Some background info: My daughter's mother and I found out she was pregnant the beginning of 12th grade; hadn't been dating long before then, and not much longer after. I made some mistakes, i.e. getting a girlfriend not long after she was born, taking a backseat in the whole process and just generally being unprepared. My family at the time was in shambles because of other things going on which limited support on that end. All I had was my then girlfriend and friends whose focus at 17 years old was on, to say the least, other things. I was terrified and had earned mom's (and grandmom's) scorn early in the process. By the time our daughter arrived I was simply an "issue" to mom's side and was just trying to get through the motions with as little friction as possible. I even signed the birth certificate without my last name on it.
This was almost 7 years ago. Now to consider, I have always paid support except a 6 month period which I'll get to (I'm at $180 a week), have no other kids besides a stepson, have never had drug/alcohol problems, no abuse issues or any significant legal problems besides parking tickets and have always kept my nose clean. I do now live at home, but work and go to school full time with my free time going to my fiance and stepson.
Over the past 7 years my involvement at least physically has been broken. In the beginning I was bad off to begin with, and mom now realizing what day to day burden was now upon her found the delinquent father stigma easy to rest on when the baby was up all night. She'd let me stay over but made it clear if not for the baby I was far from welcome in the home. So I stayed home at night and went after work. I'd get there after work and we'd argue, then go home. I didn't give or make enough, not around enough, didn't know how to do this and that, etc. It was never a conscious decision, but eventually I just didn't go back. When I did pop in to see where things were it was always the same, my own life and future were a wreck and getting worse, and now the support summons were showing up in the mailbox. That girlfriend I mentioned earlier? Pregnant.
Our first mediation was Jan 17th, exactly one week after being laid-off from my warehousing job. Like I said previously, my family had some serious stuff going on and knew little of my situation. I was living in the attic of an abandoned house with slacks, shoes, a dress shirt and a small bag of stuff just trying to get working. After the mediation, they set my support at about $60 a week which backed up over 6 months. Between March and June was probably the best relationship I had up to that point with my daughter and mom. After the mediation we got to talking, mom was settled in a routine and had recently gotten into a small house with grandmom. I filed for visitation, just to prove a point but the judge set it so that we could work it out on our own, however being still in moms favor. She found out how I was living, but saw how hard I was trying and let me stay with her until I found somewhere to go. I would watch the baby for her at night so she could go out, I was happy to oblige having little else to contribute at the time. May came and my girlfriend miscarried at 22 weeks. He wasn't far enough along for eyes, but intact enough to hold once before we had him cremated. Not a fun few days to say the least.
I was still without income and mom was getting tired of it no matter how many apps I put in or how many diapers I changed. Still reeling from the miscarriage I decided to leave and go my own way again, end of June or so. I was still seeing my daughter though not as much. I finally got a job at kmart and not soon after was working full-time overnight at BJ's. My support was paid, and I even got my arrears and the rest of the hospital bills paid off with my tax return. Got a better job, even went to community college for a bit, then just dropped off. After new years I stopped all contact with mom, got a place in the city and did my own thing for awhile. I don't really have an answer for this, I think I just finally caught up to myself mentally and couldn't deal with the loss, the fact that I was so far from where I thought I should've been at that point. It just seemed like I did more damage than help, and that's how I justified abandoning her. And the worst part was I believed that for a long time.
A year later I came to terms, moved back home and was looking at different options for school and whatnot. I met my now fiance and her 5 month old son. It was sometime in winter the next year I finally saw mom again, she was working at night at a convenience store and I caught her on break. Went pretty smooth for the most part, and she decided to let me see my daughter again. Things were different though, mom had gotten married (together no longer than 9 months) and this guy was now daddy to my daughter. Strange right? She needed more support, and when she got it I was cut off again. My dumb a$$ missed the hearing and was now missing $200 A WEEK out of my paycheck. I appealed and the judge told me if I don't like it then join the military or something. Mind you, I was making $11.70 an hour at the time, and have since been brought to $13.00. The increase in support was for daycare by the way.
That was a little under 3 years ago, and I have not heard nor seen any of my daughter or mom since then. I have paid every week, learned to live below my means and have come into adulthood fairly well considering. I finally have a plan, a soon to be growing family to care for, and although murky, a future and career to look forward to. I don't know where mom is now living, the only way I can contact her is through facebook, I think.
This is a blight on my life I feel I am finally prepared to take on, I just don't know how. I'd like a relationship with my daughter, but has anyone done this? I doubt if she even remembers who I am, let alone finding out I'm her biological father. She'll be 7 this year, so there's no longer hoping she's young enough to forget all this time that's passed. Should I go directly through court or contact her privately, and can it hurt me in court if I do contact her privately? What should I do about support? If my family is going to get anywhere, I need at least half of what I pay back in my check. If anyone can help in any way, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading.