Divorce, Single Parenting, Dating, Sex, & Self-Recovery

SPO

No Divorce Expert: But If You Parent 50/50 You Should Divorce 50/50

OFF-doghouse

I’m kinda sick of the divorce experts and family law (meaning un-family law) solicitors who are hovering around the business of divorce. The only problem is, it is a business. And divorce is a business decision. And without some good counsel you might get screwed. Still, calling yourself a divorce expert sounds really stupid to me. I want to ask them, “Oh, so how many divorces have you been through, and which one turned you magically into an expert?”

I’ve been divorced twice. And what I can tell you is, I’m no expert, I’m no advice columnist, I’m no self-help blogger. If you’re heading towards or in the middle of a divorce I recommend you get some help on your side. And providing your are not in a high-conflict divorce situation, you might include your future-ex in the discussions about finding counsel. That’s not exactly how the sequence went down in either of my divorces, but that ultimately became the intention and result. We wanted to collaborate on our divorce not drag each other through the legal halls shedding thousands of dollars along the way.

So we decide to divorce, or one person decides, and then we divorce. Our kids world’s are split into two parallel universes.

Here’s the big ah-ha for me about divorce: If one partner wants a divorce there’s not much hope for a reconciliation. In the case of my second marriage, when the partner has consulted a divorce attorney before raising the issue with you, you’re pretty well on your way to being handed a divorce whether you want it or not. I didn’t. It didn’t matter. We’re divorced. I’m getting over it.

The second ah-ha about divorce was: how you got into the divorce process is probably how it’s going to go. In my case, if my then-wife had gone to see an attorney, even while we were actively in couple’s therapy, there is some sort of major emotional disconnect that is not going to be resolved in the divorce. But knowing this is where she was coming from, that even with a counselor involved she was not able to get her needs met, I was able to let her go more easily. I knew that nothing I had done had caused her to seek divorce. In fact, I was doing everything I could to keep the marriage together. I was working harder. I was improving my chore-tackling attitude. I was trying to be more empathetic to her complaints. But the complaints were getting longer, and it seemed like our therapy sessions stayed focused on these surface “You didn’t do” issues rather than the kind of tectonic hurts that drove her to seek divorce advice before letting me know she was leaning away from our marriage. I was shocked and hurt when she admitted the fact in therapy, but I immediately had a better understanding of this person who was asking for her exit pass.

If you’ve got kids you’ve got to make them the focus of the hopefully-peaceful divorce. In our case the kids did come first, though I might have negotiated things differently had I been less empathetic. Heading into the new kind of therapy sessions, the one where you are writing the rules of your divorce, I was disoriented and depressed. We even stopped the negotiations for a week as I made my case to my wife about why I didn’t want the divorce. We then moved along towards a parenting plan with her help. At least I got the moment of pause and reflection. But I could see in my wife’s face and hear in her responses, that she was done. Done done. Not just done.

So we quickly moved to the logistics of the divorce. I came with a plan to go for 50/50 custody. My wife had other plans. And unfortunately in my state, Texas, the laws were very much on the mother’s side in 80% of all divorces. I understand from my lawyer (who I hired last year to protect me from my ex’s unreasonable child support demands) that in 2014 things are looking up for the dad who wants 50/50 custody. It appears the judges are more likely to hear both sides of the story and make a ruling that is based on desire and fairness rather than legal precedent.

And somewhere along the way, perhaps when things looked a bit more locked up than she was used to, our “impartial counselor” suggested to me, “That’s what she’ll get if you go to court.”

Unfortunately I got divorced in 2010. The legal precedent was with the mom all the way. And our divorce counselor quickly moved our discussions to how things would look with me being the non-custodial dad, and how the “time was not really all that different.” What I did not know, and I did not have an attorney tell me, so listen up: if I had gotten 50/50 parenting, as I wanted, I would not be forced to pay child support. We would do our own thing, we would pay our own way, and we would part as 50/50 responsible co-parents, just as we had parented. But that’s not what happened.

I did my research. I brought books and selected copies from those books to our sessions. I drew up some creative 50/50 schedules. And I was politely humored, but somewhere, in the cabal of women, they both knew I would give in to reason. Or the powerfully sounding, “In the best interest of the children.”

Wait a minute.

I understood that the kids needed both a mom and a dad. And I also understood that at the moment my soon-to-be-ex was making more money than I was. And I was paying this counselor to represent my side of the case as well.

And somewhere along the way, perhaps when things looked a bit more locked up than she was used to, our “impartial counselor” suggested to me, “That’s what she’ll get if you go to court.”

Yes, but…

Today I can look back and see I was railroaded. Perhaps in the name of efficiency and lowering the conflict I was given the verdict. Settle for non-custodial, or go to court and pay to be given non-custodial. This sucked. But again, I was depressed, I was living in my sister’s house, away from the kids, and I was desperate to get on with whatever life we would have after the business of the divorce was settled. So, I succumed. I agreed to the SPO and the non-custodial role that was offered to me. And the negotiations went pretty quickly from there. To be honest, I just wanted out of the meetings with my still-wife. I was still in love with her. I was holding back all efforts to plead with her. And her steely eyes showed me she had other plans. She was more prepared for the divorce negotiations because she had been thinking about it and maybe even planning her actions, long before I was aware there was a divorceable-rift in our marriage.

“This often happens to the dads,” our counselor told us. “They are not aware there is a broken marriage until the divorce is in progress. And they are often slower to accept the breakup.”

Um… Yeah. I was fighting from within the strength of my marriage one minute and then being told she’d already consulted an attorney, those are two different universes in my life. And I was struggling to let go of the first one and begin to accept the second one. The universe where she would go on to be with other men, where I wouldn’t see my kids every night, where I was going to be alone again.

Divorce is the most painful and life transforming thing that I’ve ever been through. Perhaps as each of your kids comes into the world your life is transformed, and you grow into a parent. But as a divorcing parent, you are looking at losing a good portion of your kid’s lives. No way around it. The pictures my ex-wife takes of the kids are always painful. The vacations they now take without me, with mom’s boyfriend, are always a bit tender. I don’t really want to see them. I’m glad they had fun. I’m very happy when they return. But it’s like a two different lives they lead.

If the other person is unwilling to give up 50% of their parenting time, perhaps they need to reconsider the decision to divorce.

So we decide to divorce, or one person decides, and then we divorce. Our kids world’s are split into two parallel universes. One that they experience with dad and one that they experience with mom. Suddenly they have two homes. Maybe a new person in their parent’s lives that they have to adjust to. And the stories they tell around the dinner table are no longer shared in both universes. There’s mom’s universe and dad’s universe.

As parents, divorced parents, we have to do our best to fill in the gaps alone. As our kids are away, doing other great things, we have to keep our chins up and our spirits positive as we look towards building our own lives, now separate from them and their mom. It’s okay, I’m not whining. We all make it. But there were are few things I didn’t know going into the early part of the divorce process. And this most significant thing, that our “divorce expert” failed to tell me was also the part that has caused me the most pain and drama.

The Two Laws of Divorce:

  1. Kids first
  2. If you parent 50/50 you should divorce 50/50

Without exception, especially if that is what one of you wants, you should push for 50/50 parenting. If the other person is unwilling to give up 50% of their parenting time, perhaps they need to reconsider the decision to divorce. That would not have made a difference in my then-wife’s decision to divorce me, but it would have had a significant impact on my ability to thrive financially post-divorce. I was asking for the half parenting for purely emotional reasons. I cannot say what my then-wife had in mind, but she’d gotten some legal advice by this time, and I had not. Perhaps that was my own fault.

Do not go into divorce naively. Get informed. I came to my divorce counselling meetings with books, information, scholarly articles, and I still lost the negotiations. Today I would not make the same mistake. And if I am telling you this story so you don’t make this same mistake, then good for both of us.

If you want 50/50 parenting, and are ready in your heart and mind to step up to the large task of co-parenting, then you should go for it. And for the health and well-being of your kids (if you are a mom or a dad) I hope you get it.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: in the dog house, alan ellis,creative commons usage


Divorce is Not About What’s Fair, Let’s Get That Straight

OFF-mermaid

Let’s get something straight right off the bat. Divorce is not about being fair. It’s about following the law, and hopefully, doing what’s “in the best interest of the children.” But that’s not really the intent of the law either. The laws surrounding divorce and custody in Texas are in place to streamline the average divorce, and provide the mother with some support once the father is gone. Staying in a bad marriage just because of the money is a bad idea. But again, that doesn’t mean the law is fair.

Early on, when we I was finally convinced that divorce was the only option, I agreed to seeing a counselor who would help us build the perfect parenting plan for our kids. The idea was, that in cooperation, we could lessen the impact on the kids, be civil to each other in a difficult process, and go through the process of divorce as simply as possible. We were “kids first” in our approach to splitting up. All that was good.

Building the parenting plan, and the agreements we would abide by as parents was the most important part of the divorce for both of us. And the “impartial” therapist was there to help us work it out. So we paid a lot of money to her, rather than lawyers, to advise us in setting our kids up for success in the post-family world.

And then, somewhere along the way, during the process this statement came out of our counselor’s mouth.

“This is what the mom would get if this went to court. So we can start here.”

What about me? Well, that’s where the fairness ends. Because if I can’t make the full payment, at any time, my ex can file against me at the Attorney General’s office and wreak all kinds of havoc on my credit and career.

I had been heading towards 50/50 parenting or bust. I had made my case for how much care I had provided in the past, and how much care I was willing to provide as a single dad. Still the words from the therapist’s mouth were hard to swallow. She was saying, if we went to court, my ex-wife would get primary custody and the SPO, as they always did. Oh, and, “this is what’s in the best interest of the children.”

What?

I didn’t really know what all that meant, but I trusted the counselor and listened to her. It was not fair. But that’s what my ex would get if I fought her in the courts. I was confused, that’s why we were paying her all the money, because we were not going to go to court. We were using her to avoid court, and to come to an equitable arrangement as civil adults and caring parents, without fighting about it.

We were meeting weekly with her to determine what was best for our children in our case, not to abide by what the State of Texas generally did in the case of divorce. I was pissed, but I didn’t really have much support for my view. I had bought a few books about cooperative parenting, and suggested a 50/50 schedule that was recommended in one of them. This was the offer that was being shut down by our cooperative therapist with the approval and appreciation of my soon-to-be ex-wife.

Here’s what I am slowly learning.

  • 85% of divorces in Texas end up with the mom as the primary custodian. Dad’s are considered non-custodial parents as a default.
  • And most of those dads are then given the SPO, as what’s “in the best interest of the kids.” The SPO (Standard Possession Order) is the governing calendar for your time with your kids.
  • The SPO is not near 50/50, and the “month” in the summer is a joke to offset some of the inequity. But show me a dad who can take a month off in the summer to make up for time lost with his kids, and … Well, it’s just not realistic.
  • With the non-custodial role comes a big fine. In Texas someone is going to pay. And the non-custodial parent is saddled with a set fee, based on estimated income, that is defined by the state and enforced by the state. If you’re the non-custodial parent get ready to pay.

While 50/50 parenting is not uncommon, it is not the norm. And if that’s what you want (as I did) you should fight for it. In our case, I should not have had to FIGHT for it, that was why we were mediating and paying a counselor to help us determine what was best for our kids. What we got was a good parenting plan, with “if you go to court this is what she’s going to get.”

So using some abstract numbers for a second, let’s see what that non-custodial assumed fee (called child support) looks like.

Let’s say you have two kids. And for simplicity’s sake let’s say your mortgage on your house together is $2,000. When you divorce, you’re going to 1. give her the house for “the kids;” 2. pay her a monthly support fee for “the kids;” 3. pay for the kids health insurance; and then, if you can afford it, 4. figure out how to put a roof over your head too.

So let’s see. If together we were paying $2,000 for our house. And separate she’s going to pay $2,000 for the same house. But I’m then going to pay her $1,000 for child support, and $500 for health care for the kids, then in theory she’s paying $1,000 for the house, and if I can find a 3-bed-room apartment nearby for $2,000, then I’m paying $3,000 plus $500 just for living expenses. I mean, I do what what’s best for my kids, and I do want them to be able to keep the house, but…

What about me? Well, that’s where the fairness ends. Because if I can’t make the full payment, at any time, my ex can file against me at the Attorney General’s office and wreak all kinds of havoc on my credit and career. So to start, I’ve got to make $3,500 a month before I get to think about electricity, food, water, clothes for myself. Um, that’s not such a good deal.

So how could we have made this more fair? Well, to start we could have negotiated in good faith, rather than this “what she’s going to get” BS. That was a low blow, and I’m still a bit angry with the otherwise, stellar, counsellor.

As it turns out, I agreed to the non-custodial deal, and the SPO and the payments to my ex-wife. And as it turns out, the economy has beat my income stream into ever-changing levels. And when I began to get behind, even as I was explaining to my ex exactly what was happening, and that I was not trying to get out of paying 100% of what she was owed, even with all that good will, and “what’s in the best interest for the children” talk, my ex-wife filed on me for being two months behind on my child support.

The cascade of my financial collapse was pretty swift after that. While I had been able to buy a house (shelter for my kids) I was falling behind on my mortgage too. And since my great job evaporated, I had not been able to replace it. I was working as a consultant, but I wasn’t making enough to cover all my expenses (survival expenses, not travel, or new things, or extravagance) and make the $1,500 support and health care payments. I was confident I would get caught up, I was expressing that to my ex-wife, and for some reason she filed anyway. Not fair, I thought. But that’s not what it’s about.

The point is not that I owe her the money, or if she is entitled to the money. She is entitled to every dollar awarded to her through our agreement.

I had to sell the house to get caught back up on my debt to Wells Fargo. I had to hire a lawyer to protect me from my wife’s actions with the AG. And I’ve been struggling to find a new full-time gig, at a much higher salary, so I could pay for all of this AND a place for me to live, preferably with three bedrooms so we all have our own space.

But in the SPO world, there really isn’t much consideration for what I will do, how the dad will do if he struggles a bit. It’s good for the moms to be taken care of. And most of all it’s good for the kids to be provided for, without a lot of drama or fighting between the co-parents. But I was unceremoniously tossed out of my house, which I agreed to give her, and told to pay a whopping $1,500 fee to her, and THEN look for somewhere I could live. In an expensive city, with kids in an expensive school district, it was not a pretty story. And while I nearly made it, my few months of struggles were enough for my “friendly” ex-wife to basically use the State of Texas to sue me for her back child support.

I’m waiting today for the expected good news that I will be starting a new full-time gig shortly. One that should provide for my child support and even a place for me to live. If I can afford a three bedroom place to live, is yet to be seen. I’ve got my fingers crossed, and am still putting in applications elsewhere every day. And other than how it would affect my kids if I were homeless, I’m guessing my ex-wife could care less, unless it means the full child-support payments will resume immediately.

That’s the plan. I’m not sure it’s a fair plan, but that’s the plan.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

[Please note: This post is likely to draw a lot of heat from the single mom’s. The point is not that I owe her the money, or if she is entitled to the money. She is entitled to every dollar awarded to her through our agreement. And she will get every single dollar awarded to her, as I promised/promise her. The point is, had I known all my options, I might have fought for the 50/50 parenting plan I wanted.]

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image: models dive 25 meters, bejamin von wong, creative commons usage


Single Parenting Magic – The SPO Has Given a Happy Moment

July 2012 the SPO delivers a "fifth" weekend

One. Three. Five.

Do those numbers sound familiar? In the SPO (standard possession order) those are the weekends the typical dad gets his kids. The first, the third, and the ever so lucky fifth. So this year we have Christmas in July. For some great turn of the calendar, this coming weekend is a magic “fifth.” And what that does, if you don’t know, is set up the double-weekend.

So I’m not saying she’s not being a good mother, but I do think our priorities are different. In some ways she WAS ahead of me in the entire divorce process. She would say it wasn’t premeditated, but she was closing down our communication channels for several years as she distanced herself from intimacy with me. It wasn’t hard. I was compliant. I took care of myself. But in doing so, I lost the heart of why I was in a relationship. It’s more clear now that I don’t have it, but I was desperate to stay connected. When that wasn’t offered, I was desperate to stay together until things got better. (Um, yeah. That’s a bad equation. NOTE: The other person is NOT going to change. They “might,” it’s possible, but it’s like waiting for the alcoholic to stop drinking. There’s always wishing and hoping and planning and doing better… And then there’s the slip or exit.)

Drop off and pick up can change the tenor of my entire week. Going by our old house was almost unbearable for the first year and a half.

So within weeks of the finalization of our divorce she was leaving the kids with a sitter to have sex with a repair man in another city. Oh boy! Yes, the word REBOUND came screaming up at me when I heard about it. And in my divorce recovery class, it was the only solace I had. Yes, she was already having sex with someone else. BUT HEY, it was a definite “rebound.” Fuck that. In many ways she had moved on and was all ready to GET IT ON with someone else. I have to say, “I get it.” But I was a little more calculated in my decisions, or maybe I was just so far behind in understanding emotionally what was happening.

The loss of the kids, the unlimited time with your kids, is the hardest thing. Well, that’s AFTER you get over the fact that this person has decided to bet against you. And suddenly you are left alone (and in my case homeless) to fend for yourself. And on all those nights that she has the kids for consecutive nights, you will learn to lick your wounds and get back up on your feet. Yes, it’s a process of self-discovery, but it’s like having the ladder out-of-the-hole kicked out from under you.

I guess there’s no good age for kids in divorce. And while my kids are thriving, I can see the loss in my daughter’s face when we are finally back together after a long period away. And her hugs and “mother hen” affection are just a bit over the top. I love it. I glow in it. I am careful to be the awesome dad in the father daughter constellation. As they say, she is learning, will learn, how to be with men by the healthy ways she learns to relate with me. It’s a huge responsibility. And it makes me sad not to be there for her. (The ex-y can date and babysit herself to her heart’s delight, but my daughter has become one of my primary concerns.)

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with her “relationship,” these days, but it does seem to me, that she puts her needs ahead of the kids. Perhaps that was the switch that allowed her to actually file for divorce from me. At some point she had to detach from me first. Then she had to make a decision that being without me was better for HER than being with me.

The kids are the hard part. Drop off and pick up can change the tenor of my entire week. Going by our old house was almost unbearable for the first year and a half. It was too close, to easy to want to crawl back into my old bed, to easy to long for a “return” of some sort.

And the SPO does take a huge portion of the time away from the dad. The lawyers and counselors likes to point out that “it’s pretty close to 50/50.” The problem with that logic is how that balance is achieved. There is this provision for the summers, that the NCP (non-custodial parent) can have the kids for an entire 30 days.

Let’s see what the problem is with that idea.

1. Financially it would be a huge hardship. If you could take the month off, it would be a killer vacation opportunity. But, like most parents, I would guess we have to keep working our normal schedule, then it becomes a 100% child care expense for a week.

2. Emotionally the kids are going to suffer being away from the other parent for a month. Maybe as the kids get older this will be an easier decision. But right now, the kids would be hurting to be away from Mom for that amount of time.

3. Logistically, you’ve got to make provisions for their care, entertainment, and nurture, while continuing to provide financially for both them and their mother.

As they say, if she’s happy, my kids are happy, and that’s supposed to make me happy too. It sort of works that way.

So, let’s just say, it’s going to be awhile before I am able to swing (or even want to swing) a 30-day visitation during the summer. THEN, the next best thing is the magic fifth weekend.

One more moment of reflection on the “balance of the schedule.” So JULY for me is going to be like EVERY OTHER MONTH is for her. OUCH!

I’m not interested, nor do I have the funds to change our legal agreement. BUT… at some point the “balance of time” vs. the “balance of the financial obligation” might have me looking at changing the custodial arrangement. I simply don’t have the funds to pursue it. And, for now, it’s working out to my advantage. A sad and somewhat lonely advantage, but nonetheless, I am getting a ton of work done in my “off parent” time.

So for now, I can thank my ex-y for taking care of the kids the majority of the time. (Note: during the school year she does shoulder an unfair burden of school parenting and homework, but hey, that’s the breaks.) And I can be the best dad that I can be during the time I have my kids. And I can celebrate the little gifts of the “fifth.”

And she can go right ahead and remarry, as she’s already mentioned in relationship to her current boyfriend, if that’s her path. I’ll do what I can to support her and the kids through whatever’s next. And I will keep the anger and bitterness here, in this process-writing, rather than in the my dealings with my ex-y. As they say, if she’s happy, my kids are happy, and that’s supposed to make me happy too. It sort of works that way.

In July, this year, I’ve got a lot to celebrate.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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The Language of Divorce – Like a Stranger In a Strange Land

graffiti of the heartTo GROK is to know, consume, and “become one” something. The concept comes from Robert Heinlien’s Stranger in a Strange Land. In the book a Christ-like man has returned to Earth in the very distant future. And while this man can indeed do miracles and does appear to many to be the return of the Christian Jesus Christ, the ultramodern society cannot quite embrace his proof. In the end this uber-Christ is killed. And in a bazaar “final supper” his followers boil him into a soup and eat him. By finally Groking him, they are knowing and becoming him.

The language of divorce had the same effect on me. I was disoriented and unprepared to begin talking about my ex-wife. There was none of the newly-married fascination that comes with referring to someone as “my wife.” Do you refer to her by her name? Do you call her my ex? Or my ex-wife? Or on good days, “the mother or my children?” I actually prefer “their mom.”

Sometimes it is good to say “my fucking ex.” The words have power.

And terms like Standard Possession Order and Non-custodial Parent become new definitions that you have to get help to understand. And you will learn new ways of talking about yourself as well. Do you want to be referred to as “single” or “divorced?” And what do you say when people ask after your now-ex-wife?

A friend from my divorce recovery class told me after about 6 months of knowing me, “I’ve never known your ex-wife’s name. You always just call her ‘my ex'”

And you also develop subtle ways of letting people know you are a single parent. “Oh, I have the kids that weekend, we’d love to come if it’s kid-friendly.” And the ever popular, “They are with their mother that weekend.” Words like “the kids” and “their mother” become keywords that identify us as DIVORCED with CHILDREN. Not exactly a humorous or popular term, but one which you must embrace and GROK before you can move on into becoming what’s next.

But after a while, after consuming the broth of everything that was your marriage, you will begin to recover a new self that is ready for what’s next.

There’s an amazing scene in the movie The Descendants when we meet the older daughter for the first time. She is drunk and very unhappy. Her first line of the movie is “Fuck Mom!”

I was in the process of courting a potential date online last week and I referred to my ex as “my fuckin ex.” Oops. I was trying it on for measure, almost as a line from the movie. The woman I was communicating with was not impressed. And with a few quick txts we established that I was still mad at my ex-wife and would refer to her as “the mother of my kids” or just her name.

That’s okay. But sometimes it is good to say “my fucking ex.” The words have power. But it might be best for you and your same-sex buddies rather than mixed company. And it’s true, if you are constantly triggered by the thought of your ex, it might be necessary to do some more “work” on them.

I think we have to reach a comfort with the language and rhythm of divorce. At first we are lost and confused. But after a while, after consuming the broth of everything that was your marriage, you will begin to recover a new self that is ready for what’s next. It’s a bitter soup. It’s a process that requires many spices and experiments. But you’ve got to rise above the “fucking ex” in order to move on.

In some ways this writing is my soup preparation.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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“Watch out squirrel!” I Needed To Shout This Today: “Fk You!”

squirrel loses the war

“For some reason I needed to tell you today, that I fkin hate you for giving up on me. And, of course, it is a blessing. We weren’t happy. But as much as I’d like to talk about the sour grapes, I’m still somewhat devastated. You bailed.”

Ah, that anger again. We’re gonna have good days and bad days. And today has been a good day. When I was driving to the store today I saw a vulture snacking on a squirrel. Why this reminded me of my own pain, I’m not quite sure. But today, with an email from you, I learned what it was about.

I am not okay.

And I am fine. But here’s the rub. We were so fkin close to making it. Sure I hid some of my desires and you pretended to still have them for me. And sure the economy has been tough, it’s tough on everyone. And then like the squirrel, I got distracted. I paid attention to your anger rather than my own. And now the vultures are snacking on my heart. [okay, that was for dramatic effect only. let me recalibrate and try again.]

As so many things are coming back together for me, after almost two years of struggle, I am sorry not to have you as my mate to share this wonderful time with. That’s the part that still has some kind of sting. But that’s my shit. And I’m working on it. [here]

In the same way WE were so close to making things work out back then, I am very close today, on both a personal and professional level. Sure, a relationship will follow, at some point, but I’m taking major life/balance things first. And before the divorce was started, when I said to you, “You know we can’t afford TWO houses in this neighborhood.” I was wrong. Sort of.

There’s an imbalance to how all this divorce stuff goes down. I’m not angered by the child support payments. My kids need a lot of stuff. And I’m happy to provide. BUT… Some how I’m now paying TWO mortgages. How did that work? How is that fair? Who’s helping me out?

There’s some statistic about the SPO being about even. But there’s a real big mistake in that logic. HUGE actually. The SPO has this wonderful provision for the working dad, primarily the one who gets the shorter end of the stick on the SPO laws. And this provision has the kids spending an entire month with dad, theoretically during the summer. Um, yeah.

QUESTION: When the fk am I going to be able to afford to take a week off with my kids, much less a MONTH? REALLY! No, Dr. Who-Knows-Best, tell me about that mythical MONTH that helps balance the schedule out the rest of the year.  Oh, and before you answer, let’s talk about how much of the financial burden I’M going to be carrying, in addition to trying to scratch out a living for myself. So, really, what’s the fkin SPO percentage when I can’t afford to take that MONTH off, in fact, we don’t DO that part of the SPO, because it’d be too damn expensive.

Another big shock, if you’re on the mortgage for another house, it’s gonna be harder than hell to afford a new place. Much less, BUY something. And when they are looking at your financial feasibility, they are going to examine your SPO like frikin proctologists. Because, my friends, the dad is getting fked right up the wazoo.

Without going into numbers, let me illuminate the situation.

My child support payments, which include a percentage of my salary AND the cost of healthcare for both kids, is exactly $100 less than my new mortgage. And about $200 less than the mortgage on my old home. So how did the math come out, that we’re getting the kids 43/57 but I’m still paying both mortgages? (Here’s a link to the Standard Possession Order in the State of Texas.) Here’s what the Attorney General’s website says about our great state, to give you the full flavor of the situation here, “In Texas, about 10 percent of non-custodial parents are mothers.” – handbook for non-custodial parents.

Yeah, yeah… Men often make more than women. And yeah, yeah, women often suffer more financially than men in this situation. Fk that, it hasn’t been so in MY CASE. [sorry, i’ll try to quit shouting.]

Here’s what you are going to hear from your legal support team. (her’s and your’s) “The SPO is the way to go. Being the Non-Custodial Parent (NCP) is no big deal. That’s how it’s going to go even if you fight it. It’s just the way it is.”

And there’s going to be this, “50/50 is too hard on the kids. Too much transition. The SPO is better for everyone. It has been worked out over time.”

So what do you do? What did I do? Of course I went in asking for 50/50 and the Dr. advised that my request was more of an emotional matter, and not one that was necessarily in the “best interest” of the child. And “The SPO is the best approach.”

And I kid you not, she said this, “And she’s going to get that if you fight her or not. Most of this is about what she is willing to negotiate, knowing that she would win in court. But neither of you want that.”

And she was right. I was in no position to fight. I was still reeling from the idea of losing something much bigger than a custody battle. I was willing to put everything in the “best for the kids” column, if it meant less time dealing with the trauma of the divorce.

Besides–and this still haunts me–“what she is willing to negotiate.” The assumption, even by this neutral [ha!] third-party was… SHE WINS.

As Dad’s we just need to deal with it. Buck up and be prepared to PAY.

+++

I’ve been lucky. Even in my devastating depression, surrounding such a depressing event, I got a pretty awesome FT-job about six months after the divorce was final. And I moved quickly to purchase a house on that job.

I have nothing to complain about. I mean, I can rant here, but overall I am personally in pretty good shape. And while my first post-D job only lasted 4 months, I am poised to start some contract work that could put me solidly back in to the black. Where I get to pay both of our mortgages for way less than 50% of the time.

I’ve got a funny way of looking at it: If I had to pay for childcare during all the time I have to myself, I’d probably be paying  A LOT more. So do what you can to get over the anger. And get the possession order that makes the most sense for YOU. I’m meeting a ton of parents who do more of a 50/50 thing. I wonder how that would’ve affected the amount of money I had to pay to my ex-y.

Let me be clear: I want my kids to be provided for. I want to be that good provider for my kids. But… where does it say that she gets a free house in the deal, just for starters? “Because she knows that’s what she’s going to get.”

I’ve officially just burned through my entire retirement savings. I could probably petition the court and show my REAL INCOME for the past 18 months and have the support amount reduced significantly. Heck, I was optimistic when I signed the SPO and decree outlining how much I was going to pay my ex-y for the next 9 years. But mostly I was just trying to get through the loss AND the process of the courts. And of course, everyone counseled me that she would get the SPO anyway, and I should just agree and move on.

That’s fair, right? Fk that! [don’t be a fkin squirrel or the vultures are gonna rip your furry body apart.]

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to The Hard Stuff pages

Resources:


Going Without – The Loneliness of Standard “Possession” Orders

So last month when she asked me to go week-to-week schedule instead of the 1-3-5, I balked. I ultimately agreed, but in doing so I lost the ONE perk of my side of the SPO, the double weekend. And the parenting counselor had very little say on the matter of why, this was a better set up, rather than going 50-50. “The kids need to be with their mother at this time of their lives.”

And THAT LOGIC, my friends, is BULLSHIT. It’s bias based on research on much younger kids. And it doesn’t take into account the robot mom who feels very little and would rather get everyone onto a verifiable schedule and spreadsheet.

So last month I lost a double weekend because I was being flexible. Then when I needed a moment of flexibility back, because I had a work schedule shift, she replied, “But you already agreed to the change.” The change I was asking for was still 4 weeks off.

My response. “Fine, I’ll cover my own event. And in May we go back to the SPO schedule. When there’s a problem or a disagreement go back to the contract.”

What I didn’t say, “And you can figure out how to meet up with your honey on his 1-3-5 schedule by altering HIS routine not mine. And I’ll take back my occasional double weekend present from the LAW.”

So I enter my 1-of-11 days period now. I’ve got plenty to do. But I can’t say I won’t have a bit of ache as I’m dropping them off at school in an hour. (Oh, crap, I’ve gotta go rouse them from their beds.)

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

permalink: http://www.theoffparent.com/loneliness-of-spo/

women in lulu lemons seem tastier somehowCaveat: After drop off this morning, I stopped by the grocery store for a few things. And this morning for some reason I found the women fondling the broccoli very hot. Maybe it’s the fact that so many of them were wearing Lulu Lemon yoga pants (either heading off to yoga or just completed a few downward dogs) and looked flexible as well as beautiful. Perhaps it was the fact that their presence in the grocery store at 8:45 in yoga pants pointed to a stay-at-home lifestyle. [The one I couldn’t quite manage.] Either way, my eyes were wide open. And the woman in the nutrition bar area was more than happy to share her preferences and her son’s preferences in energy bars. Confession: women in Lulu Lemons seem tastier somehow.

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Stealing Home – “walking out of my house for the last time”

The Off Parent - Divorce and RecoveryWhen it finally went down, when I was walking out of MY house for the last time, I felt a bit I was acting out the exit scene in The Jerk. “Just one more thing.” And with the closing of that door behind me everything changed. Suddenly anything I wanted I had to ask for. I left with a bag of clothes a few books and little else.

The exit had been requested months earlier, mid-March. But I refused to throw my entire family (mainly the kids who were 2 months from the finish of the school year) into chaos because my ex-y had built up the anger and resentment to finally ask for a divorce. I said no a number of times that week and a few times the next week. We had been living as roommates for months, we could do it for a few more months to deflect the trauma until the summer, when we all had more time to heal.

For this solidity I give thanks. I believe the experience for the kids was tempered as their mom and I worked through the details of custody and schedules.

When the moment came for me to actually acquiesce it was a Friday morning. My sleep had been getting more and more ragged. And I was losing my objectivity. So I agreed to leave it all behind and give her the dominion of the house. I didn’t really believe I was walking out for the last time, but I knew things would fundamentally be different from that moment on.

So now, months later, from the outside I have given the house to my ex-wife and kids. I realized at some point during the negotiations that I did not want to be in the “family home” alone. And I would be alone a lot more of the time than she was. And that was the DEAL. I could’ve gone for 50/50 time. I could’ve forced the sale of the house. But I gave the rights to the home and the 70/30 split of time to her.

And perhaps it is better for them to be with their mom more. Either way, that’s pretty much what I would’ve gotten had I gone before the courts and asked the judge. And what I got for the consolation was a chunk of retirement money that was going to be taxed at 30% the minute I needed to touch it for a down payment. But what I really got was a happier ex-y. I’m pretty sure neither of us would qualify for the house at this moment. I could have some bitterness that we got a cash out of a refi less than a month before she asked for a divorce. But perhaps this too was a gift. Without it economic times would’ve come much harder for my entire family.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

Resources:

image: The Homecoming used via cc terms