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

Posts tagged “attorney general’s office

I’m Sorry for All the Things I’ve Done and Said…

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…but you’re out of hand these days.

I’ve tried negotiating with my ex-wife. I get delays, abusive emails, and a lot of bs. I’ve tried offering ideas about coparenting with my ex-wife. I get rejection, reasons why it won’t work, or ignored. I’ve asked for facetime where we could work some of our “issues” out and I get excuses, I get her new husband instead, I get a lot of nothing.

My ex-wife treats me like a misbehaving child. I’m in time out.

So I rail. And I feel good about it. And I feel bad about it. I mean, she’s the mother of my children, how can I be talking (writing) so disparagingly about her?

Well, for the first part, she’s a royal b****. Second, she’s decided not to deal with me but to let the state of Texas deal with me. (She turned our relationship over to the AG’s office a few years ago, to enforce her decree.) I guess she forgets I agreed to the terms of our divorce. I guess she forgets that only death can separate me from my debt to her. I guess she forgets that if we’d gone 50/50 like I wanted, there would be no child support, we’d have had to pay our own way. I guess she forgets.

But I don’t think she forgets, that’s a cop-out. She hates. She seethes. And she’d rather not see me for fear for lightening up on the angry legal approach she takes to everything I ask about. I’m not asking for much. I’d like the lien on my credit report to be lifted, so I don’t show up to potential employers as a deadbeat dad. I’d like her to acknowledge that the AG’s office was a bad idea and to make the single phone call that could end their intrusion into our lives. But she won’t.

She’s convinced, and she tells me from time to time, that they provide a service to us. They provide the accounting that we’d eventually have to come up with. They provide an easy way to pay her the child support. She’s convinced that having them in our lives is a good idea. Still. She still wants the arm of the law and the lawyers of the state on her side. I don’t know how to respond. So I learn not to respond. I learn to respond here. I learn to let it out in a healthy way (anonymously) that won’t damage her or my kids in any way.

Am I right? I don’t know. Does it feel right? Sometimes. Do I need an outlet for this rage that comes up when she pulls one of her dickish moves? Absolutely.

I’ve developed a term for what she is. The term was brought into use when referring to a new girlfriend’s mean ex. The dickish ex. That’s what I’ve got: a dickish ex.

She knows she’s being dickish. She knows that sending her new husband to meet with me rather than meet with me herself is a dickish and cowardly move. Well, the AG’s office has a surprise for her. In our child support negotiations it’s only going to be me and her and the AG employee. She’s going to have to tell the case worker why she’s being a dick. (grin)

I’m sorry for the things I say here. I’m also happy I have this outlet so I don’t take my frustrations out in some other way. To my dickish ex I give my middle finger. To the AG’s office I say, “I will comply to the letter of the law, as I always have.”

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Serenity with my Ex-wife Begins and Ends with Me

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I will never see eye to eye with my ex-wife. She turned my late-payer ass over to the collection agency of the state, and all hell has broken loose in my life ever since. There really is no forgive and forget in that situation. It was NOT “in the best interest of the children.” It was not even in the best interest of my ex-wife, but if you spoke with her today, I’m sure she’d disagree.

See I WAS behind. But that was due to employment, not willingness to pay. And since then, I’ve paid her 1/3 or 1/2 of every dollar I’ve made. But the AG’s office of the state of Texas still has a whopping lien on my ass. I can’t get a used car, I can’t rent an apartment, set up new phone service, nothing. I’m not only a deadbeat dad in the eyes of the state, but I’m a 400 or less on my credit score. See how far that will take you.

Somehow, I’m still negotiating just taking the AG’s boot of my neck. The good news is I’m negotiating with my ex-wife’s new husband. He sees things in a more business light. Still he too is convinced that as an accounting system, the AG’s office is fine to have in our relationship. I disagree, but it’s not up to me. My ex-wife holds all the keys. And that’s how she wanted it. She grabbed the power stroke by putting the AG’s office on her side and against me. Call them up for any information and you quickly get the idea that as a non-custodial parent you are a lesser citizen. In fact, you wouldn’t be contacting them if there wasn’t an issue. And if there’s an issue the non-custodial parent is the only party that could be in the wrong. Simply put, according to the AG’s office, you owe her this money. It is a debt. What are you going to do today, how much money can we have out of your checking account today, to take care of it.

So I have to begin seeking serenity with myself. I have to forgive myself for the job loss, the employment struggles that are so common in our current economy. I have to give myself a break first, even if the AG’s office won’t.

I’m hopeful that my ex-wife’s husband can be a man about the situation and realise ONE MAJOR FACT: I cannot, am not, will not, ask for relief from the money I owe my ex-wife in back child support. That’s the law. There is no need for the AG’s office to be involved unless the dad is trying to skip out on his obligations. I am not. There is no need for the AG’s office unless the dad is hard to track, bill, or find. I am not.

I cannot get satisfaction from her new husband either. He sees the AG’s office as a convenient accounting department for the rest of our contract. That’s bullshit, and he’s spouting her rhetoric, but again, the healing is up to me. Here’s what I can do.

  1. Pay 1/3 of every dollar I make to my ex-wife until my kids both turn 18.
  2. Keep seeing gainful employment that would put a nice cash flow system in place for everyone.
  3. Ask for the removal of the AG’s lien.

The outcome is not up to me. I am responsible for my actions. I am responsible for nailing one of the next three job interviews. I am responsible to explaining to the potential employer that contrary to my credit report, I am NOT A DEAD BEAT DAD. (That’s a bit of a harder sell, but I don’t think we’re going to get relief any time soon.)

I may not reach serenity with my ex-wife and her new husband ever. That’s okay. The serenity is within me. I am doing, have done, and will do the best I can to support my kids and keep my relationship to them above the fray my ex continues to keep seething around us. The AG’s office is not your friend. If you sick the AG’s office on your ex I sincerely hope you are doing it as a last resort.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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I May Never Reach Serenity with my Ex-Wife

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Divorce is hard. Coparenting is hard. Being civil to someone who is constantly attacking you is hard. Being solid and positive for my kids, above everything else, above all she throws at me, is not hard.

Sure we do it for the kids. We tried to keep the marriage together “for the kids,” and that didn’t work out so well. After divorce, you’ve got a harder hill to climb. You can NEVER let your angry face show. You’re coparent is golden in the eyes of the kids. There is no other option. Any anger you voice to your kids about your ex comes back to haunt everyone. I can’t say I’m not tempted.

And her best, today, means the AG’s office gives her some reassurance that she will eventually get every dollar she was awarded in the divorce decree. It’s a shame she sees that as an entitlement and not a cooperative agreement.

Just yesterday I was really really tempted to tell my 13 yo daughter, “You know at 15 you can decide who you want to live with.” I’d never say it. But I wanted to. I wanted to reclaim my daughter for the last few years of her attached child role. Once she’s gone to college all things change. And their mom made some decisions that forever changed our trajectory together. And to say I got the short end of the bargain would we an understatement.

I got the typical non-custodial role. I pay child support to the tune of $1,300 per month, and I get the kids about 30% of the time. That’s not fair. But that’s Texas. In fact, that’s still most of the country. The dad is a second class citizen. Oh, and did I mention she got the house and paid-for car too?

Still, there is no time to be angry with your ex. If you spend time fuming at them, you are wasting your own life. If you can channel that energy into something creative (writing a blog for example) then you can make use of the wonderful power that anger brings. I’m angry with my ex-wife. She does things daily that confound me and clearly do not live by the “do unto others” rule. But she has also abided by the no negatives rule. We focus on the parenting of our kids. There may be money issues, and basic courtesy issues that are all out of whack, but we make our best effort to keep our kids out of the fray between us.

The best result is that our kids are happy, productive, and thriving in high school and middle school. You will do almost anything to keep that positive result as the focus of your relationship with the other parent. Yes, I named this blog in an attempt to capture some of the “off” things that my ex does, but it’s also a testament to venting anonymously and keeping the shit-storm out of their lives.

I’m sure she does not see it the same way. I’m sure she doesn’t read me anymore, but she knows this blog is out here. And yes I’m cataloging the ills, tribulations, and trials of being a father with a narcissistic ex. My coparenting skills are tested almost weekly. I have to breathe and stop all action. From this calm place, I can remember the faces of my lovely children and take the next right action. It is NEVER to attack my ex. I’d like to. I’d really like to let her have it. I’d like to sue her and get 50/50 custody as I had asked for. But I won’t.

Yes, it’s my kid’s problem, because they have to deal with her attitude and resentment 70% of the time. But when they are with me, I can be 100% positive, no matter what.

I have to admit things are working out for me. I’ve got a new relationship (2 years) that’s heading towards marriage in several months. I’ve got my health. And in the near future I will also be rebuilding my credit.  She says, “I just don’t see it,” when I ask about removing their boot from my ass. But she too is doing her best. I have to believe this. And her best, today, means the AG’s office gives her some reassurance that she will eventually get every dollar she was awarded in the divorce decree. It’s a shame she sees that as an entitlement and not a cooperative agreement. Yes, it’s enforceable. And yes, she’s enforcing it. But she doesn’t need to. I am paying 1/3 of every dollar I make. Every. Single. Dollar. Suing me is not going to change the pace or the improve the volatility of the employment market.

Today I can say I love my ex-wife and hate her at the same time. Yes, yes, “it’s a thin line…” but this is something more. She still carries a lot of contempt and anger towards me. This is exemplified in her need to keep the state’s lawyers in the picture. Heck, she even works for lawyers, so you’d think she’d get some counsel. And today she’s married to a wealthy man. She’s still not happy, but guess what? It’s no longer my problem. Yes, it’s my kid’s problem, because they have to deal with her attitude and resentment 70% of the time. But when they are with me, I can be 100% positive, no matter what.

Get that engraved in your heart. Positive no matter what.

And love on.

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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I Try to Forgive My Ex-Wife, But I’ll Never Forget

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It was her decision to seek greener pastures. It was her distrust and un-trustworthiness that ultimately sank our relationship. It was her actions, after divorce, that caused me to be homeless a second time. She didn’t need to hit me when I was down. She, somehow, didn’t see that a blow against me was a blow against the children, our children.

And still, I have to move on. I mean, I must move on. I mean, it’s hard…

The AG’s office is a debt collection agency. Once you invite them into your relationship they will square off and pick sides. And you, as the non-custodial parent, are on the losing side.

I was asking her to have a little patience with me while my employer and I looked for a new anchor client. A few summers ago, I got behind on my child support payments. But it wasn’t a surprise. I was advising her all the way in. And then she started rattling the “enforcement” sabres of the Attorney General’s office. There was nothing I could do, besides telling her the exact date and time I would get completely caught up with “the money you owe me,” that would dissuade her from sending me to the angry dogs. She did it.

Somewhere in our collaborative divorce she got what she would’ve gotten had we gone to court. But I didn’t fight. I didn’t want to fight. I still don’t. But maybe it’s time to fight back.

In our divorce decree we based my child support on an $80,000 a-year job that I had recently lost. I was on track for a new job, so we/I decided to go with it. Sure. In the same decree I also agreed to pay for 100% of the kids health insurance. I’m not sure how this is considered fair, but again, I was not fighting her, I was trying to do what was right by my kids.

But things didn’t turn out the way I planned. The job didn’t come. My job became more of a partnership with an old colleague. And I was okay paying the full amount for a year before the difficulties hit. Now, it is these difficulties that really punched up the true colors of my ex-wife. Had she been cooperative, and compassionate she would’ve negotiated with me, navigated the rough times together, and we could have continued a civil relationship. That’s not how she chose to play it.

After a summer of excuses she filed our decree with the AG’s office and claimed that I owed her a lot of money. And while I don’t deny that the debt is mine, I don’t think it needed to be attached to my credit report so I couldn’t rent a house or purchase a used car. She didn’t care. She didn’t listen to me when I explained what the AG’s office was for.

The AG’s office is a debt collection agency. Once you invite them into your relationship they will square off and pick sides. And you, as the non-custodial parent, are on the losing side. They work for the custodial parent, who is obviously having trouble collecting their money, otherwise you wouldn’t be talking to them. So as a non-custodial parent, when you call the AG’s office, you are in trouble.

My ex tried to rationalize with me a year ago, “Lot’s of people deal with the AG’s office and they don’t seem to have problems. It must be something you’re doing.”

Begin aside to my ex-wife.

Um, who are you talking to? Other custodial moms? Yes, I can see how they would think the AG’s office is a fine option. And I suppose if you are dealing with a dead beat dad, someone trying NOT to pay, or someone hiding money from their ex-spouse, the AG’s office provides a welcome service. But I was neither of those things. I was telling you where my money was. I was agreeing to pay the full amount when I could. But my inability to tell you the date and time of your repayment was enough to trigger your anger.

My guess is your anger is on-going. Somewhere in your heart I am the one responsible for the divorce. Or, if the divorce was indeed your idea, perhaps it was my inability to be a responsible adult, or to be trustworthy in some arcane definition you were harboring. Either way, you filed.

End Aside.

I have to forgive her everyday to not be mad at her. But I will never forget what she did, and what she continues to do every day.

Today, two years later, I’m “on schedule” with my payments for the last year. Do you think now would be a good time to talk about removing the bootjack from my ass? No? Okay, when?

The point is, my ex-wife still believes the Attorney General’s office serves her. And in fact they do. But their form of service has limited my options significantly. And not because I have refused to pay her a portion of every dollar I’ve made since the divorce. And not because I was hiding money from her. She keeps the AG’s office in my pants because she thinks they are the reason she’s getting paid. In fact, they are the reason she’s getting paid less. (The AG’s office exacts a fee from the funds collected. They really are a collections agency.)

So if my ex-wife believes the AG’s office is in the best interest of all of us, then I will have to continue to find compassion in my heart to not call her bad names, and shout at her when we cross paths at the kid’s school events. No, it’s not that bad between us. But it’s because I’m being the bigger parent. She’s still got the collections agency on her side, full-well knowing that I’ve never hid a single dollar from her, or denied my willingness to pay her all the money she is owed.

The truth is, I can only pay her from money I am making. Now that I’m making better money, she can have the extra cash for nice new shoes for the kids, and for her. She can fix up the house. She can plan a summer vacation. But she could do all of this without putting the lien on my life. I have to forgive her everyday to not be mad at her. But I will never forget what she did, and what she continues to do every day. I can ask for a change. She can demand I pay the full amount owed. And we can move along parenting as best we can. I think we’ll both get what we want, eventually.

Respectfully,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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A Quick-Start Guide for the Divorcing Dad: The Off Times

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When you go down the path of divorce, however you got there, a few realities are going to rush up and greet you rather quickly if you are a man. There are two important issues that it is critical for you to understand. Time and Money are the only negotiating points you have. Let’s jump straight into the story, shall we…

When my time with them dropped so significantly, I began to crater on the days and weeks that I had zero access to their smiling faces.

The legal system is set up to support single moms and to force dads to make their child support payments, regardless of changing situations or dad’s ability to pay. That’s not their problem. And the typical support package includes the Standard Possession Order and some percentage of your income, depending on the number of children you have. Let’s get real clear on both of these new realities in your life, as a dad.

SPO (Standard Possession Order) is the parenting schedule you will most likely be offered. The reasons behind this 70/30 parenting split were established by the state over years of divorce and custody battles and negotiations. The rationale behind it sounds like it made sense 30 years ago.

The mother as the primary care giver will be given the majority of the time with the kids. This allows the continuity of their primary relationship in this trying time. This leadership role will be called the custodial parent. The Attorney General’s office, should they ever be needed, will treat the custodial parent like a client. The non-custodial parent, on the other had, is a bit of a second class citizen. This morning when I was confirming some of the details about my current arrangement, I noticed this contact list on the AG’s website.

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The custodial parent get’s their own line. As do employers and people not so certain of their paternity obligations. All others please call the general number and get put on hold and endless transfers through voice activated systems. “If you are the custodial parent, press one. If you are the non-custodial parent [the only reason you are calling us is because of a problem, and you’re probably a dead beat dad] press two.

Time and Money. Those are the two negotiations you will have to settle in order to get divorced. I was the uber-cooperative divorcé. I agreed to everything. I was told it would be in the best interest of the children for the mom to get the house, the child support, and the lion’s share of the time with the kids. I had a naive idea at the outset that we would divorce 50/50 just like we had parented. I was wrong. And the state’s attorneys have given us a lot of precedents that show this role for the dad is the best one.

Non-Custodial Parent. Standard Possession Order. Child Support. Those three little phrases are about to become very important in your life. And your understanding, navigation, and negotiation in setting them up, might save you a lot of the heartache and drama that I’ve been through.

TIME

The 70-30 split sounds a bit abstract until you are in middle of your “off” week and you are trying to imagine surviving the next 4 days until you see your kids. Here’s how the typical schedule breaks out. Dad gets the kids every other weekend. During dad’s ON week he gets two additional nights. Thursday and Friday. If your kids are already in school, that’s really after school time, and getting them up for school on Friday morning and Monday morning, if that’s your schedule. (All schedules can vary and still be basically the SPO.) On the OFF week, you may or may not get a single night sleep over. Again if your kids are in school, that’s really one cycle of feeding, homework, and back to school the next morning. Those single night stays were hard. The loss when taking them to school on the off Fridays was brutal.

I struggled to stay brave while I was with them, and suffer greatly when they were gone.

Time with my kids was the most important aspect of my life after they were born. Everything I did, I did in consideration of my then-wife and my kids. I centered my hopes and dreams around being a great dad, and being there for them every night, every volleyball game, every time they needed advice. And when they were younger, say after 3rd and 5th grades, they really did need a lot of interaction and caring. When my time with them dropped so significantly, I began to crater on the days and weeks that I had zero access to their smiling faces. I might have done better to fight and receive a more equitable divorce. Maybe Joint-Custody and a real 50/50 schedule would’ve provided more connections between us. Maybe I’d have been able to get my son into tennis or bike riding. Maybe I wouldn’t have crashed so hard into depression.

When I was thinking about the math last night, I was surprised to understand that she had the kids more than twice as much as I did. The 70/30 split is very abstract until you are losing so many nights and weekends with your kids. I still think a 50/50 schedule would’ve been better for my kids. And today, I have some ideas that might make that possible. But today my kids are teenagers. Today they have their own independent lives. Today, my interactions with them, even when they are here, is fleeing, abstract, and often superficial. I dig being with them, and I try and make myself open for their questions. But at this stage the lead in the relationship is up to them. Asking your kid, “What happened in school today,” will never get more than a “not much.” When your kids want to chat they will seek you out. By being available, still only 8 days out of a 30 day month, those opportunities have smaller windows.

So my ex-wife gets more than twice the time with the kids. Wow. It’s a lot. But until you’re IN DIVORCE and have kids, you can’t really understand what the loss means. It took the breath out of me for over two years as I struggled to stay brave while I was with them, and suffer greatly when they were gone. The OFF parent has a lonely road ahead.

MONEY

This is where the rubber meets the road in divorce. In general the dad will have the child support obligation. The idea is that he is often the primary bread-winner, or at least as a man, employable at a higher wage. And as the story goes, the kids and their mom should be able to continue with the lifestyle that they have grown used to. (No mention of what’s about to happen to dad’s lifestyle.) And while that language sounds okay, the execution of these documents are often brutal and pugilistic.

Here’s an abbreviated version of what my “deal” looks like.

29% of my take home pay will be paid to the ex-wife for the children’s care and feeding. That money is tax-free to her, since the taxes were taken out of my wages prior to the withholding. Wow, that’s a pretty good deal. Seems like it should be a deduction for me and the taxes should be taken out equally. But that’s not how it goes.

When you are considering divorce, as a man, consider the two most important issues as a parent: Time and Money.

And if you have or hope to have a high-paying job, that’s the mark you will use in the negotiations for the decree. In my case the rough number was set at 1,200. Okay. But wait, that’s not all. In most cases the dad is also responsible to pay for health insurance. Again, this might be more fair if it was split 50/50 but that’s not usually the way it’s done. Again, I think this was set up when dad had the big job, and this would prevent him from tanking that job and losing the good insurance as a way of punishing his now ex-wife. Either way, this additional obligation is tacked on to the sum of $650 – $1,100 depending on your plan, and depending on your employment status.

So, just to sum things up for you. At this very moment, since I am employed by a contractor who does not offer health insurance benefits. My monthly total in child support obligation is $2,300. Wow. That’s a chunk of change. It puts a significant squeeze on my opportunities for employment, since I have to make that before I can begin to think about rent, food, car insurance, phones, for myself. If you start every month with a $2,300 bill, that’s a real demotivational blow. It has felt insurmountable from time to time.

And when I lost my job, as a result of the tanking economy, the child support obligations or payments didn’t change. I could’ve hired an attorney and asked for a reduced child support payment, but I didn’t have the time or the money to do that. I was trying to figure out how I was going to keep my house. The house that I’d managed to buy, in spite of the large child support payment, when I landed a great new job, post divorce. Only the great job didn’t last. The startup changed their business model and eliminated my director-level position.

The killing blow, the unforgivable transgression that I’ve had to forgive, came when my ex-wife decided the proper course of action would be to turn my late support payments over to the AG’s office for “enforcement.” This one act of anger, has cost me and my family thousands of dollars and has actually gotten less money into my kids pockets. And the debt, as seen by the state, is a huge lien on my credit. This one act caused me to lose the house. And for one year, I actually had to live with my mom again. Fortunately, she and the kids and I had a humorous attitude about the whole thing.

“It’s better than living under a bridge,” my mom would joke. And she had a garage that we converted into a place for my bed. The kids each had rooms. So in my mom’s house, at least I was able to accommodate my weekends. By filing with the AG’s office, while I was trying to restructure my debt so I could keep the house, was the last act of anger and aggression that she could take. She took it. I lost everything.

From those ashes however, and even under the $2,300 monthly payment, and now a big fat lien on my credit, that prevented me from qualifying for a used car loan when my car was destroyed in a hail storm, despite all of that, I’m still surviving. I wouldn’t say thriving yet, but I’m getting by.

When you are considering divorce, as a man, consider the two most important issues as a parent.

  1. TIME: If you parented 50/50 and would like to continue to maintain your relationship with your children at the highest level, you should go to the court and ask for 50/50.
  2. MONEY: When you negotiate child support you can do two things very differently than I did. Ask for joint-custody. You can then be assured you will have equal rights if things ever get to the AG’s office. And make sure the amount you agree to in the decree, the amount that will determine your child support payments, is either conservative, or real. In my case the amount was set on historical data and on the hope of a promising job interview, that didn’t pan out.

Finally, if you’re going to agree to a cooperative divorce, make sure you add in a clause about NEVER INVOLVING THE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE. EVER. My ex and I were in an argument about the timing of my child support payments and how I was planning on catching up, when I lost my job. She waited a few months. At this time she began to get very belligerent. She refused to meet with me in person about parenting or school issues. Her response to my email requests were simple “when can I expect my money.” That shut down all opportunities for co-parenting that summer.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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This early negotiation breakdown is chronicled short summary.

The big AG breakdown in chronological order and how my life fell through the cracks.


Your Contempt for Me is Hurting All of Us

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There were two minor events that happened in the first weeks of my relationship to the woman who became my wife and mother of my two outstanding kids.

About two years into the divorce, and a year after the full payments are in force, I hit a rough patch in my employment.

ONE: After we had begun our committed relationship, she got in the car one afternoon and said, “I’ve just gotten a new prescription for birth control pills.” EXCITEMENT PLUS. Woot!

TWO: She got in the car a few weeks later and asked me why I was upset. I told her that I had left $150 cash in the glovebox of the rental car. I had called and, duh, they didn’t have the money. Her response was immediate. “Well, at least your rich enough that you don’t need to money.” BOOM.

It not only hurt, it stung me quite deeply. I recoiled and had to ask her what she meant. She didn’t do a very good job of explaining how $150 to her would’ve been a huge deal, but to me it was little more than an inconvenience.

That’s how she saw me. MONEY. Even early on in our relationship. MONEY. I’m just now getting clear on this. As she is still grilling, hammering, and looking for “enforcement” from the Attorney General’s Office about MONEY.

We got over the early yelp I gave out at her contempt for my slightly more affluent upbringing. And we moved along down the relationship road until she moved in with me. Into the house I owned. She never mentioned the money again, but now I can see, with 20/20 eyes, that it was much more important to her than I realized.

When she got pregnant, we made plans to move into a house, rather than my condo. So the kids would have a yard. So we could begin building our nest. The money for the down payment came from my family. And we bought a nice little house in a nice middle-class neighborhood. We probably bought about 3 years too early, because a tiny baby doesn’t really need his own room. But we were young, in love, and ambitious.

Fast forward the tape 10 years into the future and we’re getting a divorce. Suddenly my money is her money, the house that was made possible by my inheritance, and my owned condo, was all we really had between us. And the breakdown of the finances left us on somewhat unequal footing. She got the house, I got some relief from the $2,400 a month child support and insurance payments.

When she didn’t get her money after two months and 27 days, she filed the whole thing with the Attorney General’s office.

About two years into the divorce, and a year after the full payments are in force, I hit a rough patch in my employment. We lose a client. I lose 50% of my income. I tell her immediately that I’m going to be a little late on the child support. She throws a fit.

Now, to slow things down a bit, lets examine the situation.

I was paying $2,400 per month in child support and insurance. She was living in a house (basically covered by my child support payments) and only had utilities, food, and clothing to provide for the kids. She had a steady job. Had we still been together, we would’ve worked together to survive the lean months and made up the slack when I got another job.

As divorced parents, she was furious at me. She wanted her money. She refused to talk to me about the coming school year and parenting stuff. Her response to every request from me was, “When can I expect my money.” Seriously, it was like a bad cartoon.

Well, when she didn’t get her money after two months and 27 days, she filed the whole thing with the Attorney General’s office. If she couldn’t make me pay her what she was entitled to, maybe the lawyers and police could.

Now, even two years after the AG’s office has driven my credit into the dirt, and really gained nothing for her, she still believes there is benefit to keeping them in the relationship between us.

Why?

I’ll let her tell you. From an email a month ago.

A fact it would be weird for me to ignore is that involvement of the AG corresponds with XX and XY receiving more support than they did for the year /18 months before the AG was involved. It’s our job as parents to represent the interest of J and C and them having more financial support is in their interest. Until  there is an alternate method to oversee the result of XX & XY receiving a percent of your income for their support, I’d be laying down my obligation to XX and XY if I said no thanks to the strategy that has coincided with you more consistently paying support.

And when I shared with her the payments coincided exactly with my employment. I have to have an income to pay you a portion of it.

What is it you are asking me to rely on to assure you voluntarily will pay? This isn’t a sarcastic question. Help me understand what has changed to make it so you’ll contribute a part of your income no matter your financial situation.

So that’s clear, right. The AG’s office means my contribution to my children’s welfare is compulsory rather than voluntarily. What I think we’re seeing is her rationalizing the entire affair that has cause me to lose my house and several employment opportunities. She won’t ever say she’s sorry. But maybe she will eventually see the damage the AG’s involvement continues to have on her children’s lives, and mine.

But that’s not likely to happen, now is it?

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Flogging the Deadbeat Dad

OFF-flogging

Dear ex-partner and co-parent,
let me tell you how this is going to go
for everyone involved. Not well.

off-noncustodial

click to enlarge

I wish I could’ve had this knowledge when I was trying to negotiate with my exy about the money I “owed” her. I didn’t know anything about the law, about my rights (which were surprisingly few) and about the process the AG’s office would put me through. And all because she was angry and somehow felt justified at turning me over to the authorities.

Guess what she got?

LESS.

Guess what I got?

While I pleaded for her to pause, take a breath, and give me a bit more time, she was determined to hammer me into paying her something.

A black mark on my credit report that has stopped high-paying job offers in their tracks. A credit score so low my used car loan was going to be at 20%. A “dead beat dad” label that will follow me until I can figure out how to placate her demands for her pound of flesh. She’s my own personal Shylock (from Merchant of Venice). She wants her money, dammit. And if I can’t give her an exact timeframe for her next child support payment, well, fk me. It’s simply not her problem.

To be fair, that’s not exactly how it went down. Close. But it was more like this.

“Hey, I’m going to be a bit late on this month’s check.”

“How late?”

“I don’t know. We just lost a major client. I’m still working to replace the income.”

The civility between us lasted about two weeks.

“Can you give me an update on the check?” she asked.

“Sorry, I don’t have any way to pay the $1,153 cash right now. We’ve got some new prospects, but I have to make my mortgage and my car payments. Other than that the money is all yours.”

Heading into the 5th week she began to threaten me.

“Maybe we should just turn the whole thing over to the AG’s office.”

“Um… How would that help? Do you think I’m hiding money from you?”

And by the end of the 2nd month of zero child support she fired off this warning.

The minute my ex-wife turned my ass over to the Attorney General’s Office she did irreparable damage to our entire family.

“I’m going to file our decree with the Attorney General’s Office. I can’t be waiting around for you to pay me when you can. I need the money now. I’ve got bills to pay. The kids need things. This is not about you and me, this is about them.”

And while I pleaded for her to pause, take a breath, and give me a bit more time, she was determined to hammer me into paying her something. Unfortunately, nothing was coming in at that point. I had already depleted my entire retirement savings to make payments, I had nothing left. My security/nest egg was gone. Nada. As she continued to press, I went into defensive mode.

“If you turn it over I am not sure what you think you’re going to get. Do you think they are going to make me go back to work? Or make me take a day job in addition to my consulting business so you can get your monthly check? Bear with me for a bit longer, we’ve got a few prospects that appear to be close to signing a deal?”

To her credit she did pause. On the other hand she refused to meet with me face-to-face to talk about any of our other topics. We had the new school year starting, the new schedule to negotiate relative to the school drop-off and pick-up. But when I broached the subject of a coffee meeting her response was always the same, “When can you pay me? Until we get that figured out there’s no use in meeting.”

She had lost sight of the bigger picture. And she was sure that I was the cause of her problems.

Child support is a touchy subject for everyone. Women who depend on it get very angry with me every time I write a post about my struggles to stay above water. Men’s rights advocates come out and praise me for standing up for “our rights.” I’m a bit in both camps. Child support can be an essential part of a co-parenting arrangement. But it should be cooperative, not “enforced” by the lawyers for the state.

At a low point in my life. Struggling for survival needs. (housing, food, safety) She struck her hardest blow against me. The fk you that keeps on giving, I call it.

The minute my ex-wife turned my ass over to the Attorney General’s Office she did irreparable damage to our entire family. She still doesn’t see it, today. She still feels that the AG’s office “is the only reason I’ve seen any money in the last 18 months.” She said that in an email just two weeks ago! I was hurt, yet again, by how much anger and victimization she was still projecting.

Point of Order: The only reason she got money in the last 18 months was because I had work. With income I can provide child support. No income, no child support. I was living with my mom, for christ sake, what more “support” did she think I could offer.

No, the AG’s office crippled me. I have never told the kids about this vicious act. I have never told them that the reason daddy lost his house, was due to mommy’s anger and legal actions against me. For what? For trying to survive during a tough economic time?

The coup de grace happened a few months later, as school had started and the hateful dust appeared to have settled a bit. At this point the income had not come in, and I was now struggling to make my mortgage payments. I had depleted all of my savings. And still I wasn’t paying her. I was going though a mortgage modification program with Wells Fargo to see if I could lower my payments. On the day that I was denied a reset in my mortgage my ex-wife filed our case with the AG’s office of the great state of Texas.

At a low point in my life. Struggling for survival needs. (housing, food, safety) She struck her hardest blow against me. The fk you that keeps on giving, I call it. On the same fking day! Wow, I thought, and my therapist thought, she’s really really angry about not getting her money. He used the term “entitlement.” Rather than cooperative she had become combative. And instead of talking to me, meeting with me face-to-face, she turned me over to the courts.

Two years later, we’re still in this fked up situation. She still thinks the only reason she got “paid” is because the AG’s office was garnishing my wages and killing my livelihood with their credit crushing marker placed on my account.

No, dear exy. The only reason I paid you, was because I got paid. From every fking cent I’ve made you have gotten 25% off the top, TAX FREE.

The day I got my new job in January, I was emailing with her about the WIN for the family. I said I would write the first check after I got the first check from my new job. On that very day, the first day of my new job, she informed the AG’s office of my new employment. And the letter arrived a week later. The HR woman asked me to come to her office, She was also a divorced and single mom. “I’m really sorry she’s doing this. But the AG’s office just sent us a letter about garnishing your wages.”

Even as I was telling her every step of the way, here’s my new job, here’s when you can expect the first check, she felt the AG’s office would be a good “enforcer” for her and the kids. “In the best interest of the kids.”

Fk that. The best interest of the kids is not fking with your ex’s life by introducing the AG’s office into your process. Now we can’t get rid of them. Or, rather, she doesn’t want to get rid of them.

“You mean, I’m supposed to believe that you will voluntarily pay me the money without the AG’s office,” she asked, two weeks ago.

“Yes,” I said, exhausted. “That was always the plan. That’s what I’ve been saying all along.”

For now, she’s more comfortable with the AG’s office garnishing my wages. It’s her right, for sure. But it’s the most fked up rationalization she’s ever perpetuated in our lives together. And while the kids don’t know anything about our struggles, someday, in a galaxy far far away, they will read The Off Parent. Someday.

Today, I called the AG’s office to give them my new job information. It was a pleasant conversation.

“So if we worked out a deal and wanted to get you guys off our case, what would be involved in doing that?”

Officer Garcia replied, “She just needs to call us. We’ll discuss the case, and if she wants to remove our oversight it’s a pretty easy process.”

She still doesn’t want to. We are no longer partners in parenting, we’re just parenting.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

And we’ve learned nothing. This post continues here: And Just As We Reach A Calm Moment

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Turning the Other Cheek to Your Angry Ex – Because There’s No Other Option

OFF-raging

This relationship isn’t going away anytime soon. So I’d best learn to live with the woman, even if she does the most maddening things sometimes. Like arranging a weekend swap and then scheduling three events over that weekend, when she knows our daughter was going to want to go with her. “Why did we swap weekends, again?” Oh, well, hands in the air, I do a little dance and forget about it. Water under the co-parenting with a narcissist bridge.

Everything she asks for is usually serving some purpose other than the kids. She’s very good at asking for what she wants. And she’s even better at throwing a tantrum when she really wants something. And in our case, even when I was being open and transparent about my financial situation, she was demanding that I pay her or tell her exactly when she would get the next check from me. It was several summers ago, but her actions, turning our affairs over to the state’s Attorney General’s office, have had lasting and damaging consequences for both of us.

The minute you involve lawyers or the attorney general’s office, you are taking actions that by damaging your former partner will damage your kids.

There was no need for her to throw me under the bus. And in doing so she collapsed my fragile housing situation. She knew that’s what would happen. She was closing any options I had for keeping my house and demanding that she get her checks. Blah blah blah, it is an old story, I’m sure. Dead beat dad refusing to pay for various reasons. Except my reason was not anything I could change. My company lost an anchor client and half my salary went away. There was nothing I could do to convince her that my honor and good will was going to get the payments back on track. Something about the enforcement and authority of the state’s attorneys gave her comfort. Or maybe the whole process satisfied a twinge of anger.

In her mind, as she expressed it occasionally to me, she was looking out for the best interests of the kids. As if some form of “enforcement” was what was keeping me paying the child support I had agreed on. Somewhere during the months after the divorce, she began to see me as the bad guy. She knew she could call out the “dead beat dad” cry and the law would put the hurt on me. She was right. There was one small problem she didn’t think of. Attacking me, causing me to lose my house, was just like attacking the kids.

In our negotiations we always said we would keep the kids out of the money and “grown up” negotiations. And in this case, I knew that I had nothing to gain from telling my kids that their mom was the reason I was losing the house. At some point in the future, they will know the truth. But in the moment, during the school years, there is nothing good that can come from talking negatively about your co-parent.

There is never a good reason for attacking your co-parent’s livelihood. but that’s not how she saw it then, nor how she sees it today, two years later. Somewhere, in her angry mind, she sees the AG’s office as a partner in getting the money she is owed. But I have no cash to give her. I am working again, and the first paycheck kick on the full child support as well as a payment towards the debt I have amassed. This is not how our relationship should’ve gone. As we were partners in parenting we should be partners in divorce. My earlier appeals to her common decency did not wake her from the vindictive slumber she appears to be in, even today.

I know if I struck back with the same thoughtlessness I could fight to gain 50/50 custody. It’s not great timing for her. She needs money for house repairs and back to school clothes and supplies, but hey… It’s in my best interest that I have the money to provide… Oh fk, I can’t even pretend to believe this crap. I can’t imagine what was going through her mind, what rage was present when she decided the state’s Attorney General’s office was a good way to support her kids. By attacking me and my ability to pay for anything, or even get a job, she was hurting her kids. Maybe she didn’t have a line of sight on how difficult losing my job and my home was going to be. But she should’ve thought of the kids before she thought of herself and satisfying her rage.

When you attack your ex-partner you are making things tough for everyone.

There is never a good reason to file against your co-parent. Once the AG’s office is in your affairs you will never be able to get them back out. If you have a disagreement get professional help, but not legal help. The minute you involve lawyers or the attorney general’s office, you are taking actions that will harm your kids. There is no way to prevent collateral damage when attacking your ex-partner. In our case, the kids were inconvenienced by the loss of my house, and having to move to grandma’s house for 9 months. The angry blow was not too bit a loss for them. For me, as the man, it was an enormous blow to my masculine self-esteem. I’m a 52-year-old man and I live with my mom. How is that a healthy example for the kids? Of course they had no idea why we had to leave the house near the lake.

Even today, she’s got the idea that having the AG’s office on her side, will keep the cash flowing. And perhaps that’s really all she’s concerned about. She has no idea what her actions have done to me or my current ability to move forward with my life. She never had to make late payments on her mortgage. She never had to contemplate filing for bankruptcy just to keep her home.  She had the house and the money from the divorce to support her. And of course, while I was able to pay it, the child support payments.

In the end, we were lucky. Things could’ve gone much worse. As the money tap is starting up again this month, I suppose the AG’s office will be placated for a while. However, my financial rebuilding can’t begin until I come up with 20K cash, or file a lawsuit to have the AG’s lean and black mark on my credit report removed. That dead beat dad title is emblazoned across my name any time a potential employer runs my credit. It’s a horrible label. And yes, my ex-wife gave it to me.

The real downside, however, is the inflexibility it puts on our ability to cooperate with each other. What could’ve been a collaborative partnership about our kids is much less trusting. With the spectre of the AG’s office over my head I am unwilling to offer any additional support, financially or emotionally, when it appears that all of my best intentions are met with indifference.

In asking to swap next weekend with me and then scheduling events on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, she is saying that my “daddy time” doesn’t matter to her. She’d like our kids to sleep at my house on those nights so she can be with her boyfriend, but as far as my weekend, that concept doesn’t really matter much to her.

Coparenting should be about flexibility, compassionate support, and good will towards each other. When you attack your ex-partner you are making things tough for everyone.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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What I Continue to Misunderstand About My Ex-wife

OFF-froghouse

I should be over it by now. But things keep happening. Keep f-in happening that have me scratching my head. I’m no longer trying to understand what caused you to go frigid, or what last straw broke your compassion and empathy for me while we were married. What’s still got me bamboozled and frustrated is how today, six years later, you are still pulling juvenile stuff, still acting against your own best interests in some act of vindictiveness or revenge. I don’t get it.

Whatever you were thinking at that moment, it wasn’t about the best interests of the kids, or preserving their future. What you did, at that very moment, was strike a blow for the evil empire.

Today I caught a glimpse of what I don’t understand. I tried to imagine a scenario that would give me the choice between messing with you or helping you and here’s what I came up with:

First: I would NEVER act against you in any way that would damage your credit, your relationship to your job, or your kids. I always try to keep the kid’s needs and best interests before my own. Always.

Second: When I attempted to work out a financial agreement with you regarding the back child support you pretty much laughed at my hope that we could remove the AG’s office from our relationship.

Her words…

What is it you are asking me to rely on to assure you voluntarily will pay? This isn’t a sarcastic question. Help me understand what has changed to make it so you’ll contribute a part of your income no matter your financial situation.

Yes, dear. The key word here is “income.” When I lost my job, I had zero income. I lost my house. I moved back in with my mom. Which part of my “income” were you referring to in this circumstance? Of course, she can’t hear me. And I’ll admit, I’m not listening to her very well either.

And she continues…

Until  there is an alternate method to oversee the result of [kids] receiving a percent of your income for their support, I’d be laying down my obligation if I said no thanks to the strategy that has coincided with you more consistently paying support.

Wait what? Let’s say I’m whining. Let’s say your right, the Attorney General’s Office IS the reason you got paid… No wait… That’s not it, it’s THAT I LANDED A NEW JOB! What you fail to understand my poor misguided ex-wife, is there is no sharing of the income if there is no income.

Okay, so let’s keep rolling the tape and look at an event that happened today that may illuminates some of our divergent core goals.

Your car breaks down today. I get a text from my son that he’d like me to come get him since he’s stranded at a doctor’s office. At this moment of vulnerability, I have a decision to make. Do I support my son and come get him? Do I support you and offer a ride and help to you as well? Do I do nothing?

Off with my head, off with my financial recovery options, and off with any sense of civility we might have preserved in our “conversations” about the situation.

I was pondering these choices when it hit me. I would NEVER strike out at you, car break down or not. Of course I don’t have the belief that the imbalanced divorce decree empowered you with an entitlement. So I’m not mad at how things went down. Wait? Why aren’t I mad? Why, today as you were sweltering in the parking lot with a broken car and a pissed off teenager, why at that moment didn’t I go ahead and file a custody lawsuit against you?

Seems extreme right? I mean, what an asshole! Right?

Let’s look back a mere 18 months and see the reversed situation. I had lost 50% of my income from my job. (We’d lost a client and were desperately looking to replace the business.) I was begging you to be patient, to believe that I was working to both find a new job and pay you all the money you were owed. (You are right, there are no other options, the law allows you full recourse until you are paid in full. And you will be, but…) And at this time I was also, consequently, falling behind on my mortgage. I was in trouble financially, emotionally, and was struggling to keep it together.

And let’s look at your exact words on the day my loan restructuring offer was rejected by Wells Fargo.

YOU: How did it go with the house?

ME: Not good. Looks like I’m going to have to declare bankruptcy to keep the house. Of course, that doesn’t affect your child support.

YOU: I’m so sorry.

ME: Thanks.

YOU: I went ahead and filed the papers with the AG’s office.

BOOM. Whatever you were thinking at that moment, it wasn’t about the best interests of the kids, or preserving their future. What you did, at that very moment, was strike a blow for the evil empire. With some heart of black anger you asked if my home loan modification was going through and then proceeded to use that information to inform me that you had dropped our business into the “enforcement” arm of the Texas legal system. WTF?

What is your justification for doing such a vindictive thing? When you KNEW I was not asking to be relieved of any of the money I owed you, nor was I trying to get out of my obligation to support my kids. I was saying, “I HAVE NO MONEY AND NO JOB, I’M TRYING TO KEEP THE ROOF OVER MY HEAD.”

At that very moment, as my head was bowed in prayer, you stroked downward in a coup d grace. Off with my head, off with my financial recovery options, and off with any sense of civility we might have preserved in our “conversations” about the situation. You appeared to be caring. You then struck while I was in distress.

So today, if I try to understand the blackness you must’ve been possessed by, I would’ve said, “Gee, I’m sorry your going to have to buy a new car. I’m filing my lawsuit with the court today, and our hearing is in two weeks. Good luck.”

But I would never… You should never…

And yet, TODAY, you’re still saying the AG’s office gives you some power over me, to assure you that you will get your money? What? You will get your money, that’s the law. The AG’s office just sticks a sandy finger up my ass at every opportunity to see if I’m hiding any money from you, or if they can garnish my wages. There is no trust in this relationship. It’s just business.

Well, that’s your approach. It’s just business. It’s money. It’s part of your spreadsheet and your 10-year investment planning. And with the AG’s office keeping me in line, you figure you are more likely to get your money in a timely manner. You’ve said it yourself, the money will be yours. There’s no dispute there. But it’s how we go about it as human beings, as parents, and former lovers, that defines who we are as people.

You’d prefer to keep the court’s attorneys on your side. To compel if needed, my compliance with the decree that I willingly negotiated and signed.

In my moment of need you struck your blow and joined up with the spawn of hell, in my mind. Today, even as you were espousing how the AG’s office seems to have compelled me to pay you money, you failed to understand, it wasn’t the AG’s office, it was simply a job. I have to have a job to have income. And when I get income you get income from me. What you do to hurt me, or damage my credit, actually comes back to bite you in the ass, because several high-paying jobs froze up when they ran my credit report.

You see, in the AG’s eyes, I’m a dead beat dad. Obviously, that’s how you see it too. And it’s just fine with you that we keep the AG as a watchdog on the behalf of our kids. It seems to you, that’s the only reason you’ve gotten paid recently.

Um, wrong.

Today, however, I’m pausing on my legal action. I’ll give you a chance to catch your breath. I’ll not help you with your distress and drama today, but I also will not take any action to make your situation worse. Wouldn’t you imagine that you too had the same kind of compassion once? I sure believed you did.

I keep thinking you’re going to change. You’re going to thank me for my efforts and once again join with me as coparent as a trusting equal. I am wrong. Again. And wrong, yet again.

You’d prefer to keep the court’s attorneys on your side. To compel if needed, my compliance with the decree that I willingly negotiated and signed. As you wish.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Patience Please, I’m Doing The Best I Can

OFF-fkyou

When I say to my ex-wife today, “Thanks for your patience,” I’m really saying, “Fuck you and your impatience.”

When we were married she chose to divorce me. When we were divorced she chose to file her anger by setting the office of the attorney general on me.

This week I started my new big job. A victory? Yes. A failure? Perhaps. But such a bellwether moment, when on the morning of first day at the new job, the ex-y sent me her recommendations on what type of insurance I should provide for the kids and how I should set the child support up on an automatic withdrawal. She even said, “Because it will be so much better for the kids, that way.” The crow in my mouth was hard to swallow as I thanked her for her support and advice. Of course…

When you are a parent you never quite get to part ways with the ex partner. Now we are co-parents. And everything we do can be couched in terms of how it best supports the kids. Except when it doesn’t. And the things that my ex-wife did to get me to this point (not the new job) are inexcusable. And yet, we have to let that pain and suffering flow right under the bridge of life, in the best interest of minimizing the ongoing animosity and friction between us.

But make no mistake. In the darkest moment of my single parent life so far, my ex-wife not only refused to give me some slack, she actually filed against me with the Attorney General of Texas. As I was struggling to find new work, and trying to keep my house around me and the kids, she struck her final blow. There’s not much else she can do. She’s done turned me over to the authorities for collection. And in that moment, I believe, she revealed the core of her anger. Only through a lot of work and self-reflection, I have come to understand that our marriage may have unraveled around the issue of money.

If she didn’t really want to go back to full-time work, she could prod, push, shame, and fight me back into the big corporate job, and she might be able to work a 20-hour flex schedule. Except we wanted to keep the nice house in the nice school district. And when the big job had spit me out with a 6-month severance, in stead of regrouping with me, she went on the offensive. She was determined and adamant about *my* next job. And she stayed focused on that issue for a year. Sure, she was retooling her ideas about what she wanted to do for a living, but if she could just shoehorn me back into a big job… Things would be so much easier. For her.

That’s not the way it went down. And in the end, when she made plans to divorce me, she also had to find gainful employment. It seemed easy once she had her plans in place. She got the new job, she met with an attorney, she made her *options* spreadsheet somewhere on her computer. We divorced.

And when you find yourself in some dire straight, in some position of need, in the future, I will NOT do the same to you.

But as we were both making our way in the world, as “co-parents” she turned much more pragmatic. It wasn’t about a relationship, or mutual support, it was simply business. And when I stumbled in my work, and I told her I would be late on a few payments, she took the harsh approach, much like she had when I was voicing my ideas about self-employment during my sabbatical. And when the complaining and anger didn’t motivate me back into a job (in either circumstance) she fired off her final weapon.

When we were married she chose to divorce me. When we were divorced she chose to file her anger by setting the office of the attorney general on me. And this ultimate anti-co-parenting action has lasting consequences. She’s removed the actual compassion from our relationship. It’s now just business. Perhaps that’s a gift as well. Perhaps that’s a more accurate representation of our core relationship anyway.

Her actions against me with the AG’s office stripped me of any options for keeping my house. I was forced to let it go. I had to withdraw my map and plan for the future, and I returned home, defeated, to my mothers. FK. I won’t ever forget it.

And some day in the future, when she finds herself in some dire straight, in some position of need, in the future, I will NOT do the same to her. I will have compassion and patience.

Here’s my closing statement.

You were my partner and mate for 15 years. I will always give you the benefit of the doubt. I will always err on the comfort and joy of our children over any animosity I have towards you. Now and in the future, I will remain calm and patient.

I want you to know, I am not thanking you for your patience today. As my income stream comes back online, I am slapping you with my gratefulness. When I say “Thank you for your patience,” today, I’m saying exactly the opposite. Fuck you for your lack of compassion and patience. And fuck you for putting your selfish needs above those of our children, or me.

I will never forgive you. Perhaps I will learn to forget.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Divorce Support: For the Children *and* the Parents

OFF-fighter

We need to dispense with the pleasantries right up front. (You are welcome to let me know how you feel about this in the comments. They’re always open.)

  • Divorce is an awful hardship for everyone in the fracturing family.
  • With two professional parents, the man is likely to make more money.
  • Two homes costs more than twice as much, for the person paying child support.
  • Child support is not an entitlement, even if the law and the benefactor might see it this way.
  • The financial bindings of the family exist long past 18-years-of-age.
  • Both parent deserve food, clothing, and shelter.
  • When adversity strikes, both parents are affected.
  • 50/50 parenting after divorce is not the norm.
  • If your former partner struggles for a few years after divorce, with emotional issues, financial issues, etc. this is an opportunity for continued compassion, not legal action.
  • Some fathers will be assholes and try to get out of paying child support or (in the case of 50/50 custody) their fair share of the expenses.
  • 50/50 custody and a 50/50 financial split actually keeps the father closer to the family.
  • If you married and parented 50/50, regardless of how you feel about the divorce, regardless of which side you were on (stay married or leave), you should work together towards a 50/50 divorce.

You can’t ask for primary custody and then start complaining about having too many parenting responsibilities. Well, you can, but the argument says more for 50/50 custody than it does for your obvious hardship. Of course, you complained during our marriage that I didn’t do enough. Didn’t pay the bills right, didn’t mow the lawn enough, didn’t put the dishes in the dishwasher every night before heading to bed.

So we’re divorced. And in the eyes of the law you are the custodial parent. It’s what you wanted. I’m sure you had your reasons, I’m sure you could’ve told the judge, with a straight face, how you do all the parenting. But you know it’s not true. Not even close.

She didn’t care about me or my house. She wanted the money. She was entitled to it. Obviously. It was right there in writing.

Let’s say you get married and both of you work. In the negotiations for how kids will be possible you both decide that the mom will work significantly less, so that the kids have their mom with them at all times. As they enter school, perhaps you will start back to work, so we can share that load again. And we may decide that you will still meet the bus at 3:00 every weekday, but it’s a privilege not a chore. It’s a benefit not a burden.

So when the grand consul de divorce asks, “So how do you share the parenting duties now?” You can answer, I’m the primary care giver. And I know you honestly believed it. Well, okay, maybe a tad of it was vindictive and defensive. I mean, you had to say that to even begin the discussions at anything other than 50/50 custody. How old school.

Falling back on the line, “It’s what she will get if you go to court,” I was handed the options. Non-custodial parent, SPO (standard possession order), and a hefty child support payment.

But wait… Didn’t we agree to the parenting arrangements? And now it’s being used against me? Didn’t we agree to a cooperative divorce? How is this cooperative, when you come out of the gate asking for well-over half?

If I had really gone the cooperative route, I would’ve hired an attorney right at the beginning as well. She did. Instead I put my faith in the counselor, and in the good will of the mother of my children. I was wrong, or misguided, on both counts.

Here’s the situation. When the court awards custodial and noncustodial roles, a nice child support formula kicks in. That’s how the state likes it. Somebody is going to pay. And in your decree, if you are as lucky as I am, you will have a document that even allows the court to garnish your wages first, before your take-home pay. The message is this. You cannot be trusted to pay in a timely manner. And even if you are having financial difficulties, the child support payments come first.

At least my kids have rooms to sleep in when it’s my time. But did she think of the consequences of taking legal action against me?

I don’t argue that my kids deserve the full benefit of both of our salaries. But when I lost one of my primary clients, and was about to slip into a late-payment status, my ex-wife pushed everything into the Attorney General’s office. Putting my livelihood at risk and preventing me from taking any measures to save my house. She didn’t care about me or my house. She wanted the money. She was entitled to it. Obviously. It was right there in writing. I signed the decree. What was I arguing about.

I wasn’t arguing. I was pleading. “Please don’t do this. I am not trying to hide any money. I am looking to replace the client. I am looking for a job, to leave the consulting practice I had built over the  last four years. Just hold off. There is no need to bring the state’s lawyers into this.”

Here filing our case with the AG’s office was akin to her shouting “Fuck You.” Of course, that’s my opinion. And, of course, she is entitled to her money. That’s the law.

But what is the law of human dignity? What does compassion for your co-parent mean? What does co-parenting even mean, when one of the parents has a loaded gun pointed at your head? At this very moment, my attorney tells me, the AG’s office could have my ass thrown in jail for failure to pay child support. A criminal? How cooperative is that?

As we moved closer to AG day, I was asking my ex-wife to understand my situation. “Don’t you think a father also deserves a place to live, and the electricity and cell phone service to continue gainful employment?” She answered, “I don’t know what you want me to answer to that.”

Um… What I wanted her to do was not file suit against me with the State of Texas and turn me into a deadbeat dad. What I wanted was to keep the house I had fought so hard to buy and afford, just barely scraping by, even in the good times. What I wanted was a tiny bit of compassion. “Just pause for a second and think about what you’re doing. Do you think it’s going to help the situation by filing suit against me? Do you think that will make me work harder, or look for a job harder?”

No answer.

I’m not sure what her motivation was at sending me pictures of HER with the kids. Maybe it’s motivation to get a job and get back into the swing of paying for her vacations with the kids.

And she filed. And now I’m a deadbeat dad. I’m lucky. My mom (yep, 51 and living with mom) had some spare rooms in her house. At least my kids have rooms to sleep in when it’s my time. But did she think of the consequences of taking legal action against me? Did she imagine how that might damage my credit? Might take my house out from under me? That it might even show up in my background checks as I’m looking so desperately for those full-time jobs that would afford me both a place to live and her child support checks?

I don’t know what she was thinking. I don’t really know what she thinks today. She’s still hoppin mad about something. The money. My 50/50 effort in getting the kids to doctor’s appointments, after school activities, etc. She’s just mad. But she’s been mad at me for years. At least one full year before she divorced me. So she’s gonna be mad. That’s a fact of life. I hope she gets better. But I can’t count on that.

I’ve had fantastic interviews all summer long. Five of them turned into final-round negotiations. And I still haven’t gotten the offer. Hmm. I’m not sure what’s in that background check. I’m hoping that her AG action did not put a “do not hire” mark in my file. But I guess I won’t know.

Anyway, it’s a long road back to having a BIG CORP job and a happy home. Even getting back into a house, now is going to be a long way off. She took… Wait, it was my fault. I should’ve done better. It’s a long way back. And I’m not sure she would’ve fired off the final “Press Charges” missile had she known her actions would damage my ability to pay her the money she was demanding.

It’s all okay. We’re going to make it. All of us. Her too. She sent pictures tonight of her and the kids at the beach. (That was our family vacation.) I’m not sure what her motivation was at sending me pictures of HER with the kids. Maybe it’s motivation to get a job and get back into the swing of paying for her vacations with the kids. (Sorry, that was bitter and sarcastic.) I’m sure she was just sending me happy pictures along with her happy thoughts of me getting that next big job. I think that’s what she wanted all along. Maybe that was even the unconscious reason she divorced me. (see: please stay gone < poem)

Onward and upward. I’ve been asked to a full-day interview next week with a company I’m very excited about. This is my fourth full-day interview this summer. How do I get a look at that “background” file? (grin)

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

this post recast in a poem: please stay gone

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Can Things Get Worse? Yes, Easy!

trying to make magic happen after divorce[When we last checked in, back in late August the ex-y had just filed her grievances with the Attorney General’s office.
Here is Part 1: Tell Me Again, Why You Think This Is a Good Idea?]

My email to her was short and … Well, it was short and with as little vitriol as I could manage. I edited for clarity. Essentially, I told her I wished she had accepted my offer to talk before taking this action. (We have a mutual friend who actually works for the AG’s office.) But she hadn’t, and now she was going to put us both through some unnecessary process and procedure. I tried to explain, the AG’s office really is a way of accounting for the payments made or not made. They had limited enforcement capacity. And I was not disagreeing with the amount owed nor the fact that I owed it.

You can’t extract money from a person who is filing bankruptcy. There’s no money here. That’s the point.

She was clear and consistent in her message, the same message I got today as the closer on a round of emails about child support and AG’s cluster.

 “I’m not contesting that you asked for us to meet and talk, and that I said no unless we could talk about child support $. It’s in our parenting plan that we use email; it was a unilateral decision on your part that you’d only talk with me about certain things face to face.”

Her refrain at that point, every single time I brought up talking in person, was “How Much” and “When.” SRSLY? That’s it? That’s all you have for me? That’s all the care you have for planning and strategizing about our kid’s future?

I’m jumping ahead and skipping the the throat punch again. Sorry.

So, here I go, heading into bankruptcy trying to figure out how to keep Wells Fargo from taking my one asset and my ex-y has nothing but more process and procedure to throw at me. Let me slow down and take it step-by-painful-step.

In discussing the options with my new bankruptcy attorney, who extracts his $1,000+ fee at that first meeting, it’s clear we need a strategy for dealing with my ex-y. And let’s get this straight. Not a tactic, not a way to hide the truth or tuck away some assets for protection. If she’s so hopping mad at me, thinking I’m spending all her child support on strippers and blow, this should clear things up.

I can’t imagine being in the reverse situation and doing anything that would damage her chances of keeping her house.

In that first meeting we decided that I should ask my ex-y to accept a lean on a small piece of property my family still owns, thereby securing her “debt” to an asset. The plan was for me to agree to all of her financial grievances to-date, sign a document giving her first-blood on any sale of this family asset, and… AND for the privilege of me doing this I could then free up some money and begin paying her child support ASAP.

I said to the attorney. “I think she’ll go for that. It’s a win-win for her. And we’re cordial. I should be able to get that over the weekend.” I left feeling like I had a plan to keep my shelter. (Back down to the base of Maslow’s damn hierarchy again — Dammit.)

When I asked, via email of course, I thought my proposition would put me back in the good-guy champ. I was agreeing to sign any accounting she had (and you can bet she had them) and begin the process of getting payments to her again. Her response floored me.

“I appreciate your kind offer. But I signed an agreement with the AG’s office that I would not negotiate with you about child support.”

BOOM.

10-days later, I was in the attorney’s office again. Turns out, without her cooperation I don’t qualify for my chapter 13 bankruptcy.

“So what, we’re going to burn the place to the ground now?” I asked.

“Not that bad,” the attorney said.

So get this. I withdrew my bankruptcy filing, telling the court that I would probably be filing in the future when I get my income levels to an amount that would allow me to qualify for the plan.

GET THIS: I’m trying to file for bankruptcy literally to keep the roof over my head, to get caught back up on everyone’s payments, and move forward. And I didn’t qualify. WTF?

I’m not sure what the next bold moves might be from the ex-y. I got the letter today from the AG’s office that they were prepared to file a mark against my credit report showing my back payments as past due. Oh boy. I guess that’ll foul up my grim options on the bankruptcy even further.

You walk away from the marriage, but you can’t walk away from the financial enmeshment. Like it or not, we’re still dependant on the other’s earning power.

The silver lining, if there is one, is this. Wells Fargo now has to go through the process of resetting my account and restarting the foreclosure process on me again. (Boy, this is not fun.) And I have a couple months to increase my income by about 20% or lose everything. I guess my sister’s spare room is still an option if I lose my house.

Again, I can’t imagine being in the reverse situation and doing anything that would damage her chances of keeping her house. I wrote that to my ex-y yesterday as part of the exchange that ended with her email above.  She’s complaining about the cost of violin private lessons and I’m talking about trying to keep a house over my head. A place, BTW, where her kids spend 33.5% of their time.

Scratching my head, all I think is she’s still hoppin mad. So mad she’d like to see me fail in the biggest way. Meanwhile she’s living in a house, that was afforded by my downpayment and my corporate jobs, and that is almost double the value of mine. Oh well.

You walk away from the marriage, but you can’t walk away from the financial enmeshment. Like it or not, we’re still dependant on the other’s earning power. I’ve been doing everything I can to find the next opportunity for my work. And I would tell you that I’m not worried. But again, I might have delusions of grandeur. I’ve been working on replacing this income since June.

But again, unless she has me arrested, going for contempt or whatever those charges might be, I think I’m safe for a few months. I think my kids and I have a place to sleep and play and be a smaller family.

NOTE: I was really enjoying the part where this blog was becoming less about divorce and the ex-y and more about aspirations and seeking love. Ho hum. And yes, I know, I’m the asshole man/dad who’s behind on his child support. So in my assessment, the dead-beat dad is a man who is doing things to prevent his ex-wife and family from thriving. A dad-having-trouble is simply a dad who cannot afford a place to live and the court-ordered payments to his ex-wife. It might be a semantic distinction, but it gives me some comfort. Forgive me, but I’m trying.

After chatting with several women friends, who are also divorced, they all shared their own outrage at how I am being treated. A couple books come to mind.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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I Am Failing In One Critical Area Of Life

divorce financial troubles - the off parentAnd it’s not my best area, money.

I was listening to two men today in some kind of mentoring conversation. I heard one of them mention the areas of life work.

Spiritual Health
Mental Health
Physical Health
Financial Health

And I was like… Uh oh.

You see, I’ve got a problem. It is a big problem. And perhaps one I’ve had my entire life.

I’m kinda crazy about money. And at the moment, while I’m feeling so solid in the first three areas of life, I’m about to go down the black hole of financial melt down. And here’s the rub. The divorce has a lot to do with it. (Maybe My Ex Is Just Unhappy)

On Monday, I will declare chapter 13 bankruptcy to keep Wells Fargo from foreclosing on my house. It’s the only asset I have along with my car. And in the middle of this, while I try and negotiate a “catch up” plan with my ex-wife she’s holding up the “sorry but it’s out of my hands” card. She’s turned our child support “issue” over to the Attorney General’s office.

Another example of “oh, I’m sorry that didn’t work out for you.” She cloaked it in “I know this is not a good time for you…” The velvet has worn thin on the gloves. There’s no courtesy from her. No consideration of my struggles. And I guess that’s okay. She’s got her own issues, her own money requirements, and my reduced income over the Summer didn’t help her either.

I’m not proud of my necessary intervention. But it doesn’t diminish my obligation to her. And still, she says in sympathy, “I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this.” But she really means, “Where’s my money, mf?”

The one thing she could do, to help me get the terms of the bankruptcy in a safer place, is to negotiate an agreement about the back owed child support. (About 10k.) The agreement actually secures the debt with a note tied to a family asset I still have potential claim for in a future sale. It seems like a way validate and secure her accounting of what I owe her. (She’s really good with spreadsheets.)

When I was talking to the financial attorney, I said, “Oh this should be easy. It’s actually good for her. And we’re still friendly.”

Her email tonight put the relationship in starker terms.

“The document I signed when I submitted the application to have the AG manage the child support process, one of the things the form said was I was forbidden to negotiate with you about anything related to child support.”

Yes.

Thanks hon. You’ve essentially turned us over to the state’s attorney for negotiation.

Again, perhaps this is for the best. I will go another route to get my bankruptcy affairs in order. And I will remember, YET AGAIN, that I can’t ask her for anything. It’s just business. And in the business of things I owe her money.

The last 5 times I’ve tried to get us together to talk about things, her response has been very simple. “About what?” All she wanted to know was, “How much can you pay me?” And, “When can you pay me.” That’s it.

Maybe that’s the way it needs to be. Maybe she’s dealing with pressures I don’t know anything about. Maybe she’s just mad at me, still. Either way, she’s “sorry I’m having to deal with this” AND “it’s out of my hands.”

I give thanks for this illumination. I may have to get the message tattooed on my arm, so I can remember what I’ve learned. If she needs something she will always ask, regardless of my situation, or if it’s best for the kids. When I ask for something, I’d best not count on a cooperative response.

Calm down. It’s okay. I’ve survived this far. And even with the child support burden set at about 2X what I was actually earning, I’ve managed to get this far. I’m not going to give my house back to the bank and go live with my mom. I’m gainfully employed. I could be MORE employed, but I’m working on that too.

I’ve got three of the four areas of life pretty well in hand. And the last one, I’m struggling with a bit. But I won’t let a little money trouble get me down. Things don’t always work out as we planned. I’m the kind of man who gets back up, with a positive attitude, and gives it another go. Alone for now.

Reflection: There was a moment, during the roommate period before divorce that I asked my then-wife, “Do you think we’re going to be able to afford two houses in this neighborhood?” We’d struggled mightily, just a year prior, just to keep the one house. Of course, she would receive financial help after the divorce. What I guess I was saying, where do you think I’m going to live? And now that I’m edging towards losing my house in a neighborhood that’s “further out,” I know that my lament was closer to the truth than I’d like to admit. No one wants to fail. No one wants to miss a payment (car, rent, child support). The shame is present and real for me at this moment.

Update: I’m now in the process of petitioning the state for my bankruptcy. The good news is I didn’t lose my house. The gooder news is, I’m going to get my financial house in order by the order of the court. The not so good news, my ex-y has filed her petition with the state’s attorney general, so we’ll see how that all shakes down. Fun times.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Maybe My Unhappy Ex-Wife Is Simply Unhappy

an un-happy personLast night I attended back-to-school night for my son. And of course the ex-y was there. And I had a big realization, as I was looking over at her, she just looked unhappy. At rest, she looked unhappy. Glued to her text messaging phone, she looked unhappy. Any time she wasn’t being engaged by another parent, she looked unhappy. And a lyric from a recent favorite song came to mind

You’ve got that special kind of sadness
You’ve got that tragic set of charms

And it occurred to me, perhaps that’s part of what I was drawn to, back in the day. Not a rescue, per say, but someone who might need me. UG! Let’s update that bad idea and move forward.

This morning she sent a check-in email. And completed it with this sentence. “Any news on your house?” I had been threatened with foreclosure by Wells Fargo and the date for the sale was yesterday.

I replied that I had been given an additional 30-days to complete the paperwork, crisis temporarily averted. And things are looking up.

Her next response was more to the point. “I know it’s terrible timing for you, but I had to go ahead and file with the AG.” Oh, yay. So, the logic goes, he didn’t have to declare bankruptcy, let’s start drilling for child support. There is no question that I owe her the money, I’ve never asked for a reduction or said I wasn’t going to pay. Still…

Okay, so the one good outcome I can see from this. I will not accept or respond to another money email again. We put the AG’s office between us. But I tell ya, unless she’s going to start having me arrested, there is no extra money here. I’m not hiding anything. I’m working, and looking for work. And I really don’t mean to be whining, but perhaps I am. Busting ass to get back on the high-level of earning that I’m used to, and I’ll get there. Today, that is not her concern.

Well, let’s see how this progresses from here.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Some stronger lyrics to express my goodbye to the drama.

So break me down, if it makes you feel right
And hate me now if it keeps you all right, so,
You can’t break me down if takes all your might
Cause I’m so much more, than all your lies!


Winning the Battle, Losing the War

i'm late but I'm not a dead beat dadShe’s ready to turn my month-and-a-half-late ass over to the Attorney General’s office. (See: Sting) She let me know yesterday via email. And as I was responding via email, I think I identified and called out the crux of the issue.

Perhaps this can provide some illumination into my thinking. It’s not that I’m late, it’s not that she needs this money right this second. It seems to be the “principle of the thing.” And what I understood while writing this message to her, was how closely this situation echoes much of the trouble in our relationship. These actions closely resemble the actions and misunderstandings that led to the divorce.

I don’t think it’s about the money. I don’t think it’s about her fears that I won’t ever pay or get caught up. (I’ve never failed before.) I think it’s about having someone to focus your anger on. Whatever is wrong with her world, I am still at the center of her problems. Now, I don’t believe this. I didn’t believe it in the closing moments of our relationship. As I asked her, “Do you think you are suddenly going to be a happy person when I walk out the door?” She didn’t GET HAPPY.

And she’s still unhappy with me. And of course, I am to blame for her unhappiness, because she’s owed this money, and she might never see it, and… WAIT. In what universe? Like I’ve got an option to bolt on my child support? NO.

So if it’s not the child support, really. Well, I think it’s easier to see from here. Let me know if I’ve got something wrong. I’m prepared to hear that my logic and emotional truth is OFF on this one. But it felt so right when I wrote it, that I knew I had to continue the drama from yesterday.

And with this letter, I’m setting in action the process that will remove “money” and “timing” and “enforcement” from our vocabulary.

+++

Dear ___,

I am certain that I don’t know your situation. And I’m not sure it has any bearing on my options.

I did not run out of money. And I am not trying to keep you in the dark about my situation. My company shifted to NET 15 on me. Instantly changing my cash flow. And, of course things happen (car repair, computer loss) that can compound the situation. That’s all that has changed on my end. A couple new clients in the pipe for both my company and me personally, SHOULD open things up again.

Your responses to the information I have been able to give you is, “that’s not good enough.”

And yesterday you basically said you’d rather have the AG’s office sort it out for us. For the next 8 years! Wow.

So that’s what you’re gonna get. It’s fucked. And there is no way to unplug once we’ve entered the system.

Therefore, my responsible duty is to recalculate what your are owed, what you got in credit based on my projected income. I’m guessing it’s a bit more than half, averaged-out since we’ve been divorced. So you can re-run all your calculations based on that idea and see where you end up.

My preferred approach was to honor the expectation, even as it affected me quite adversely. In the name of being nice, giving you everything I hoped to give you, that is what I was trying to communicate to you.

But it feels like some macabre redo of our divorce. Me asking, “Are you sure this is what you want?”

Want to calculate the money based on reality? Want to bring the AG in to help you?

Done! And done!

My “thank you” response yesterday was genuine. You are forcing me (again) to look at an unhealthy relationship. I am being given an opportunity to clean up my own shit. And, with the help of the state, I will gladly disconnect from the cash flow crisis mode one of us seems to benefit from.

I hope this process will allow us to remain friendly and cordial with our coparenting. All of us benefit from being flexible. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure the AG’s process is setup to fight against flexibility. And maybe it will help us keep our business to parenting.

You will now be able to call your case worker and explore “collection” and “enforcement” options with them. Hope that serves you.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Stinging the Hand that Feeds

sting the hand that feeds you

Just days ago the ex-y and I were exchanging ideas around me catching up on my child support payments. (I’m a bit more than a month behind.) She continued to use phrases like “enforcement” and “collection,” but I was certain she was saber rattling. Until today when she basically gave me the option to turn our process over the the Attorney General’s office, or she would start the process without me.

So much for working it out between us.

Here’s the sting. Our divorce decree was based on an expected income that greatly exceeds the amount of money I’ve actually brought in since the divorce. The result of her actions will now cause me to reset the child support payments based on my actual income. Rather than smooth out her “payments” she’s most likely will get less than I was planning on paying.

And, in fact, she’s forcing the issue, in the same way she forced the divorce. But rather than be angry, as I was when I first got her ultimate escalation email, I am now feeling some relief. I sent her a follow-up email, after my “are you sure this is what you want?” email. In the second email, I said thank you. Again. It is like a replay of the divorce.

But even this is going to be a good thing.

  1. I need to clean up my shit, financially.
  2. We can take the “we” process out of the money.
  3. I will likely get a payment schedule that is more in-line with what I’m actually making.

So a full reset. Steps along the path.

She said something kind of funny at the end of her flaming fuck you email.

“This is a tough patch but we always seem to work through things.”

Um. Yes we do, of course. There’s not a lot of choices, for the next 8 years. So now the courts will be my keeper. Oh boy. It’s a bit like our marriage. For some reason she did not believe me. Or she has merely grown tired of dealing with me. Again.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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