Written in reaction, not response, to some damn fine writin, over there at Blunt Moms. Yep. I love’m.
And I wouldn’t have my woman/partner any other way. If you are sweeping stuff under the rug and not letting the kettle boil over once in a while, you’re probably not doing anyone a favor. Perhaps in my last marriage, my emotionally unavailable wife was not expressing her angst and anger until it started coming out uncontrollably in random “fuck yous” and other sideways outbursts.
In the past, I have admitted to my daughter that I can be an asshole. That I am less than perfect, as a mom, and that I have a lot to apologize and feel guilty for.
Today is not that day.
Today is not that day. Today is not a day for apologies, but for expressing the fucked-up-ness that is my ex-wife today. She’s not just exclaiming random fuck yous in the form of her continued assessment that the AG’s office being attached like a pit bull to my ass, is a good thing. She even says things like this:
Unless your experience of the AG is different from what everyone I’ve talked with there tells me (and maybe it is – the AG has f’d up parts for sure), the reason you’ve had to suffer the ugly end of their enforcement isn’t because we’re in the AG system, but rather is because you at first did not respond to their several non-enforcement-level attempts to get you in the system…
Really? “everyone I’ve talked with there…” She’s using the staff of the AG’s office as a validation for her continued request for “enforcement.” SRSLY? This was her opening expression of GOALS yesterday.
How quaint. Keeping the hobble on your ex-husband horse is a good idea. Because…
She says in her mind that the AG’s office is the only reason she’s gotten paid in the last 18 months. And I try to remind her of the sequence of events that were set in motion by her AG action… But this isn’t a conversation we ever have. She’s got the law, the decree, and the self-righteousness to see the debt as an entitlement. And I suppose she’s right. Sure. And I’m good for it. When I have the money.
And it’s funny, these conversations always seem to come out when I’m doing well. She sees my new job and thinks, “Okay, now’s the time to get caught up, apply a bit more pressure, send some crappy “positive sounding” emails.
Perhaps my perspective is off. She is the Saint Mom. She’s the one fighting the good fight for our kids. As she sees it, the AG’s office is insurance that I’m not going to what… skip town?
It is true that there are dead beat dads and high-conflict divorces, but ours is neither. And in all her talking about “doing what’s right for the kids” makes me a bit sick. She has no concept that forcing the father of her children out of his house was a bad idea. She gives not one fuck that the AG’s lien on my credit prevents me from getting a used car loan of any kind. Or that several of my high-paying gig quests were ended at the “background – credit check” stage of the negotiations.
In her “saintly mind” the AG’s office is her new champion. And I’m merely the lazy, irresponsible, and dead beat horse that is not performing up to speed. I suppose if glue were a possibility that could pay back my debt to her, that would be okay. Well, except for the fact that the longer I live, the more money she can expect from me.
Again, I know I’m going about this all wrong. It’s not HER money. It’s money for the “the care and maintenance of the children.” Yes, that’s true. And if I felt the kids were missing out on some things because of it… Wait. Again, I’m having epiphany after epiphany here. My kids ARE missing out on many things. But the most egregious of those things is the loss of time they get to spend with their dad.
We were a 50/50 household. We entered into a cooperative divorce negotiation. And somewhere along the way I was given more like a 70/30 divorce. That’s what the real numbers work out to in the Standard Possession Order and the Non-Custodial parent. And give the old AG’s office a call, you’ll be amazed how they segment the calls off by that distinction.
“If you’re the custodial parent press one.” I’m guessing this is more like a service and support call. “How can we help you?”
“If you’re the non-custodial parent press two.” This is more like a collections agency. Dads who are behind on their child support are the enemy of the state and debtors no matter the circumstances. We are defaulting on our obligation. Even if we are attempting to be transparent about everything.
Dear Ex Wife, a portion of my income, every single cent I earn, is owed to my kids. This is true. With our two kids it works out to about 25%. That’s fine. But when I have no income, those promissory notes continue to pile up. And when you strike me down with your actions, guess what happens? More loss of income. More promissory notes. More “dead beat dad” letters from your pals at the AG’s office. So, keep your narcissistic view of the world wrapped in
Yeah, the old trope is looking a bit worn from here, my dear ex-wife.
I can tell you what I think that is, but you’re not listening. And maybe that’s the root of the problem after all. We stopped listening to each other at some point. I stopped hearing your complaints and “fuck yous” and you stopped hearing my “here’s an idea” solutions. And maybe, the cards were set against us in the long run. “Just two very different people,” you might say.
But I think it’s a bit more fundamental than that. You got what you wanted. A house. A couple kids. And when I failed to perform up to your expected (maybe psychologically required) expectations financially, and you realized, as the kids were becoming more independent that you’d have to go get a real job too. It was a nice run, when we could swing it, but we always agreed that WE would support the family.
I suppose now we are getting that chance. But your continued reliance on the AG’s office is an affront that hurts all of us. The gun you keep firing at me is causing a lot of collateral damage. And you’re “saintly” aggression is also preventing you from letting go of your anger and righteousness.
If we are two parents trying to do “what’s best for the kids” then we’d cooperate again. You’d have to let go of the state’s attorneys, but in return you might get back the healthy horse/dad who can share the wealth when the good times come.
I’m expecting you’re going to stay with the Goddamn Saint role. And I get it. You’ve done a kick ass job being a mom in this last six years. But you’ve completely sucked as a human being and compassionate co-parent.
The Off Parent
< back to The Hard Stuff posts
- The Painful Business of Divorce
- Your Contempt for Me is Hurting All of Us
- The Humans Of Divorce, Dear AG’s Office Special Cases Officer Mr. McK!
- And Just As We Reach A Calm Moment
- What I Still Fail to Understand About My Ex-wife
- When Kids, Money, and Divorce Collide
- Trusting Your Unreliable Ex
reference: Mommy is a Goddamn Saint – Blunt Moms
image: ave maria, creative commons usage
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
The course of divorce is long and winding. You have good weeks, good days, maybe even good periods, but something is bound to come up. At some point during my 5.5 years of being a divorced dad and coparent to two great kids, my ex-wife decided that rather than negotiate and work with me on the money part of our contract, she would file everything with Attorney General’s office with the state of Texas. I’m sure, somewhere, she thought she was doing the right and responsible thing.
That action has caused repercussions in my life, chronicled here in this blog and thought the time since being listed as a dead beat dad. Not because I was refusing to pay, but because I had lost my job and was unable to pay child support and keep a roof over my head. But at that time, she was not concerned or even considerate of me, the father of her children. She wanted her money. And some part of her afraid mind made her feel threatened enough to turn me over to the state to deal with.
The consequences of that action now carry a weight in our relationship that is hard for me to ignore. I should forgive and forget, right? I mean, “in the best interest of the children” I should always strive to be positive and accepting of my ex-wife and her requests. But there’s this sword that’s kind of over my head. I suppose if she got mad she could get the police to arrest me and put me in jail for back child support. It’s not that I’m hiding the money. It’s not that I diverted any of my income to extravagant luxuries, or that I squandered away money that should’ve gone to her. No, she’s simply entitled to the money, due to the contract we agreed to when we got a divorce, and she wants the fucking money.
I tried, and am trying to work out the details yet again with her. But now we don’t have any way of negotiating between us. If we wanted to change anything it would require lawyers and more money. And yet we have to continue parenting together. We have to put the loving parent face on for our kids. And we have always agreed to keep money disagreements out of the parenting work and out of our kid’s lives.
And yet, there it is. I have a huge black mark on my credit that hinders me in getting a car, a job, a rental house. And I won’t get that mark off my name and credit score until I have paid her in full, all the child support she is owed, past, present and future. But here’s the rub. That was ALWAYS my intention. I have never attempted to hide or keep secrets from her regarding my work or my commitment to pay. Yet, in spite of my pleadings with her, and in spite of my promises and agreement to be more transparent about my financial plans, she brought in the state to account for my delinquency.
Maybe it was a punishment and she was mad. But today it gives us no room to discuss other options for payment, or delays or transfers to other things that the kids need money for, like summer camp. Nope, the state knows the divorce decree and any changes will require legal fees. So I’m a little stuck. When she said something like, “And we can talk about reducing the child support accordingly,” as it relates to the story below, I have to wonder… Does she get it? Does she register it was a mistake and now limits us and severely limits me for the next 6 – 7 years?
I don’t know. But it puts a bad taste in my mouth when she asks for changes and hints that we could offset some of the money I owed. Because we BOTH KNOW that THAT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. She’s happy to let the clock roll and her money clicks along, rain or shine, regardless of what job I have or if I am able to have a place to live. Again, I understand her priority to protect and provide for the kids, but their OUR kids. And my health and welfare is also in the equation when measuring out the relationship between the four of us. She obviously doesn’t see it this way.
My exey asks for things, and she’s good at it. She’s always asked for what she wanted, regardless of the cost, regardless of the consequence. I think the divorce happened a lot along those patterns as well. And were at it again.
So, it’s easy to ask for an adjustment in the schedule. And two years ago when she was dating a new man I agreed to alter the parenting plan to her alternating weekends so they matched up with his weekends. I didn’t need to do it. I actually lost my occasional double weekend in the bargain. But there was no reason I could think of to deny her request, except to be mean.
And more recently, she’s been asking to switch up the parenting schedule in a big way. To go on a more “week-on-week-off” schedule. The reason, she says, is to alleviate the multiple house changes each week for the kids. And yes, there is some frustration about the constant moving, but I don’t think that’s the real reason she’s asking for the change. It could be. But I’ve come to be skeptical of her good faith requests, they usually pack something underneath.
Now, I don’t think she’s suggesting this new schedule to be mean, or to upset the growing relationship in my life. But I also, don’t fully trust WHAT she is asking for.
Here’s my take. She’s tired of having the majority of the school morning parenting. It’s hard. I get it. She’d like a break. She’d like me to take more school mornings. Just as she’d like me to be more attentive, more responsible, and better at helping out. “Wait, that sounds like when we were married.”
In the bargain, that I cut in the closing days of my marriage, I agreed to the standard possession order (SPO) and non-custodial parent role. I was asking for 50/50 parenting back then. But that would’ve been a very different outcome. As it stands, I am obligated to pay her 1,150 per month in child support for the remainder of my kids pre-18 years. And for that hefty stipend, I get less time with my kids. I guess so I can go earn the extra money.
Okay, that’s the way it is. And then she felt it necessary to file with the Attorney General’s Office to enforce the child support, even though I was talking to her and never trying to withhold any money that I had. So that’s put us in a difficult (correction) that’s put me in a difficult situation. She’s owed the money if I have a job or not. She’s owed that money, AND I’m responsible for the kids insurance as well.
She even hinted that we might consider a reduction in payments if we went to this new schedule. (Something she’s never mentioned before. Even as she’s riding behind the AG’s enforcement.)
It’s hard to trust your ex-partner when they have done so many things to hurt you. When they have put the state’s attorney on you that allows for zero flexibility and zero negotiation. So as far as that money is concerned, it’s hers and the state will extract it from me and tack credit crushing levy against me until I’m caught up again.
So in that light she’s asking to get fewer mornings as the custodial parent. She wants the money, the 50/50 schedule, and it’s really because of the kids.
I’m not so sure and I’m even considering giving back the off Fridays. If it’s about the kids switching, we can reduce that. But if it’s about the school day hardships, well, she’s already taken most of that early school years from me, so she can deal with more of the teenage years as well. I mean, as long as I’m paying for her to handle more of the kid care, at least I should get that benefit.
Yes, it is because of the kids. Yes, I would like to make my kids happier about transferring from our two houses less. But there are ways to do this that don’t involve me taking on more days in some vague promise of reducing my child support payments. And I’m standing firm that this request is about the kids and her. And my response will be most appropriately focused on the kids request rather than hers.
It’s hard to keep up the positive attitude with so much sludge under the bridge, but that’s the only choice I have. But when she is requesting a major schedule change, this time I’m going to remember MY requirements, and also what’s best for me.
The Off Parent
back to The Hard Stuff
- When Did Our Halos Lose Their Sparkle? A Marriage Comes Apart
- The 1st and 2nd Time I Knew My Marriage Was Finished
- The Crushing Impact of Emotional Infidelity on My Marriage
- I Was a Happily Married Man, and Now I’m Not: Tiny Hints of Doom
- Am I Back? What’s New, What’s Changed, What Will I Do Differently?
image: our stones, rebecca partington, 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
This is not a particularly interesting story. It’s more common than we can imagine. And it’s carried out with swift precision and support of the courts and counselors across the country. Women get the kids, men get the bills, and that’s the beginning of the trouble for the single parents. In my state, Texas, 80% of decrees give custody to the mother with the dad getting non-custodial rights and often a hefty child support payment.
I admit, I was depressed and hurting when I was “negotiating” my parenting plan and thus my divorce from the mother of my children. Right in the middle of the negotiations the counselor rightly slowed the process, as I was more and more aware that I did not want a divorce. But a divorce is what my then-wife wanted. And I learned, pretty clearly, that you cannot continue a marriage when only one partner is IN.
Okay, so the story goes along then in common fashion. Dad leaves the house moves in with family until he can get reoriented and settled in his new role. Except there’s one huge new problem. Not only does he have to look for a new home but he’s got a new debt that decreases his opportunities for re-housing. I could forget about moving back into the neighborhood my kids were growing up in. And I agreed to let my ex keep the house “for the kids.” And while that was the right decision, it did not take into account “where Dad would go.” I was sort of on my own.
Okay, so I struggled with the sadness, the loss of my marriage and closest ally. And the loss of my full-time access to my kids. And the list goes on and on: the loss of my house (which we had proudly purchased on money I had gotten before my marriage); the loss of the pets (I didn’t have a place to keep them); the loss of the neighborhood and community (tennis club, pool, neighborhood friends for my kids). And essentially for about 9 months I was homeless. I was living with my sister, but had zero privacy and very few of my material possessions. They were in the garage of my old house.
The only way out of the situation for me, was to find the next BIG JOB. There was no room for self-employment or consulting if I was going to ever be able to get back into a house. And something about apartment living didn’t resonate with me or my idea of who I had become nearing my 48th year as a man.
Finally, the call came, the big job started and I went looking for a place to live. I was lucky. I had not let enough time lapse between my last big job and my new big job to damage my credit or earning power. I was able to qualify and buy a much more modest house in a nearby neighborhood. And I was happy for a bit.
Six months into the new job, the company restructured and eliminated the entire service offering I had been marketing. And with one week’s severance and no notice I was out. And guess what? I still had my mortgage and my child support payments to cover. And then I was sad for a bit, with this new challenge of faith and ability and willingness to pack in my aspirations and just take whatever job came along.
But the remarkable happened. I didn’t find the next big job. I worked my ass off, sending in resumes, networking, social media-ing (this is what I do for a living) and looking for work. And while I got some contracts and some consulting gigs I have still not been able to replace the BIG JOB income that would allow me to pay my child support AND have a place to live.
And this is the situation with a lot of single dads who were given the same deal I got. And a lot of this I covered in my last post (Love, War, Divorce) but the thing that became apparent, when I was reading the comments on my UNFAIR post, was… This is not right.
The assumption that the non-custodial dad will bear the lion’s share of the expenses after the divorce, is simply not equitable. It’s the law. But it’s not fair. And in our case, my ex-wife got a full-time job (her first since we had gotten married) in order to divorce me, and has been able to keep mostly employed this entire time. What a blessing. And with the child support she has been able to keep the nice house in the nice neighborhood. And that’s what I want for my kids too.
The hard part is, I’m burdened by an additional $1,500 per month, even before I get to think about where I can afford to live. With 50/50 parenting it might have been more difficult for her, and thus we are stuck with a dilemma. I want what’s best for my kids over and above even my own needs or living quarters. But I do need to live somewhere. I do need to make enough money to provide food, shelter, and entertainment for my kids when they are with me. Right? It’s hard either way. Two homes is obviously more expensive than one. Where can we find the balance? Sure, I can make more and more money. And today that’s my only option.
But the real issue is, my ex-wife and I are still in this financial boat together. So when she got frustrated with my fluctuating income, and my two months of late payments of “her child support” she filed the whole issue with the Attorney General’s Office, basically threatening me with a lawsuit and (horror of horrors) completely damning my credit rating.
So wait, now I’m a deadbeat dad? In what way was I trying to skip out on my child support? Is it fair for me to have shelter as well? Is there any consideration about where Dad will live with the kids when he has them?
The DEAL I got, the deal that was sold to me by our impartial divorce counselor was the non-custodial parent, who sees his kids less and pays for a good deal of their expenses.
Okay, so I hear the women in the audience groan with each retelling of this story. And the comments on earlier posts bear this out. Women don’t want to hear how hard it is for a man to get by after divorce when his living expenses just doubled. They tell me how hard it is to be a single parent with the majority of the family duties, and very little money to do it all. But wait, that’s the DEAL they got, right? The got the TIME with the kids. So don’t complain to me about how hard that is. I was asking to do it 50/50 just like we discussed our parenting when we were imagining our first child.
I’m a 50/50 dad, but I was sold the non-custodial parent role by a system that favors mom’s in this situation about 80% of the time. And I did not want to FIGHT my ex, I was trying to fulfill a cooperative divorce agreement. We were trying to be non-confrontational. And so I got the bill and she got the kids.
I don’t know what the right answer is, but 50/50 is where we should’ve started. I should not have had to fight with our well-paid counselor about how 50/50 parenting might make sense for us. And I don’t know what I’m going to do now.
The rest of the story: I lost my house. I tried to file for bankruptcy just to keep the house, and my ex-wife’s AG filing prevented that from working. And I offered to give her a secured loan agreement if she would allow me to move forward, and she threw up her hands and said, “The AG’s Office has said I cannot talk to you about money.”
Fuck. That just about put me in a bind I couldn’t get out of. But I have family here. And my family came and helped me fix up my house and sell it, for a gain. And I moved into a garage apartment on my Mom’s house. Fuck again.
As we liked to joke, “It’s better than being under the bridge.”
Yes, it is better than being under the bridge. Or throwing myself off the bridge in a fit of masculine depressive acting out.
It sure stripped away all my pretense of success. I have failed. I have fallen from the “owner’s” status to “living with my mom” and “deadbeat dad” all in the course of a few months. And this is not how it should’ve gone, nor did it need to go this way. While we are in this together, the money is another issue all together.
Fortunately, my ex-wife and I have agreed to keep the money matters out of our parenting matters. But I fear this issue is about to come to a head, before the kids return to school in the fall. And I’m not sure what my options are. I have had THREE BIG JOBS within spitting distance of an offer and all of them went to someone else. And that’s the way it goes. And I’m even looking to go back to my old BIG CORPORATE GIG where I gained 15 pounds from the grind and stress of the place.
At this point I will do anything necessary to restart my life. I am willing to pay her what she is owed, and not contest the amount, even though it is $20,000 over what she would’ve gotten had it been tied to my actual earnings over this time. But I’m in a catch 22. A: I have to find the next BIG JOB to support her payments and have a half-way descent place to live and B: I could fight for 50/50 custody and not have to pay her any additional child support payments, but then that hurts my kids as she would be pressed even harder to keep their childhood home.
Of course I lost that home a long time ago. And now I’ve lost my do-over home. And I don’t have a home. But again that’s not the point, that’s whining. My actions are what matter. I’ve got more job interviews this week, and a call back from the BIG CORP for next week. This is the summer of my discontent, and something will give. And then I will give my ex-wife the money to continue in the lifestyle my kids grew up in, even though I cannot afford to live it with them.
And I seem to be complaining, but I don’t feel defeated. I’ve had a major setback. And there were lots of factors at play. And not unlike my divorce, I didn’t get what I wanted out of the deal. But everyday I have a chance to make a new deal, set a new plan in motion, get back on the road to recovery. I’m happy I have this insight, because things have been pretty damn hard.
Thanks for listening. Keep coming back, it works if you work it. (12-step rejoinder after a hard sharing)
The Off Parent
< back to The Hard Stuff
- How Can I Argue for Joint Custody – DadsDivorce.com
- The Problem with Child Support Laws in Texas – Fathers for Equal Rights
- Child Custody – Facing the Statistics – Benkelaw
- my dos equis < poem
- Love, War, Divorce: Why I’m Not Fighting My Ex-Wife About Custody
- Divorce is Not About What’s Fair, Let’s Get That Straight
- Divorce Recovery: Loving Yourself Better, So You Can Eventually Love Again
- Giving Up On Me, and Why I Still Hate What You Did
- Creative Parenting and the Gifts of Enthusiastic Participation
image: veronica lake and joel mcrea — sullivan’s travels , robert huffstutter, creative commons usage
She’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.
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.
The Off Parent
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