Dear ex-partner and co-parent,
let me tell you how this is going to go
for everyone involved. Not well.
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?
Guess what I got?
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.”
“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.
“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.
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.
The Off Parent
And we’ve learned nothing. This post continues here: And Just As We Reach A Calm Moment
back to Single Parenting
- Turning the Other Cheek to Your Angry Ex – Because There’s No Other Option
- The 5 Laws of Anger in Co-Parenting
- What I Still Fail to Understand About My Ex-wife
- What You Gave Up On Is Still Shining In Me
- I Want To Thank You for the Divorce
- When Kids, Money, and Divorce Collide
- Me Dead Beat Dad? Um, Yeah…
image: flogging a dead horse, ben hussmann, creative commons usage
I’m not that guy. I have never exited my role as a father. While I am no longer in a marriage with my ex-wife I am very much available to her for support, flexible child care, advice, and parenting. That’s what we do. That’s what we did all along. Even in our pre-kid relationship we were reading books about 50/50 parenting, and attachment parenting. We entered this relationship together as hopeful parents, and now as divorced parents something else has come into play.
I’ve seen what an angry and distant father looks like after divorce. My dad, though an alcoholic, exited the marriage with an enormous amount of anger and vitriol hurled back at all of us. He was unaware how his tirades against my mom, also felt like attacks against me. He was not very self-aware, but alcoholics are usually not all that introspective. He was an asshole. He fought about money all the time, even though he was making a ton of money.
It was the principle of the thing, he would say, from time to time. It sounded just like the one time he confronted me, while I was in high school and staying at his house over Spring Break. “You may not love me,” he yelled. “But you’re damn well gonna respect me.” Sounds like a bad movie, right? The words were seared into my brain forever. I vowed never to put myself in that position with my father again. And until he was dying of cancer, and no longer able to drink, we never spent another night under the same roof.
And I know there are vindictive fathers. And I know there are high conflict divorces. Ours was not one of those. Even in divorce we negotiated. The horror of my parent’s divorce was not going to be visited on my children, or even on my ex-wife. And as I compromised what I was asking for, 50/50 parenting, I was told that’s what I would get anyway, so I’d better just accept it and move on. Um, WHAT?
Turns out that in 2009 when we were divorcing, 80% of all divorces in Texas ended up with the dad getting non-custodial parent and the every-other-weekend SPO schedule. (Standard Possession Order, once you’ve heard of it, you’ll never forget it.) So that’s what I was handed as my option. And since we had agreed not to fight, I complied. I did not fight my then-wife in the negotiations for the custody of our children. I did not argue when the amount of child support was calculated on my previous job at Dell (who pays quite well) even though I was currently looking for my next job. I didn’t fight. I sublimated my anger and frustration into some abstract support for my children. By not fighting and providing all this money for my children, things would be a little better for them then it was for me, when I was a kid. Okay, A LOT better.
But as I’ve written over and over in this blog, things didn’t work out the way we planned. The eminent job from 3M, then HP, then Dell again, didn’t happen. The economy was tanking and a 50-ish tech marketing executive was not in high demand. So I struggled to find my footing as a provider, post-divorce. It was okay, I would catch back up. I would replace my retirement savings that I was sucking down at an alarming rate to make the child support payments, even though I didn’t have a job.
And we, the nuclear family, continued on. And my employment has had ups and downs, as has the employment of my ex-wife. But somehow, we’re still tied together in the original decree that specified an amount of child support that was in alignment with my job between 2007 and 2009, and a long way from where I am today.
But the part that is perplexing, is where my ex-y began to fear that I was going to skip out on my child support payments. Or that perhaps she needed to take more aggressive action to collect the child support, in the name of “supporting the children.” Huh?
Somewhere in her post-divorce mind she had concocted an inner-story that I was trying to screw her out of the money. I was telling her exactly what was happening with me and reassuring her about the money. Eventually, I would get the big job again, and payments would resume and repayment plans would be put in place. I was NEVER disputing the money. I was even willing to continue to go into debt to her at the Dell-salary clip, when we both knew that this was not in line with what I was making. I was trying to do what was right by my kids, first and foremost. The money was not important, in the long run. The absence of conflict was more important.
And tonight I had some hilarious conversations with my kids about the -$42,000 problem with my credit card. My son is determined to figure out what happened. I’ve told them it’s not something I can discuss with them. And we joked about my drug habit, or the cool condo I had rented downtown for when they weren’t with me. They knew I was joking. But they were also concerned or curious what had zapped my credit card with such a huge debt.
Eventually my kids will know what happened. That the actions of their mom, against me, for no good reason, caused me to lose my house, and now have frozen all of my financial assets. The last step I guess is jail. At that point, I suppose my mom or someone would have to pay my child support (it’s nothing near $43,000 btw, the State usually goes for triple damages as a start).
My hope is the job interview on Wednesday will finally release me from the consulting/job hunt role that I’ve been in for over a year now. I’m making a little money. But I’m looking and interviewing for jobs that would afford me a place to live AND the higher than appropriate child support payments. And perhaps, the funds to go back to the court and ask for 50/50 parenting, which is the plan we shared all along.
It’s funny, she is really asking me to be a 50/50 parent all the time, by complaining about how many appointments she has to schedule and how she’s always the one responsible to remember school requirements and such. But those are exactly the kind of things she’d be mad at me about if we were still married. I’m glad we are not. She’s still mad about them, and at the moment, she has a huge financial axe over my head. (Sorry, perhaps I was being melodramatic.)
But it’s not dramatic to say that at the moment, I am on a cash-only basis. I have no bank account. My attorney said, “They’re going to keep that account. You might as well forget that money and open another account somewhere else.”
For my ex-wife, somehow it became about the money rather than the kids. It’s certainly not about 50/50 parenting, since the SPO is more like 70 – 30. (If you account for the impossibility of taking the kids for an entire month in the summer.)
Where did my ex-wife get so adversarial that rather than support me in a difficult time, she’d rather hammer me into pulp and hope for the best. It’s like get part of something or all of nothing. Today there is nothing. In fact, now, my consulting paycheck was deposited two days ago. It’s about 2% of the amount owed, the actual amount owed.
Yes, I owe my ex-wife some money. But I have never been trying to hide it. I am working and have been working steadily the entire time. But I agreed to an amount of money based on a salary that I’ve never been able to achieve since Dell. Great. So in throwing everything to the Attorney General’s office she’s essentially thrown me to the wolves. Next is jail, I suppose. I hope it won’t get to that point, but it sure would make a good chapter, I suppose. (Dear karma, I am not asking for that to happen.)
When you get divorced there is no separation of the financial obligations you still have to support your family. If there is a huge imbalance in incomes, perhaps the wealthier party should have to pay some supportive money to the stay-at-home mom, or in our case the working mom who wants to continue to live in the upscale house in the upscale neighborhood and school district in the “best interest of the children.” Yes. But if you kill the father with unreasonable debt and legal action, what do you get then?
I guess I could just publish the letters between us at that time, as I was begging her to just pause and think about what she was doing. But that would be a bit morbid. But there’s a funny moment, that illustrates the ‘off’ thinking. We were meeting with an accountant who specializes in helping couples divide their money for divorce. And some how my then-wife was furious that I had bought a new (very used) car. She kept coming back to it with the accountant. “But how can he rack up this new debt and we still have to split it?”
The accountant carefully pointed out. “Your car is worth about $3,000 more than the car he just purchased. And your car will be paid off in eight months. It all works out in the math.” Still she was angry, as if I had purchased a car just to shift so of my debt onto her. Um, yeah.
I won’t break confidence about what happened with the $43,000 freak-out on my credit card, for now. When the kids are older, I’ll be happy to show them this story. It’s wrong how I have been treated. And the drama and suffering as a result of her impatience and fear, is unnecessary. But somehow she doesn’t see it the same way I do. So, even now, I’m hesitant to revisit the 50/50 parenting thing, because it will look like I’m suing their mom. That’s not what’s going to happen. But still I would do almost anything to avoid damaging her or her financial situation in any way. The same cannot be said of her and her intentions towards me.
So she’s still mad. She will probably be mad for the rest of our kid’s lives. At least she’s not telling them all the time that she’s mad at me. And that’s the pact, for now. And that’s why this blog is anonymous. God bless us, everyone.
The Off Parent
back to The Hard Stuff
- The Fk You That Keeps On Giving
- AG’s Office Round Two: Dead Beat Dad – 0, Bank $43,000
- The Crushing Impact of Emotional Infidelity on My Marriage
- When Did Our Halos Lose Their Sparkle? A Marriage Comes Apart
- I Was a Happily Married Man, and Now I’m Not: Tiny Hints of Doom
image: (not my ex-wife) angry friday face, lara604, creative commons usage
This post continues here: The Fk You That Keeps On Giving
This evening, after picking my kids up and having dinner at a local restaurant, I was given my credit card back with the waitress saying, “It’s been declined.” Um, what? I had just been talking to a client about their credit card number being stolen and used in Mexico in a fraud transaction, and that’s what crossed my mind when I opened the banking app to see this lovely number presented to me. I even showed it to the kids, claiming I had accidentally bought a used BMW, and just forgot to transfer the funds to cover it.
I was joking. The good news is my daughter had some cash to buy school clothes with this weekend, so we had some money. I was essentially frozen out. Nada.
Back at the house, my sister’s house where we are staying this weekend, I was told there had be a legal hold put on my account. And after a few humiliating conversations I was given the AG’s office number, where I could plead my case.
And I’m wondering, if the timing, is about concurrent with my ex-y filing her case against me. I texted her, since we’ve been talking again lately, strategizing about insurance and such, until I get my next big gig. And I let her know I didn’t think she did it, but I needed to ask. She was very happy that I gave her the benefit of the doubt, but she had not done anything else. No, the damage was done a year ago. The hurt that had rained down on me since. Let’s take a look.
On May 16, 2013 I filed this missive: Me, Deadbeat Dad? Um… about the continuing escalation from her on my inability to pay, right away.
And then things begin to get out of hand on May 21, 2013: Stinging the Hand that Feeds and again on May 22, 2013: Winning the Battle, Losing the War, and again on May 24, 2013: Reassessing the Dead Beat Dad vs. Good Guy Dad. And then we were pretty much done talking about it. She no longer took my phone calls, and refused to meet in-person about the kids or summer or whatever.
Then on Oct. 25, 2013 the result of her actions at the AG’s office came home. Since she didn’t want to talk about the money, she simply filed against me: Tell Me Again, Why You Think This Is a Good Idea? (where I talk about getting the notice from the State of Texas) and the next day Can Things Get Worse? Yes, Easy!
“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.”
So in the best interest of the children she filed suit against me with the Attorney General’s Office. And over the course of the next few months I began to struggle to keep the house over my head, while continuing to look for more work, or enough work to pay her child support. On the Turning Away: Fighting with Your Ex About Money.
And I guess the real story is this: I am still struggling to take my income up high enough that I can afford to have a place to live and pay her child support. And while we are essentially parenting at 50/50 levels, I am still the non-custodial parent. And when you call that number the AG’s office gives you, you identify as custodial or non-custodial parent. There’s no gray area in the eyes of the law.
And I’m guessing there’s little gray area in the eyes of my readers, unless you’ve been through something like this. I state as fact, that I am not hiding money, I am not trying to skip out of my responsibility, nor am I shirking my parenting duties in any way. I am 100% available to my kids and to my ex-y for support and care. I still have not managed to get the corp job that will afford us both a better life. But that’s the deal, right? Even after divorce, we are still in this financial relationship forever. Our kids are going to need cars, and rent, and tuition, and food money, and … And the ex-y and I will negotiate those things as well.
But today the near-full force of the law has come to visit me, rendering me penniless in addition to homeless. (Not to be too dramatic, we’re not under a bridge, but we’re living with my family.) And as the ex-y was contemplating her move to file against me, she was making a decision to put everything I had accomplished up to that point at risk. And in the bet I lost. I lost it all. And I am starting over again, from zero. Oh, and the amount is not indicative of how much I owe, it’s 2-3 times over the amount ordered.
Still, we will struggle on. And still I will attempt to keep the fighting to a minimum. And still I will struggle to find my next big job so I can afford to help her afford the nice house in the nice neighborhood we bought with my downpayment and salary for 11 years. No problem, it’s really the kid’s house, in my mind. Except, she’s got all the keys.
And now she’s got me in some kind of deathgrip lean until I’m able to get in touch with my lawyer and respond. Again, this is money we should not be fighting over. This is money that should not go to a lawyer, but to our kids. I made several attempts to secure the back payment with a lean against a piece of property I own, that is for sale. I am not attempting to skip a debt. But the state is now attempting to collect the debt I owe her.
What an interesting start to the new school year. I laughed and told the kids it was some weird bank thing. They don’t need to be involved or informed about what’s really taking place. Nor will they know, until they are older, that their mom’s actions cost me the house as well.
Onward and upward. It’s the first night since school started that I’ve seen them, so we’re doing homework. On June 30, 2014 I wrote this: Losing Everything In Divorce; Learning to Carry On
Here’s how our text went regarding this new development.
I guess if she’d said she was sorry, she’d be admitting that it was a mistake. Obviously she doesn’t think it’s a mistake, or the need to apologize. What am I expecting?
This post continues here: The Fk You That Keeps On Giving
The Off Parent
back to The Hard Stuff
- Terms of Surrender: Our Divorce Papers
- No Divorce Expert: But If You Parent 50/50 You Should Divorce 50/50
- On the Turning Away: Fighting with Your Ex About Money
- Marriage and Money: A Fairy Tale
- I Must Be Insane: It’s the End of the World, and I Feel Fine
image: today’s bank statement
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.
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.
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!
The Off Parent
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