Schultz is one of many Alberta parents caught in the Maintenance Enforcement Program.
The oil field worker has been in the industry for 25 years and admits it hasn’t always been easy.
“2008 was a pretty nasty one,” he said. “That’s when gas really plummeted here in southern Alberta and really affected a lot of southern Alberta. Oil workers at the time have a saying, that’s when all the oil patch princesses cashed out.”
Schultz was laid off, without work, had just separated from his then-wife and was ordered to pay $4,500 per month for child and spousal support.
He struggled to find another job, knowing he wasn’t going to find anything that matched his oil field salary.
So he went to court and made an offer he thought the judge wouldn’t refuse.
“Instead of paying her, I would’ve taken the children in lieu, to help her out,” he said. “I don’t even think I sat down in my chair and he immediately said he wasn’t going to do it.”
“They all say that it’s about the kids and nothing’s about the kids,” said his fiance, Dale Pierzchalski. “It’s all about setting a precedent and men are, from everything I've seen in court, complete wallets.”
Pierzchalski said judges seem to side with the mothers.
“I was very shocked at the sexism that goes on in the court system,” she said. “I have to say I was a little ashamed to be a woman.”
Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said as much as the system focuses on the parents involved, it’s about what’s best for their kids.
“It’s the children who have the right to that money and so what the system tries to do is to ensure that the best interest of the child is always put forward, first,” she said over the phone from Edmonton. “We don’t think it works perfectly in every case, that’s why we strive to improve it.”
“Every divorce is unique and they treat it like fast food at McDonald’s,” Schultz said. “You’re in, you’re out. You’re in, you’re out.”
Schultz is back working 15 days on and six days off, making sure his girls have everything they need when they come to stay with him and Pierzchalski.
But Schultz knows the system has taken a toll on his relationships with his daughters and that’s something money won’t ever be able to replace.
“I can’t afford to do a whole lot of things with them,” he said. “We play games and try and do some things that don’t cost a ton of money.”
“At the end of the day, we hope that what we do with them, play games and the love that we give them, is enough,” Pierzchalski added.