I am behind on child support right now. I haven’t really had an income per se for about the last year as I have been trying to get a small business off the ground. Now, I understand the child support regulation fairly well (I was part of the test group when they released the guide book to the current regulations – which are punitive by the way) so I know that there is really no point in fighting it. I could have had my maintenance order changed when I stopped having an income, but it would have meant hiring a lawyer and taking time out from starting a business to go to court. That isn’t even the theme of this post (although I will get into exactly how fucked up punitive child support is some other time). What I want to talk about is the fact that when my ex gets letters about our child support situation it always includes a letter stating that this is a caution case.
A caution case means that at some point domestic violence was involved or suspected (to the point of police involvement) in the relationship. That happens to be true for us. See, after we broke up I was late going to see my son one day. I was having a bad week that week and I was later by about fifteen minutes. It was also shortly after my ex discovered that I had a new girlfriend (nothing to do with why we broke up, which was more than a year before this). She screamed at me to get out, because I was late. I turned and left. She ran up behind me and punched me in the head, repeatedly. I turned and restrained her, then tried to leave again. She hit me in the back of the head again. We repeated this pattern of restraint and assault a dozen or so more times before I was finally on the stairwell leaving the building. She threw a kick at me on the stairs and screamed that if I left she would call the cops and tell them I beat her up.
When I got home I called the police and told them what had happened. They came and took me down to the station. The interview lasted several hours and I was on my third day of trying to quit smoking. I asked the police officer if he had a cigarette. He didn’t smoke, but he allowed me to go to the store and grab a pack, since I hadn’t been arrested for anything and he obviously believed me. My ex was also at the station. True to her word she had called before I got around to it. She told the police that I had become abusive to her at the building. At one point I overheard the two police officers (the one who picked me up and the one who picked her up) comparing notes. They had noticed a little discrepancy between her story and the physical evidence. We both had bruising, but mine was on the back of my head and hers was on her knuckles. Still, the crown prosecutor decided to charge both of us and let things go to trial. The cop who arrested me punched the wall and yelled motherfucker when he heard that. He was a really nice guy, and I can’t say enough positive about the police in my case.
Flash forward more than a year. It is time for my trial and there turns out to have been an impartial witness who saw the whole thing. A woman on my ex’s floor (the whole thing happened in the halls of the apartment building she lived in) had seen the whole incident from her peep hole. She watched me try to walk away, again and again, and she watched me get attacked, again and again. After her testimony the crown prosecutor stood up and said that “There is no evidence this individual has committed any crime.”. My case was dropped on the spot. When it came time for the trial of my ex I was called on as a witness. My ex’s attorney tried to imply that since I had martial arts experience I should have been able to resolve the situation more gently than I did – an insane defence strategy since it automatically doesn’t justify the attacks in the first place, and because I resolved the situation without ever once resorting to striking back. My ex was found guilty of assault and given probation with a condition of anger management.
Now, every time maintenance enforcement sends her any info on child support they remind her that it is a caution case, not to approach me as that could be dangerous, etc. The woman who was found guilty of assaulting me is cautioned that approaching me could endanger her, while I get nothing – there has never been a note cautioning me to avoid her, or that she might attack me. Not once in all this time. The funny thing is I only found out about this because she told me. See, the stuff between us isn’t raw anymore. We’ve been apart for many, many more years than we were together, and our son is almost an adult (two more months of child support and then it is over for good – unless one counts my back debt) and she is one of the most rabidly anti-child support people I have ever met. She believes that Canadian child support laws constitute a human rights violation, and that no man should ever have to be subject to them. She has no control over maintenance enforcement and actually uses my child support payments to pay off her current husbands child support debt (which arguably he should never have been subjected to), and would waive it if the courts gave her the option. She told me about the caution letters, with more than a hint of bitterness towards the system that values my financial contribution over the fact that my son and I are still extremely close, that I am still in his life, driving to the nearby town where my ex lives to pick him up and drop him off completely without complaint, over the fact that I fought for joint custody and lost despite the fact that she had been convicted of domestic violence. Basically, somehow, it became me, and her, and her current husband’s ex, railing at a system that makes finances a binding glue no matter how wrong. Not one of us wants the money to change hands, not one of us has their lives improved by it (my ex’s current husband’s ex is quite well off and her child is grown and out of the house – the system is making my ex’s current husband pay back child support for the child’s entire life despite the mother never having asked for it).
So, that’s why I’m a caution case to the department of justice, maintenance enforcement division.