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

Posts tagged “becoming a dead beat dad

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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image: flogging a dead horse, ben hussmann, creative commons usage




Tell Me Again, Why You Think This Is a Good Idea?

divorce - child support

So you sued me. Um… For the last six months you won’t talk to me, other than txts and emails. Okay. I think it’s a terrible idea, but okay.

Money has never been easy to talk about for me and the ex-y. And the awful realisation, probably for both of us, is even in divorce we are strapped in the same financial boat together, for the duration of our kids young lives. Ack. It doesn’t have to be terrible, or adversarial, and it didn’t start out that way, until this summer.

The economy… Yadda yadda. My primary contract hit a snag in April, and my income was cut in half. And I have been working in a number of ways to replace that gap since, even applying for full-time gigs and giving up my on-going business development. Everything is on the table. I’m scrambling.

The reality was that our two household family unit, required even more money than when we were married.

When we defined our agreement I was anticipating a quick-hire, buy a company that was “working up an offer” for approximately 80k per year. (great money if you can get it) The contract didn’t go through, but my divorce did, and I agreed to child support payments in the amount that would be in-line with that income level. The problem is, I have not yet achieved that income level since, at least not for more than 6 months at a time.

Okay, so, as things are getting REALLY tight, I let the ex-y know that I was going to get behind, but that I was going to keep her informed of my income and potential to pay as soon as I had the information. This did not go over well.

I understand.

She too has bills to pay, and her projections were based on counting on my support. I was apologetic, but I didn’t have an answer to her question. The question she began to hammer home week after week. “When” and “How much?”

So I was sliding, unwillingly, down the slippery slope towards becoming a dead-beat dad. The reality was that our two household family unit, required even more money than when we were married, and she was as dependant on my job as she had been when we were married. The fact that she was still living in the very nice house in the very nice neighborhood was a bit of a sore subject, but I wanted what was best for my kids. And uprooting them during the divorce, three+ years ago, was not an option that either the ex-y or I considered reasonable.

Today, however, the kids are older, well-adapted to the divorce routine, and she is sitting on a house that is nearly double what mine is worth, in today’s hot market. So she’s got that as an option. But let’s go back to the early summer.

As the first month behind wore on my ex-y’s patience also began to fray. Her emails became more accusatory and demanding. I even started taking them into my talky therapist to see if he could help me parse out the anger from the request. With his help I tried to craft week-after-week reasonable responses to her requests. The demand for payment or an exact payment schedule was not something I could produce. And I kept looking for work.

During the second month (again I am behind, it is my fault) she began to rattle a different saber at me. She started mentioning the Attorney General’s office. As in “maybe it would be best just to turn the whole thing over to the AG’s office and you can sort it out with them.”

My initial reaction was disbelief. I was not hiding anything from her. In fact, my talky therapist and I agreed that giving her a weekly update would alleviate some of her anxiety and stress. We were wrong. She wanted her money and now was prepared to turn me over to the state.

At this point I took my first defensive posture of the entire process. I told her, “If you do this, I will want to go back and review what our decree said and how much I was agreeing to pay you, and reset that amount based on what I actually made.” But I was asking her not to take such an adversarial position, I was trying to give her information and updates, but I could not agree to a timeline and budget that I had no idea how I could project or meet.

She presses on and says she’s going to file. I do a rough (and very conservative) review of what I had actually made in three years and that initial 80k per-year estimate that my child support was calculated on. I sent her my back-of-the-napkin calculations showing I had over-paid her 16k over three years. And again, asked her to reconsider filing against me with the state. I was happy to give her all the information I had.

She took my calculation and plea as a threat. Again, never once, did I dispute the amount she was owed, nor say that I was not going to pay all of it, when I had the means. But at this point I had missed a mortgage payment as well, and was taking action to try to prevent losing my house.

In a seminal email in August, one day before my house was to be foreclosed on, she asked, “Any update on your house?” It seemed like a caring question. I reported back that Wells Fargo had given me another 30-days to provide additional proof of income. Five minutes later her reply came.

“I know this is bad timing for you, but I filed with the AG’s office, today.”

The story continues: Can Things Get Worse? Yes, Easy!

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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I Must Be Insane: It’s the End of the World, and I Feel Fine

OFF-youandme

There’s not much that is going to plan at this moment. YET, I’m happily plugging along on my path and flipping the bird to the ex-wife, bill collectors, family members who think they know exactly what I need to do. Fuck’em.

And as I checked in with my therapist this morning, he said, “Either you’ve gone completely insane, or everyone else has.” I’m gonna stick with our assumption that unhealthy systems don’t like for people to get healthy, or stand up against them.

I wish her well. The better she does the better my kids do when they are with her.

Let me be clear, I am behind on my child support payments. THIS I KNOW. But I am not avoiding them, or trying to hide behind excuses. It’s pretty simple. A client’s business took a hit recently and changed their payment terms with me. I’m not working any less, or taking time off, but I’m not getting paid with the same frequency. They will get caught up too. And when they do I will give my ex-y and my kids all the money they deserve. This is not a choice I am making to stiff them, or begin my slip towards becoming a dead beat dad.

Of course, that does not help my ex-y and her own cash flow problems. I tried to have a discussion with her, since she keeps sending messages of some urgency. Here’s how the conversation went.

ME: I’m happy to meet or talk at anytime this week, if you’d like to talk about things.
HER: First question: When can you pay me?
ME: Um. I’m not sure.
HER: Next question: How much?
ME: Okay, I see this is how the conversation would go if we were to get together. Maybe that’s not necessary. Let me ask a question. “Is there some extenuating circumstance, or something I’m missing that is causing our kids great suffering? Or is it just cash flow?”
HER: I am incurring debt because of things your are not paying for.

Ah, so… It’s really just a choice, then to pound me for the money, even when I’ve been as clear as possible about my financial situation. Am I going on vacations or spending money on anything other than food and shelter? NO. And I won’t rehash how her financial situation is just fine… Not my business or my concern.

You see, knowing that you owe taxes is not the same as having the money to pay them. Avoiding penalties is great if you have the money. When you dial back to survival mode you have to thicken your skin a bit, and take care of what you CAN take care of and ignore the rest of the URGENT MESSAGES that come from everyone looking for their money.

I tried to explain this to my ex-y. Her urgency didn’t translate for me. In fact it just made me a bit more frustrated as I tried to give her information (she was asking for information) but no firm dates and amounts. That’s what she wants. How much and when. That’s fine. But it’s not possible for me to answer that question. And there’s a wrinkle, that I’m looking into as well. [Based on actual income vs. estimated income, I’ve overpaid her significantly since we got divorced.]

Even under the duress of the financial and familial stress I am still centered in my own happiness. That is the only happiness I can manage.

As we move along, perhaps the urgency or villainy will be moved from me to someone something else for her. Today I’m her target, but I’m getting ready to punch back. Or not. Just like my divorce recovery class says, “Treat them like a convenience store clerk. Just take care of business and get out.”

When she came by on Saturday to pick up the kids she looked great. She’s still my type. I could see how I would still find her attractive and want to date her. I would hope, today, that my self-awareness would allow me see some of the fatal flaws before falling in love with her. I noticed her and her attractiveness like I might a pretty waitress, and then we conducted the business of transferring the kids stuff.

I wish her well. The better she does the better my kids do when they are with her. And I hope her boyfriend turns out to be more reliable and a better honey-do than I was.

I will get her all of her money. All of the money that belongs to my kids. At this moment, that money is for extracurricular things. And I don’t have a single extracurricular dollar. That’s why the downstairs bathroom is in need of repairs. And why the creditors, including her, will have to wait until things move back into the plus column. They’ve been heading in the right direction all summer, but a few hitches along the way, and I’m still plugging along in survival mode.

The good news is: even under the duress of the financial and familial stress I am still centered in my own happiness. That is the only happiness I can manage.

Sincerely

The Off Parent

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The Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.