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

Posts tagged “bankruptcy

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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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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Flat Out Broke: Money Survival Basics After Divorce

losing my financial freedom in the divorceHow is it possible? I’m a successful professional in my 49th year of life and I have a negative balance in my checking account and $14 in my retirement account? And even more amazing, how is it that I am not freaking out?

Since the full child support payments kicked in I have been scrambling not to bounce checks. I’m astounded by the amount of money I am now paying to my ex-y. I know it’s “for the kids” and all, but I am barely keeping gas in my car and food in my belly at this moment. Much less food in my kids bellies and the occasional splurge, eating out or going out to see a movie.

Every other expense, bill, financial obligation, was on hold. Paused. Put in a file and forgotten about. I could not pay my credit cards for the first time in my life.

I am lucky, too, I have a high earning potential, and even in this dropped economy I’ve made a reasonable, though severely reduced, income. And my ex-y has remained fully employed since about three months before the divorce was final. (Go figure that?)

And, I’ve got some new clients and good financial forecasts for next month. But it always takes a while for new business to ramp up to full-hours. I’m close, and I have invoices out to be paid, but at the moment, I can’t buy a Starbucks. Oh, and I forgot to mention, my three credit cards, useless burdens at this point. Another source of frustration. But I’ll get to them as well.

Of course, “the kids” come first. Of course they do. And I will say it to myself again and again, “I want my kids to have a healthy life.” And I have to believe I will rise above the cash drain with a significant uptick in my income. That’s about all I have, the faith that I will dig out from under this.

Once I got over the shock of not being able to pay all of my bills I started researching strategies to survive. Here’s what I learned.

The bankruptcy/debt counselors really only have one solution: consolidate your debt and agree to a payment plan. Um, this does not work when your income is ZERO.

The counselor did say one very valuable thing. “At some point you will run out of things to sell off and you will have to make a decision about what bills to pay.”

My decisions revolved around a few things.

  • I wanted to keep my house. (mortgage payments were critical path)
  • I had to eat and drive to work. (groceries and gas were non-negotiables)
  • I needed electricity, water, and high-speed internet access to do my work and live comfortably.
  • I committed to the child support payments and I was going to pay them. (I did negotiate a deferral on also paying the kid’s health insurance until my work re-stabilized.)
In the meantime, my job is not to thrash, not to share the stress of this trying moment with my kids, and to carry on. It sucks sometimes.

Other than that, every other expense, bill, financial obligation, was on hold. Paused. Put in a file and forgotten about. I could not pay my credit cards for the first time in my life. Okay, I’m over it. Ignore the calls. I had to tell my ex-y that I could not pay the health care but that I would make good on the debt as soon as I had positive cash flow. I had to negotiate the timing on my payments to my ex-y so I could make two payments during the month.

And then I have continued to work like hell to get my work situation back to full-productivity. Yes the economy is hard. I’ve had a lot of interviews but no offers. And my consulting business has kept me alive for almost a year since my last FT job.

But the bottom line is, I’m surviving. I’ve cut back to the bare basics. And today I’ve still got nothing. I can’t take my kids to the movies tonight. And the groceries in the fridge are what we’ve got until they go back to their mom’s on Monday.  And IT IS OKAY. It’s not fun, but it’s workable. The clients will pay, the credit cards will eventually get back on a payment plan, and the ex-y will get her full legally awarded child support.

In the meantime, my job is not to thrash, not to share the stress of this trying moment with my kids, and to carry on. It sucks sometimes. And I’m not 100% sure being the non-custodial parent was a good move for me financially. BUT, today it’s what I’ve got.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho!

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

Update: A new reader tweeted at me today about this post. It made her hot under the collar. “Paying child support is not heroic.” She said. She missed the gist of this post. Yes we are both struggling with money issues. But I was at ZERO. Not by some bad behavior or fatal flaw. Not because I was not looking for work.

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