One Paycheck Away: Stacey and Pete

Trapped and Struggling

"I'm living less than paycheck to paycheck right now. Without the help of my mother, I would be homeless within a short period of time," says

35-year-old Stacey, who is pregnant with her third child. "I feel like I'm trapped; It's either borrow money from my mother or go live in a shelter or my car. I'm having a baby and I can't afford to take care of the kids that I have."


Stacey and her sons lived with her mother until recently. "I found out she was pregnant, and that was the end of my patience. I just told her, ‘I've given you all I have to give. You're just going to have to move out,'" explains Sandy, Stacey's mom. "Stacey has made many bad choices over the years. Stacey often dated men who had dead-end jobs, had no qualms about walking away, taking no responsibility."


Stacey says that her biggest problem is that the fathers of her children don't pay child support. "My first son's father has completely dodged any kind of responsibility. The new baby's father is in the picture, but he's been very reluctant to help me finan

cially," she says. Stacey was married to her middle son's father, Pete, for four years, and after their divorce he was giving her money but has stopped. "I did get a court order for him to pay child support, but he's going to hire a lawyer and fight it."


"There are a lot of vampires in this world, they don't suck blood, but the suck money, time and energy, and I think Stacey's one of those people," Pete says. "I felt like the money that I was giving Stacey was providing more for her than it was for the kids. I'm not going to pay for trips to Vegas or a new blouse or gas for her car or her rent or anything like that. I don't think Stacey has ever stood on her own two feet in the entire time that I've known her."

Stacey says that if she received a monthly child support check, she could have fun with her children. "I'd be able to look forward to weekends and maybe doing things with my kids, not just sitting stagnant in our apartment every day," she laments. "We don't buy anything. We've cut out pretty much everything that you could cut out, except for food and electricity."


"I am the only one who married Stacey. I'm the one who tried to do the right thing, and this is what I got for it; a bunch of grief," Pete says. "I did what I could do. Maybe it doesn't meet Stacey's criteria of what it should be. Sorry, I'm doing my best."


In the studio, Stacey tells Dr. Phil that Pete hasn't paid child support in over a year. "That's been difficult," she says.


"How much are you supposed to pay a month according to the court?" Dr. Phil asks Pete.


"According to the court, it's almost $900 a month, which I cannot afford right now," Pete replies.


"You haven't paid in a year," Dr. Phil points out. "Why are you not paying your child support?"

"Mostly because I don't have the money," Pete says, explaining that he had a bad year in terms of work and didn't have the money.

Stacey doesn't believe him. "I kind of feel like he will only work certain jobs. He will not do anything that he feels is beneath him just to support his children," she explains. 

"I don't believe it," Sandy adds. "As soon as she started working, what she was receiving stopped."

Dr. Phil reads statements Pete has made as to why he won't pay child support. "You said, ‘The reason I won't pay child support now is because I've had a difficult year.' But you also said, ‘I shouldn't have to pay her mortgage, car and phone bill.' And [you] don't think that the money

you give to her goes toward your son."

Pete agrees. "I feel even more strongly about that now that I know there's another child on the way. I'm absolutely certain that any money that I provide to Stacey is going to go to that new baby," he says.

Dr. Phil continues. "You also said you don't think it costs $800 a month to raise a child."

"No, I don't," Pete says. "As a rule, I would think that an average kid would probably go between $300 and $400 a month."

"You've also said, ‘I've always believed that in order to help someone to walk on their own, you've got to kick the crutches out from underneath them, and they've got to stand on their own,'" Dr.
Phil says. "So, you're actually doing this to help her?"

"I wouldn't say that's specifically my intention," Pete says. "I don't really believe that there's anything that I personally can do to help Stacey with her problems."

"I don't think I've ever read a court order that said, ‘Pay this money, unless you don't like the way it's being spent,'" Dr. Phil quips. "It says, ‘Pay the money.'"

"That's a problem. That's kind of a broken system, don't you think?" Pete asks. He notes that when you buy something you usually know what you're getting, but not when paying child support.

"If you want to know what it's like to pay child support, take about $500 of your hard-earned money and burn it, because that's basically what you get," Pete continues. "I have no idea where that money is going."

"It's none of your business!" Dr. Phil says.

"It is my business," Pete maintains.

"No, it's not," Dr. Phil insists. 

"It's my money," Pete says. "How can it not be my business?"

"It's not your business, because it's not your money," Dr. Phil points out. "It's your child's money."

"How can I ensure that it's going to him? That's what I'm trying to say," Pete says.

"You can go to the court and raise that issue, but in the meantime, you pay the money for your child so you go to bed at night knowing that your child has food on the table," Dr. Phil explains.

"I don't know that," Pete refutes.

"Then you need to raise it with the court," Dr. Phil says.