in place currently is not child support, but a redistribution of funds that can be use on boyfriends, girlfriends, alcohol, step-siblings, etc. I know many parents who would happily contribute to their child’s college fund, but who are incredibly frustrated that the money that is supposed to be for the benefit of their child, is being squandered. I appreciate you encouraging others to write their senators. There is so much about the current laws that needs to be rethought, so that child support really does benefit the kids .

  7. Hey, Jed, a few thoughts here (in addition to what I shared personally with you on the phone):

    1. Sometimes, what changes laws is appealing a decision to the highest level possible. Perhaps you could find legal council who is avid about the same cause and who might cut you a break to appeal this decision at the next-highest court. You could also invite media to follow that journey (local newspapers, etc.).

    2. Unfair legal systems are at the center of (y)our faith. There would have been no crucifixion of Jesus in a just system. Sometimes, whatever God is up to doesn’t fix the system. God is in the midst of the brokenness, and finding ways to use it without always changing it in the way that, to our human eyes, seems most just or beneficial.

  8. Jonathan Ray Denton

    It’s happening to me right now two wonderful boys suffer because the mother wants to keep my first child and only daughter from me and her brothers but is collecting child support from 5 different men she don’t work she sits at home and makes money off the men that want something to do with their child but since u fall behind government don’t care what you need as long as it’s paid no matter the outcome of unjust laws

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