On a rebound from a failed relationship, Bethany met Dwayne at a bar when she was in her early 30s. After they spent just one night together, she got pregnant.
Neither one wanted to get married or even have an ongoing relationship.
Dwayne urged Bethany to get an abortion because, he told her, “It would make my life easier.”
Bethany insisted on keeping her baby. I didn’t ask her if she had moral or religious issues about abortion or whether it was because she wanted another child (she had a daughter who was 12 at the time). It wasn’t my business.
Dwayne was determined that he wasn’t going to be inconvenienced just because of a baby he helped create. He continued to pressure Bethany to terminate her pregnancy. He called her all night, banged on her windows, forced his way into her house, and had other people follow her car and try to run her off the road.
Bethany claims that he engaged in all this aggressive behavior to terrorize her. She thought his goal was to wear her down so she would agree to get an abortion. Or maybe he hoped that all the stress would cause her to have a miscarriage.
When their daughter Chrystal was born, Dwayne wasn’t around. “It didn’t interest him,” she said. He moved out of state.
Chrystal has seen her father only twice in her life.
Not a first time deadbeat
Chrystal wasn’t the first child that Dwayne helped bring into this world. His ex-wife had three kids. He had an older daughter by another girl friend. Bethany thinks there is another ex-wife floating around out there.
Bethany had an insatiable curiosity about the mothers of Dwayne’s other progeny. It wasn’t jealousy. For whatever reason, she wanted to know more about his parental life before their fateful one-night stand.
She reached out to these women, and both warned her to stay away from Dwayne. The ex-wife sputtered, “He’s no good at all!” and told Bethany she could keep him. Bethany tried to get the woman to understand that she had no use for this scoundrel either.
Bethany’s other reason for tracking down Dwayne’s other baby mamas was to find out if he paid child support. It was difficult because Dwayne moved around a lot, leaving children in his wake. Despite her efforts searching the public records, she couldn’t find any court orders.
I tried to understand why Bethany was so interested in Dwayne’s past. “I was just nosy,” she said, a bit self-consciously. “I wanted to know what he did before. I wondered if he would follow through and help our daughter.”
Did Bethany really think that the man who tried to destroy his child while she was in utero would step up and support her?
The “justice” system
Bethany filed for child support. Dwayne tried to convince her to drop the claim and he promised to pay her out of pocket. She knew better than to trust him.
Dwayne made exactly one payment of $600. To avoid paying more child support, he voluntarily quit his job. He provided bad addresses so that Bethany had difficulty tracking him down.
Typical deadbeat behavior.
Next, he claimed that the court should reduce his child support obligations for Chrystal because he paid $300 per month for his eldest daughter’s medical insurance. Even though Dwayne provided no written evidence of this expense, the court reduced his required payments for Chrystal to $400 per month. He was also ordered to pay $25 per month to catch up on his delinquent payments.
Dwayne paid nothing.
One year when Dwayne filed his Federal income tax return, he was entitled to a refund of $1,500. Too bad for Dwayne, who didn’t know that tax refunds could be seized to pay outstanding child support obligations. Add $1,500 to Bethany’s side of the ledger.
The saga continues to drag on and on. Dwayne and Bethany go to court and the same act plays out. “He brings nothing but excuses, ” Bethany sneers. Dwayne provides no proof of income. He claims he is unable to work because he is 100% disabled due to back problems. The judge accepts Dwayne’s statements without question.
Bethany is incredulous. “Ninety percent of people in this country have back problems, but they work and do what they need to do!”
Once Bethany had a pro bono lawyer representing her in the courtroom. Her attorney asked Dwayne, “What is your child supposed to do if you don’t pay any money and she needs diapers and formula?
Yes, that’s what Dwayne thought his young daughter’s fate was.
Chrystal just had to suffer the consequences.
Bethany was stunned.
Her lawyer restrained her from jumping over the table to attack Dwayne. The judge was unmoved. He ordered Dwayne to pay $250 per month to catch up on his outstanding debts. Banged the gavel. Called for the next child support case. Another squabbling, unmarried couple shuffled in.
Dwayne now owes almost $40,000 in back child support, not including interest.
The social media tactic
There’s a technological twist to this story.
Bethany’s cousin set up a Twitter account and a blog to publicize Dwayne’s status as a deadbeat dad.
I tried to understand her motivations for “outing” him.
Bethany exclaimed, “I want to get the word out there, I want his friends and everyone to see who he really is!”
Commercial websites exist to publicize the identities and wrongdoings of people who have allegedly shirked their child support obligations. Bethany says many people have seen her posts on one of these sites. Even Dwayne’s father has seen all this online activity, but he claims that Bethany’s accusations are untrue.
But it’s not all about trying to embarrass or shame Dwayne. Bethany also wants to help other people.
“I want to make a difference for single parents. There are others in the same boat who can’t collect child support. I even know a deadbeat mom; another woman is raising that deadbeat’s two kids along with her own.”
Bethany told me that she feels good when she finds out that people read her blog. She hopes it gives them courage to keep pushing for their kids’ rights to receive child support.
Lots of questions, no good answers
I asked Bethany what Chrystal knows about her dad. “She knows nothing. I tell her, ‘God is your dad.’ I don’t know what I’ll say when she is older and asks questions.”
Meanwhile, Bethany battles on, with no success. She files the court papers. She shows up in court. She waits.
“Staying on top of it is a fulltime job,” she sighed.
Deadbeat Dwayne keeps slipping through the system. Bethany is exhausted and frustrated.
“Where’s the justice in this? Why does this happen?”
I couldn’t offer any answers.
Image © iStock.com/Spauln