So here's the thing: life experiences are important to any writer. It gives us fuel for potential stories or scenes. Point of fact, no author could write without experiencing life! Needless to say, your typical stereotype of the writer hiding away in his log cabin, never meeting anyone, never going anywhere, hardly ever saying anything (other than to his pets, publisher, publicist, and agent, of course) really doesn't exist. The true writer immerses himself or herself in the whole world. A real writer breaks hearts, risks death, saves lives, lives in silence, screams for a thousand days, dares to dream, dreams about living. A real writer does everything.
Which is why I have to update you on this little thing that occurred to me a couple days ago. Forgive me, but this is an important part of my life and something I will never forget, so if I get on my soapbox with this, simply bear with me:
I was arrested.
Now don't freak out. This wasn't a drug thing, or me beating on my wife or anything. No, I didn't solicit a hooker either. No public nudity or weird artistic demonstrations either. While I might be odd and bizarre (not out of the ordinary for any writer, I'm sure), I won't ever go that far. Trust me.
No, the reason why I was arrested was an unfortunate one--simply put, 'child support.'
You see, I have a 5-year-old son. And he doesn't live with me. That's a completely different story revolving around an unwanted divorce, so we won't go there. Honestly at the present time, I'm quite remarkably joyful with my wife and three girls--so this divorce, while unwanted at the time is now a thing of the past. The real sad thing, though, is this: divorce is Hell. And I'm feeling the blunt of it right at the core. Sadly enough, this is a fundamental truth for most divorces--the fathers lose.
Now I don't want to give the impression that I'm bitter here. That's not the right word. What is the right word is 'outrage'. Pure outrage.
Here's the case in point just in case you haven't grasped the gist of my situation and understood my profession. I'm an author. And generally authors aren't paid by W-2's, which unfortunately keeps Friend of the Court out in terms of Income Withholding. The same goes for freelance writers, which I most definitely am.
Now picture this: a man working on developing a copywriting portfolio, writing articles for several clients, promoting published books. It's going into business for yourself, people; that's really what it is. No, you're not doing a deal of going to an office and punching in, getting a salary, or an hourly wage (at a McDonald's or Bed, Bath & Beyond), or anything like that (which by the way Income Withholding literally squashes a paycheck, practically leaving you with nothing, but that is yet another sad story that I'm honored to say I have experienced). You're self-employed.
Sad to say, the courts don't care. Self-employed is essentially "under-employed." And if you're a father without custody of your child, that just won't cut it. No, sir.
Moreover, if you're educated, you actually suffer more consequences. God help us if we ever hold accountable any "deadbeat dad" doing drugs or sitting out on the streets, because that would just be wrong, right? No, if you actually have an education, it would stand to reason that you must have the capability of having a 'real job' that Income Withholding can get a hold of. Seems simple enough.
The problem is it's not that simple. This isn't a perfect world. And in case you hadn't noticed, specifically in the area of Michigan, the job market stinks. It could take any individual a year or more to find anything that could warrant about 70% withholding for child support and still have enough left to pay rent/mortgage, car, utilities, insurance, communication, medical needs, etc etc. Many don't seem to take that into account; all they think about is that the dad needs to pay up! Squeeze them like lemons and make the lemonade, add a bit of sugar and start selling it out on the sidewalk right in Miami! Leave the rinds behind in the garbage.
In addition, wow, you'd think these higher-ups in the judicial system, even opposing parties that have their comfy jobs and cookie-cutter homes with the nice kiddie playground in the backyard and the state-of-the-art outdoor grill system that good ol' "stepdad" bought for the "family," wouldn't know what it's like to scrounge around the job ads and surf for jobs on the internet in the hopes of finding something significantly stable to handle child support while working on the freelancing and novels, right? Right. They don't know. But they sure as Hell act like they know! After all, fathers in this position are being judged on this basis: that everyone seems to know right away what a child-support paying father is doing. I'm one of those fathers. Someone must be recording every movement I make, every job ad I read, every resume I send, every step I take, to make sure the authorities know enough about me to make a sufficient judgment that I am indeed 'fit' or 'unfit' to provide child support. Especially my ex-wife.... She knows everything. Even how many times I breathe during one day. Right?
I'm sorry. It's ridiculous. This is a fundamental truth right here: automatically, if you're a divorced father living away from your child or children, you're a rotten egg. Putting a logical, methodical stand of reasoning of education + job + child support into the imperfect world as it is with all the pitfalls and ludicrous dealings of the constant demands of this much money and that much money and setting an amount that ends up destroying a father's bank account without any option to modify unless you pay that wonderful $20 filing to motion while you wait probably another two or three months for a decision, which by then you accumulate even more arrearage and no guarantee that you're granted the motion to modify, is like trying to mix oil with water and thinking you have a wonderful, refreshing drink. Oily water. Yum, yum. Sounds stupid! It is stupid.
And don't even get me started on the jail thing either. That's part of why this was about experiences, by the way. Yes, I went to jail; I've never been in jail in my whole entire life up until that point. While I have detailed experience now about what it's like (which I could use in my books), the whole concept of law regarding the "let's throw him in jail if he doesn't pay" deal still to this day escapes me. Because if, logically, the father still can't pay for child support, what makes anyone think that jail will give him the money?? Especially if he is educated and working hard on freelancing and publishing? But there's no proof, I see. They need 'proof.' Even when pay would be coming only six days later as a direct deposit into the account, thereby FINALLY giving the father the ability to make a child support payment for the first time in over a YEAR, no, there's still no amount of compassion, understanding, hope, trust, belief, grace, nothing. Granted, if said father stated that by the proposed six days after a "show cause hearing," a payment would be available, it would stand to reason to hold that statement to high regard and thereby watch if the word is held to honesty, and if not, then present the consequences.
No. That just wouldn't do. Let's throw him in jail anyway. Let's not wait to see if his word is good. Let's assume it's not. After all, he's the "deadbeat dad" right off the bat.
Let's put him behind bars, away from his wonderful wife, away from his beautiful three daughters who live with him and would have to suffer horribly because of the system. Let's forget about those children, living on the bare essentials for the time being because income is slim while the 5-year-old son plays in his playground in the backyard without a thought as to why "daddy hasn't made any payments toward him." Because Lord knows that poor little boy is suffering horribly in his home and is outraged by it.
Make no mistake.... I love my son. And I would give the world to him.
But when I've had literally NO INCOME for over a year, what's true is true: I simply can't pay. What else am I supposed to do?
Luckily, my wonderful wife with the three girls I call my angels had a stroke of luck, which was called my "mother" (or "grandma" to my little girls), in wired money to bail me out the very next day--so that I can continue working on my freelancing that I've been getting paid for but obviously not fast enough for the courts or the opposing party.
All the time people turn to their assumptions without understanding. That's a fundamental fact of this sad, little world. Only a few of us hold off on that; but damn the world for those who don't. It's because of them that everyone loses.
The divorce industry, the child support court system, all of it--it's flawed, deplorable, disgusting, despicable, and pathetic. And it's no wonder God hates it.
I get one important thing about this whole ordeal, though, by the way.... More wonderful content for future novels! Jail stinks, by the way. One word to describe it would be 'lonely.' And no one who hasn't done wrong should EVER feel that way based on 'assumptions.' Assumptions are the lip crud of the world....
So, thanks for listening to my rant. Cherish my words. They mean a lot to me. So does my son, my girls, my wife, my family, and all my friends.