The date of the hearing arrives.
A day before, the hearing coordinator sends me documents he received from The Foreigner. The Foreigner wants to know why The Child – his child – is being sent to “luxurious entertainment programs” on his dime.
The “luxurious” programs he is complaining about are summer camps. He doesn’t feel he should have to pay for things like “theater camp,” because it isn’t “child care.” He cites Wikipedia’s definition of child care in support of his argument.
He doesn’t say what he thinks should be done with The Child during school breaks – when she is signed up for camps so that I can work.
One of us needs to pay the bills, after all.
The DSHS has produced a spreadsheet of the amounts paid by him, and show that he has accrued about $2,000 in child care arrears. He submits his own math, showing that I actually owe him $770 that he has overpaid.
I decide it’s best if I say as little as possible at the hearing, and let him do the talking.
The hearing is a phone conference call, first thing in the morning. The judge walks us through all the documents, numbering each separate page of each child-care receipt for the past four years.
Now, does he dispute that I incurred these charges? She asks.
No, he says. I dispute that these are legitimate child care expenses. I am sent these outrageous bills and never asked if it’s okay with me. I just get the bills.
He forgets to mention that he signed away his right to be consulted about anything when he gave me sole custody eleven years ago.
The judge doesn’t have that document so she asks me if I’m required to get his approval on these things. No, I tell her.
Well, she says, why have you selected these programs?
I explain that The Child is in school, so we only need child care when school is out, and camp fits the bill. Also, it’s very cost-effective, I tell her. That theater camp, for example, works out to $7.50 an hour for child care, as opposed to $12 an hour, the going rate for babysitters in this area.
Well, she says, would you say you choose these camps because they best meet your child’s needs? Allow her to be more active, maybe?
I think to myself, well, obviously, but then realize: It’s not actually obvious to all the parties.
Yes, of course, I say.
She turns her questions back to The Foreigner. Do you feel these programs are not appropriate for this child?
Well, he says, I would have a hard time answering that as I’ve not seen any of the programs, and haven’t seen the child for many years.
So, the judge asks, What exactly is your objection then? Do you not understand the reasons for these programs’ selection?
Well, he says, it costs a ridiculous amount of money. I can’t even feed my own children. When I want to go out, I have a neighbor look after my children or a family member. That doesn’t cost anything. She spends my money very freely.
I am thinking: she is your own child, too. I am looking at pictures on his website of his family ski vacation.
But I say nothing.
The judge says, Do you understand that she has no legal obligation to use free care provided by family members for this child?
Yes, he says.
The judge thanks everyone, and concludes. She will render her decision, and we will receive it by mail.
Two days later, as promised, I receive the verdict: A $36 monthly increase in child support payments, and $2,000 in arrears are awarded to me.