James LaPiedra, author of Identity Lockdown.
Topic: A step-by-step guide to identify theft protection.
Issues: What is identity theft and how big is the problem? how thieves get and use your personal information; types of ID theft (financial, criminal, driver’s license, medical, and more); preventing ID theft by protecting your social security card, wallet, mailbox, computer, and children; monitoring your credit card and bank statements; what to do if your identity is stolen.
James LaPiedra, author of Identity Lockdown.
Dear Mr. Dad: The ongoing financial crisis has been really hard on my family. We haven’t had a family vacation in several years, we had to get rid of one of our cars, and my husband and I always seem to be getting angry at each other or at our children. It’s pretty obvious that all the stress about money has affected us emotionally, but could it be affecting us physically too?
A: Absolutely. Stress can damage your immune system, making your more susceptible to getting sick. It increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. And it can make people abuse drugs and alcohol, which in turn does all sorts of damage to the body—not to mention the damage that’s done to others when stressed out people cause car accidents, get into fights, or shoot each other.
Dear Mr. Dad: Right now, I work fulltime and my wife is home with our twin preschoolers. However, after some discussion, we realized that she’d prefer to be working and I’d rather be home with the kids. Where we run into challenges is that my wife feels she can’t support us on the same financial level we are at now. Does who stays home have to be a financial decision or, assuming we can make ends meet and pay our bills with my wife working and me at home, is there any reason for us not to do that?
A: What an interesting situation. In most families where dad is at home and mom is the primary breadwinner, the decision to reverse traditional gender roles was made because mom earns more than dad. In your case, though, you and your wife are making your decision based purely on what each of you would actually rather be doing. Congrats to both of you for having the courage to even entertain the idea.
When my first child, who’s now 22, was less than a year old, I took her to an FAO Schwartz store in New York, thinking that she’d have a ball with all the toys and stuffies. But no matter what I pulled off the shelf, she was always far more interested in playing with the price tags than with the toy itself. Ten or 12 years later, I found it endlessly entertaining that she still had her obsession with price tags, saving up her clothing allowance to buy herself jeans at $150/pair (I get mine at Costco for $12/pair and have never seen the point of paying much more than that). And in all the years in between, I can’t even count the number of times when she, presented with a “No, bunny, I don’t want to buy that right now,” would come back with, “Daddy, can’t you just get money from one of those machines?”
No one ever wants to talk about money issues because they’re afraid it’ll lead to a fight. Well, guess what? Not talking about it could lead to a financial meltdown that could destroy your relationship. Fight now vs. divorce later? Pretty easy choice. Great article in the WJS here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203370604577263602243736504.html
Dear Mr. Dad: I have a 13-year old daughter. I was never married to her mother. But recently the mom got married to someone else, had another child, and moved away, taking my daughter with her. Do I still have to pay child support even though she’s married and has full custody of my daughter?
A: There are a number of factors at play here. However, what surprises me most about your question is that you seem to be focusing on the finances rather than on the fact that your daughter is now living in another state and you don’t get to see her. Doesn’t that bother you? Most guys would be investigating whether the mother has violated a court order by moving the girl away without an agreement between the parents, or figuring out how to see their child more often. That said, you do raise some interesting financial questions.
But before we go on, it’s important that you hire a lawyer. This situation is quite complicated and you need someone in your corner who has a lot of expertise in custody matters. An experienced attorney will be able to tell you about the child support rules in your state.
Some states count a new spouse’s income when calculating support. Others don’t. Either way, in most states, there’s an inverse relationship between the amount of time the child is with the non-custodial parent and how much support is paid. Child support is supposed to be for the child’s benefit and is designed to help the custodial parent cover increased child-related expenses. Time your daughter spends with you would reduce her mother’s expenses because yours would be increased. Makes sense, right? Simply put, the less time you daughter is with you, the more you’ll owe. So if she’s with her mom 100 percent of the time, you’ll most likely be ordered to pay the max amount.
The big question is, Why don’t you want to pay? If you’re having financial troubles—and you certainly wouldn’t be alone in this—your attorney should be able to get your support order reduced, at least temporarily. If you’re concerned that the mother is pocketing your support checks or spending them on non-child-related things, again, your lawyer may be able to get the support order modified so that you can put the money into a college savings account or other savings vehicle for your daughter.
If you’re using financial leverage to punish or get back at your ex for something she did to you, stop right now. Whether you’re legally required to pay support or not, I think you have a moral obligation. Does it really matter where your daughter lives or whether her mother now has enough money to pay for everything she needs? She’s your daughter and you should be doing everything you can to support her. If that means sending money, so be it. The one who gets hurt the most by your ducking your responsibility is your daughter, not her mother.
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