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I am a divorced parent of three children. I work full time on earnings about 20% above the 2012 average industrial wage.
I separated in 2002 and was “married but living apart” until 2011 when legally divorced. I have always paid two thirds of my income in maintenance - voluntarily from 2002 to 2011 and under court order since 2011.
When I left the family home I rented a room and stacked supermarket shelves as a second job till 2am to pay for it. Eventually it became unsustainable and I returned to my parents’ home.
With four adults and two teenagers already living in a four bedroom house it was not practical to have my kids overnight. In eight years I only had them overnight twice.
My Access was one evening a week and Saturdays. I took my two eldest children to school every day for two years until our youngest started playschool. I was glad to have any access to my children and complied with every wish of my ex-partner.
During these years we even took holidays together, as a family, mostly in Ireland but also in the UK. When our third child was born my partner was able to give up work, living on my maintenance. When my ex returned to work I bought them a car.
When the relationship deteriorated it was no longer possible for me to visit in our family home, so I left my parents and got a suitable place where I could take my kids. I requested an adjustment of from €1,700 to €1,200 but the court took the view that my parents had supported me up to then and should continue to do so! Without them I would be homeless – they pay my rent.
My children are with me one week in four, plus two weeks summer holidays.
I pay 59pc of my wages in maintenance for my ex and children.
Additionally I pay voluntarily for health insurance for my children - another three percent. I have no medical cover.
I pay third level costs for my eldest child – another eight per cent.
My total contribution to my children’s welfare, health and education is 70pc of my net income, not counting what it costs when they are with me. I think I’m doing my bit.
This leaves me € 202 to live on AND to provide a suitable home for my children when they are with me. The poverty line for a single adult is €210.
I collect firewood to save on heating oil; have no house phone; have basic television; have no Internet. I buy meat on the weekends that my children are with me. I take my rubbish to my parents’ house to avoid bin charges. Two of my three meals-a-day consist of tea and toast which I take from the kitchen in work. The NCT on my car has expired and I cannot afford to have it serviced.
When I’ve paid, food, electricity, heat, insurance, petrol, motor tax, my living expenses are paid I have to try and have enough money to treat my kids to a Chinese takeaway or a trip to the movies, save for presents at Christmas, birthdays, communions, confirmations AND have enough money for two weeks holidays during the summer.
I live “frugally”.
The mortgage on the family home is in arrears, and if I (or my ex-partner) get sick this winter, have an accident or lose our jobs we will be in a severe situation.
I am HAPPY to manage living below the poverty line knowing that my children don’t have to. I have provided the absolute maximum possible for them.
Not all single dads are deadbeats. Not all are scroungers.
All I want is equal status with any other parent and to be treated equally by all agencies of the State. I believe my conduct in relation to my children, their welfare and my responsibilities has earned me that right.