Picking a Fight with an Unjust Law

A fluke in our family court system is putting our children at risk. Would your pray for us?

This is a longer, more personal, post than usual, and sharing these twist 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 miss-understood, 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 a number of reasons:

Child Support
  • 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 take place, 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 I?
  • Cheering on my wife and I as we share our story, and advocate for our children?

This week, our family’s life was flipped up-side-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Last week, either due to a fluke in the child-support system–or because these laws are outdated to the point of being unjust–I returned from family court with devastating news.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, as a result of 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 mind is, “This deadbeat dad doesn’t want to support his children.” Yet, noting 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 that 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 though 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. In spite of the fact that we are living in 2015, the family court system, continues to make 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 once since, 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 his 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 his and her 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 in order to provide income to the biological mother–is in need of reform. Although giving to the poor is honorable, laws providing low-income family’s 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 due to wage garnishments, our family will be paying the other home’s rent first. 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 be able to 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 very real 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–as opposed to 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 strength for our family, and that God would work this situation for our good and His glory–We are confidant that He will!

Second, I suspect that God is calling Jenny and I to encourage other families who are 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 confidant–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 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 in order to bring attention to the need for reform, and to bring hope to other family’s 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 continuing to provide 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, 

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I'm stoked you're joining our conversation! Please note: I do reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. However, I welcome open and honest conversation, so please feel free to comment often. I look forward to our conversations!

14 thoughts on “Picking a Fight with an Unjust Law

    • 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.

    • 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

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

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