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

Posts tagged “divorce and money

My Miss Fortune

In my first two marriages I had money in the bank. My relationship to money has been challenging my entire life, why should now be any different? I thought by the time I reached 50 I would’ve had this career-thing down. Turns out, the market is ever-changing, and ever more competitive than before. And if you happen to be in social media, the millennials have sort of taken over the game. I’m now considered an older worker. (For at least 10 years now, but I failed to make note of it before.)

In marriage one, my starter marriage, I had money in the bank, a good job, and the prospects for more. We lived pretty high on the hog. In fact, we both took off full-time work for over a year. It was a great year. I worked on my writing and small press publishing. She painted. But it couldn’t last. The estate of my father turned out to be a lot more complicated than originally thought and we were both back to working. I started working in Advertising. As the marriage broke up, she did some weird things, however. Months before the end she was putting money in a different account and buying a lot of expensive jewelry. I didn’t really see it coming, so I also didn’t suspect anything. Boom, I was taken for a lot. And in the end I paid her a good portion of the money I had in the bank to end the prospect of paying for both sides of a divorce.

In marriage two, the one with a pair of kids, I was also in a positive financial position at the start of the relationship. I must’ve looked like quite the catch. I owned my own condo near downtown, and was working freelance for a company out of Boston. She moved in with me over the first six months and we were already talking about having kids. We were getting to be that age. And as things went, my earning capacity stayed strong, if somewhat uneven, over the next six years we were married as we became new parents. And her full-time gig was put on hold, so someone, Mom, could meet the kids at the bus. The lifestyle we chose, and the neighborhood we selected for the schools, was just a bit too expensive to have her be a stay-at-home mom, though that would’ve been my preference. I never, we never, quite got there.

When my big corporate gig ended, due to the 2009 economic meltdown, we began to fight about money. She wanted me to go straight back to another corporate, well-paid, gig. I wanted to take some of the six month severance time and look into doing something a little different for a living. She was not happy with that idea. But we agreed to disagree. Just over a year later we would be divorced. And a lot of it had to do with money. She didn’t really go back to full-time work until she decided she wanted a divorce. Then she had no option. And, jump forward to today, I am very happy my ex-wife has maintained a well-paid job ever since we divorced. She’s a great worker, and is a good and committed mom. No harm or foul there.

But the money had been the root of the disagreement. Now, looking back on it, I wonder, was she right?

Since the divorce, where I signed a contract to deliver child support based on my average $72,000 per year salary, I have not been able to achieve that income level for more than six months at a time. And the child support police don’t care if you’re unemployed. The bills keep coming in, the crackdowns keep happening, and despite any goodwill or promises, I’m seen in the eyes of the Texas Attorney Generals Office as a dead beat dad. I’ve paid her a percentage of everything I’ve ever earned. But it’s not enough. It’s not enough to make her happy. And by default, it’s not enough for the state of Texas either.

So I’m currently living in default, in deficit, as the asshole who won’t pay his ex-wife. Of course, I mean, pay the money for the support and care of my kids, but you’ll forgive my ambiguity. Today I have no money. I’m working an hourly job (I’m not whining here, just stating the facts.) that won’t make my car payment. And it certainly won’t make much of a payment on anything when she and the kids get 50% of all of it. How can a dad make ends meet?

The truth is, often the dads are the one’s who fall under the bus, financially. In my case, I was also challenged by some serious bouts of depression, resulting from the divorce. So, needless to say, I have never been able to pay 100% of my child support since year two. And two months after I was late my ex-wife called in the authorities to enforce the judgement. I don’t think it helped. I haven’t been looking for a job any harder since they entered the picture.

I’ve had a few jobs. I’ve had some good freelance gigs. I’ve made some money. But it’s never enough. And at the moment, it’s really not enough. But I stay positive anyway. I’m interviewing for real jobs. I’m exercising regularly. I’m happy. I’m single. And, while I don’t get to see my kids as much as I’d like, I think we’ve all come to an understanding. All of us except my ex-wife and the AG’s office. See, she could cut them out of the equation with a single phone call. But somehow, she feels it’s better for my kids to have the AG’s office on my ass, and a lien on my credit. She’s determined to get her money.

See, that’s the funny part. Or is it the sad part? I think I was being sarcastic. The sad part is, she was/is going to get all the money she is entitled to anyway. By law I cannot shirk a single penny of my obligation. I’m happy to pay it, as I keep working, and I will/am paying it. It’s just a bit slow at the moment. But somehow, she’s happy with the arrangement. She’s always been happy with her decision to toss me to the wolves. Her new husband once told me, about the AG’s office, “It’s just how everyone does it these days. They’re like an accounting department.”

Well, that’s bullshit. She never needed to file against me. She still doesn’t need to ask for their protection. And yet, there they are, freezing my bank account ever six months or so to take half of the cash am holding on to for bills and food.

Everyday she doesn’t release us from the AG’s supervision is a day that I wake up and have to forgive her for acting and continuing to act on her fear. I’m paying as fast as I can, it’s just less than we both expected.

Ho hum. And onward we go as single parents.

Note: If you are a woman and are reading this as a complaint, as a whining dead beat dad, I might ask you to reconsider this. Shouldn’t both sides of the family live at the level of income they can provide? Today she still lives in our nice home in the nice neighborhood, and for my kids that has provided unequalled stability. But she has done this even with my payments getting behind. Was it necessary to punish me with the AG’s involvement? I am struggling to find the money each month to keep food in my mouth, much less the mouths of my kids. She is not struggling, and that’s good for my kids. For that I give her my sincere thanks.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

@theoffparent

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Your Contempt for Me is Hurting All of Us

OFF-maidamerica

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Is Marriage a Cliché? How Mine Fell Apart Along Party Lines.

OFF-madwife

My marriage was fine as long as I was prepared to sacrifice my health and time with the kids to work. If I brought home the big paycheck all was somewhat jolly. Maybe not always for me, but the mom and kids seemed to enjoy it. And then I got laid off and asked for a moment to contemplate the future. I mean, the nice fat corporate job, that had stressed me out to the max and gotten me a lot fatter in the process, had also given me a silver parachute. 6 months, full pay and benefits. Seemed like a great plan.

And I remember the lunch date I had with my then-wife during the first weeks of my sabbatical when she came unglued at my idea. She calmly pointed out that is simply wasn’t that much money. My severance wasn’t going to last us very long. She obviously didn’t like the direction my thinking was going. And to be fair, with two kids, a nice house, nice cars… She had a point.

I wasn’t taking things seriously enough and she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her career. We floundered as a couple.

But the point that she failed to fess up to at the time, she really didn’t want to re-enter the workforce full-time. Ever. I don’t know this to be true. And the poetic justice of the divorce has mitigated those ideas, but she really got mad at me over lunch for not taking her concerns as seriously as she took them. Somehow, I was being immature, reckless, and self-centered in wanted to recalculate the work/life balance. And yes, my discussion would need to involve her plans for returning to work full-time as well.

It seemed, back then, that we were actually pretty close to achieving a more balanced and fair split of the financial obligations of the lifestyle we had chosen. Our kids were in 3rd and 5th grade, so they were less dependent on our extreme focus 24/7. It felt, to me, like things were in a position to lighten up for us. And this was a good time, while we (I say we, but she’d been maxing out at about 20 hours a week at that point) weren’t quite so strapped for cash, to look at what we wanted to create for our family over the next 5 – 10 years while they finished up school.

But I don’t think that’s the discussion she wanted to have. She wanted to know what my plans were for providing for the family. I was saying “we” she was saying “you.” Hmm. I guess we were at an impasse of some sort. I didn’t know it then, but we were crossing over a threshold. We took the issue into our couples counselor. We worked on things. We struggled. We tried to listen to each other. We tried to see eye to eye. Meanwhile, the severance, while paying the bills was being burned twice as fast, because she had lost her job at the first of the year too.

Yes, things were intense. But they were manageable. And in my optimistic way I was certain we were in a position to plan and strategize about “our” work plan rather than just “my” work plan. We tried.

“We both expressed our ideas about the future and while I wanted to discuss changes, she wanted action and me to stabilize our future, immediately.”

I kept looking for work and interviewing at other big corporate jobs. And I put my all into the process. Of course, the layoff that culled 50% of my team was caused by the major economic collapse of 2009. No body was eager to hire high-level marketing staff. At least none of the jobs I was hearing about and applying for. Still we had my severance, and they were going to pay me 50% of my 2009 bonus as well. That bought us another month.

But I wasn’t saying the things she wanted to hear. And she wasn’t hearing me either. I wasn’t taking things seriously enough and she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her career. We floundered as a couple. We began to experience breakdowns in communication and trust.

She recounted the pivotal lunch in therapy as me completely disregarding her concerns about money. Somehow I could not hear her.

I recounted the same exact lunch as “we both expressed our ideas about the future and while I wanted to discuss changes, she wanted action and me to stabilize our future, immediately.” It wasn’t that easy. And the threadbare trust in our relationship began to break down. Even as I was feeling hopeful and collaborative, she was feeling scared and angry. We limped along, but the sparks between us were more angry than inspirational.

And that’s when our sex life fell off a cliff as well. So as a man, I was in a real double bind. I not only had my self-esteem all mixed up after being laid off and having a ton of unproductive interviews. I was also getting shut out of the bedroom and the emotional closeness that comes from being intimate. So both of my anchors were gone. I was floundering, but I was doing it mostly alone, with an angry partner who kept saying I wasn’t listening to her. She began to express how mad she was at me. And during this time she even blurted out how she didn’t really love me any more.

Had we collaborated instead of separated, today we’d be looking at much better economic times.

I suppose I had two choices. 1. Completely withdraw my demand of a recalibration of our future and just hit the “whatever works” job search and get the job and shut the hell up to see if that made things better; or 2. stand strong in my conviction that I was not willing to simply go back to the factory in support of my white picket fence and semi-supportive wife. I was not willing to go back into the cube farm without a fight.

And so we fought. Meanwhile the money ran out and things went up another step on the urgency and alarm scale.

Looking back as clearly as I can, I suppose at this time, after she had gotten laid off from her job as well she really was soul-searching in the same way I was. What were we going to be as a family? Who was going to provide the money and who was going to provide the nurturing? How would we split the obligations and parenting and chores? But the kicker for me, the thing I still struggle with as I try and reconcile this period in my marriage: for that entire year, from January to December 2010, my wife actually spent more money on her consulting “business” than she made.

When I try and imagine what was going through her mind the only thing I can come up with is

  1. She was determined for me to return to the high-paying job that would allow her the same flexibility she had enjoyed while the kids were younger.
  2. She was searching for her bliss. She didn’t want to continue the string of unsuccessful jobs that had not taken her further up the job satisfaction ladder.
  3. In all her fears and worry about money it was easier to focus on me and my work search than to pay attention to her own financial contribution.
  4. Since she was the “accounting” partner it, even as it was clear we were heading into crisis mode, she doubled down on me and my job search, rather than doing what she wanted me to do, and “take whatever” so that we could catch up on the bills.
  5. Maybe she was using the leverage of the economic collapse to force me back into the big corporate job so she wouldn’t have to figure out how she was going to contribute financially.

No matter which of my assumptions are true, the actions she took are now fact and not projection or mind-reading. In March of the following year, she decided she’d had enough and she made some decisions to leave the marriage and break up our family. No more “for better or worse,” she was going to greener pastures must exist somewhere else. I was devastated. Even as I was angry and frustrated at the current state of affairs, I was also beginning to express my anger at being emotionally isolated. And I try to let her off the hook most of the time, by owning my part of the anger and frustration in our marriage. But I was in the marriage to WIN and STAY. She decided to LEAVE.

I can’t take any of it back. And I can’t even gloat at how much she is having to work now, because it’s not how I wanted it to go. This moment, today, is not how it should’ve gone, in my mind. We should’ve come to a balanced plan where we BOTH hunted and landed good paying jobs, WE stabilized our financial situation, and WE made commitments to re-energize and re-invest energy in our marriage.

Had we collaborated instead of separated, today we’d be looking at much better economic times. All the money that has gone into two homes could have gone into the bank. She would be working a lot less today had we stayed together. But somewhere along the way, she lost the trust that I was a worthy collaborator.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Too Positive, Too Optimistic? A Blind Side.

the off parent - slivered moonI really want to blame this last sag on my exey, but it ain’t so. The morass I have just been climbing out of was mine and mine alone. Sure there were some inflection points, post divorce, that could’ve been mitigated with some cooperation from the exey, but the fail was really mine.

I don’t want to write about this.

My Achilles heel is being too optimistic. And certainly, at times, too forceful in my positive (possibly aggressive) approach to life and problems. I recall the “muse” saying to me, “You’re just about the most positive person I know.” I felt proud of that. But…

Well, occasionally my happy outlook and plans don’t work out the way I hope. (This is everybody, I know.) And this time a few things fell through to make my recent transition much more swift and dramatic than they needed to be. Had I been working a more realistic and pragmatic life program I think I could’ve done a better job and saved myself and my family a bit of heartache.

Again, I’m not talking about the divorce, I’m talking about … money. (Frown.)

Not what I wanted to admit to or blog about, EVER. Of course I have blogged about it, a lot. But I was on the “it’s going to work out” side of every story. It didn’t work out.

Now I’m in regroup mode. My lovely but not ideal house is sold. And I’m in a total rebuilding process. It’s good. It’s going to be better. And there are things I was neglecting. Now, with eyes, open, I’m conscious of bringing down the YES-force a bit, and get back into the “what needs to be done” mode.

New beginnings are always hard and exciting at the same time. I’ve gotten back on the tennis court. I’m about to start Aikido again. And my focus has returned to the loving support of my family, ex-wife included, and how I can best provide for all of us. It’s hard to imagine how intertwined we remain even after the divorce, but it is clear we still need each other.

If I have one Sagittarius trait in spades it is positivism and energy to carry out those plans. But it’s also my weak point. If I put too much faith in my “win” attitude, the losses can set me back more deeply than if I had also been making contingency plans.

Onward.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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On the Turning Away: Fighting with Your Ex About Money

scorched earth husbandWe give and we give and we try to find ways to mend, and sometimes it is not enough. And while we are married we try to adapt. But after the vows are broken it can get ugly.

Today I am angry and I’m going to rant for a second.

I have some money in the bank, and I owe my ex-wife some back child support. BUT… I can’t pay her. I mean, technically I could, even though she’s asked me to deal with the Attorney General’s Office going forward, so there’s that. And I need to start paying her again, and I will.

Today I am saving my cash to pay the retainer on a lawyer rather than paying money to my ex for my kids. This sucks. I have tried everything but begging to get my ex to stop battering me with threats, but of course, now it’s too late, the paperwork has been filed, and shortly I’ll be on the AG’s list for back child support issues.

But it was never an issue of willingness. I have not been holding out, or hiding money from my ex. It’s the same crash landing advice we’ve been hearing on airplanes for years. The part about the seat cushion being a floatation device and the more relevant part, “put your mask on first and they help your child.”

You see, there’s this little matter of food and shelter that outweighs even the wrath of my ex-wife. And it wasn’t like I was trying to hide or be an asshole about it, I was being quite upfront about the problem as soon as I knew there might be a shortfall. But she no longer has to listen to me or take my side of the story as a partner, now I’m just the dead beat dad who’s not paying his child support.

I’ve never tried to hide my situation, or shirk my liabilities and responsibilities.

But wait. Again, this is a simplification of a very complex issue. When my business took a turn in May I began renewed efforts to find work, and even full-time employment, abandoning the business I’ve been building back up for the last three years.  And even though we didn’t use attorney’s to fight over the kids or the divorce, she’s now perfectly willing to call foul and throw me to the system for dead beat dads.

The good news is, talking to a family attorney, he assured me that the court would hear and understand my side of the story. And the goal of the court would be to make sure we had a plan in place to make her financially whole again before my daughter’s 18th birthday, when the child support obligations would need to be satisfied in full. WAIT. What did he say?

So while I’m about to put money into the pockets of the legal system rather than my ex-wife and children’s, there is some good news. In my case, it’s clear I have been trying to work out a deal with her. I even offered a full agreement of her accounting, including incidentals and miscellaneous if she would come to the table without having to hire attorneys. There was no reason not to, it’s how we settled our divorce.

But for some reason, she chose the quick out. “The AG’s office made me sign a letter that I would not negotiate with you on child support.”

So tonight, with money in the bank, I am still short on amassing the small fortune required for my attorney’s retainer. Fuck. That’s so wrong. That’s NOT where this money should go. EVER.

So tonight, a full flip of the bird to the ex-y who still refuses to negotiate in good faith and would rather pitch it to the state rather than talk to me. At least I like the guy who’s going to represent me. And did you know we’re likely not to see the courtroom for 3 – 6 months? More BS.

So to you, dear ex-y, there is no reason for this. You even admit that I’m not trying to hide money from you. But you’d rather pay attorney’s fees, and yes, you will probably require some representation of your own, than simply getting along with our lives as best as we can.

Request to other mom’s in similar situations. Make a note of who your former husband is and if they were honest and forthcoming while you were married to them, and when there are hardships sit down and talk things over. Because throwing things to the state, or the lawyers, especially if you have a willing ex-partner who is open to sharing and problem solving is stupid. And it makes parenting issues more difficult. How can I be flexible and loving when you ask for adjustments to the parenting plan, when you’re suing me in court?

And the money that I should be paying to you, right now, tonight, I’m saving for a legal retainer.

Again, I know there are couples who find themselves in this situation for real, where attorney’s are the only way to go. But I’ve never tried to hide my situation, or shirk my liabilities and responsibilities. Not now, just as I was when we were married. So why now? What’s got the bee in your bonnet now? Didn’t you get the SPO just like you wanted. The house, just like you wanted. Even the amount of the child support, just like you wanted?

Well, squeezing me out of my house and home is not a viable solution and now I’m going to fight back. And the money that I should be paying to you, right now, tonight, I’m saving for a legal retainer. AGAIN, not to fight the amount, or the obligation but simply to slow down the court system you activated from making my financial recovery (and thus YOUR FINANCIAL RECOVERY) more difficult.

You CAN sue your ex and ask for a weekend swap in the same breath, but is sure sucks, for all of us.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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I Am Failing In One Critical Area Of Life

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

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

Spiritual Health
Mental Health
Physical Health
Financial Health

And I was like… Uh oh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her email tonight put the relationship in starker terms.

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

Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Making a Will As a Single Parent: Sooner Rather Than Later

Love or Money - making a will

(this is a guest post)

Making a will is not always high on people’s agendas. With so much going on in our daily lives, thinking about the future is not something we tend to do – but it should be, especially if you’re a single parent.

For those who are not with their partner, for whatever reason, decisions over who will care for your children when you’re no longer around is a real concern and it’s vital that you take the time to work out what it is you want.

Why make a Will?

Making a Will is one of the only ways to guarantee that your affairs will be handled how you want them to be following your death. This not only applies to who will inherit your personal possessions and finances but also decides who will become responsible for looking after and raising your children.

As a single parent, the care of your child may not automatically default to their other parent. This means that it is wise to specify who you want to look after your children in your Will. You’ll need to discuss this with the individual first to ensure it is a responsibility they are willing to take on and you need only do it if you’re children are still classed as dependents (are under 18 years of age or suffer from a disability or have special needs which make them more reliant to adults).

Why do it now?

By putting off making a Will you could be putting yourself and your children at unnecessary risk. Situations can change at anytime and no one knows what the future holds in regards to their life and time of death. If you fail to appoint a guardian for your children then serious complications could be encountered following your death.

Dealing with the loss of a parent is hard enough for any child but where they like in a single parent home it can be even more traumatic. Adding the stress of uncertainty concerning their living arrangements and guardianship onto this could therefore have drastic ramifications. By drawing a Will you will be protecting them from this heartache.

Making a will is both easy and inexpensive so you needn’t worry about being stung with expensive costs. If you already have a Will then you may not even need to draw a new one but may be able to make legally recognized amendments known as codicils.

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Flat Out Broke: Money Survival Basics After Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My decisions revolved around a few things.

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

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

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

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

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

Hi Ho, Hi Ho!

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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

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Doing Well Is the Best Revenge; Should Be Served Cold

muting my ex-wife's calls on my cell phoneMoney played a much bigger role in my marriage than I’d like to admit. And now, divorced, the relationship between my ex-y and money is about the same. With one big difference. I can ignore my ex-y when she’s going on about money. We’ve got a contract now. And if it’s written, then I don’t need to keep negotiating when, how, if, and the ever-present, “It would be nice if…”

Nope, as easy as pushing mute on my phone when it’s ringing.

She’s really no easier now than she was. There’s still this urgent need to know exactly when and how much. As if a day or a hundred dollars is going to make a huge difference to anybody but her.

Yes, I’m a bit more laid back about money. And, confession, I’m slightly behind on the health care part of the payments. But things are just about to change. My consulting business just booked two new clients that are going to take me to about 120% of capacity.

The good news is, I can do the extra 20% now, because I don’t have my kids for most of the weekday nights. So, dear ex-y I’m going to catch up. I’ve told you I would as soon as I had a good book of business. And that’s true.

The part that’s fun about it… (Poignant, rather than fun.) The fun part is that money is about to get much easier for me. And that’s good, I’m middle-aged. And while I’ve just killed my entire retirement account, to keep up with the child support payments, I’m going to rebuild stronger and bigger than ever before. So I will wave at your working-your-ass-off self, the one who decided to split up the 11-year partnership we’d formed. And I have the awareness at this point that I was trying to grow a more sane business model for both of US. Now you are out of that equation. I hope you find what you are looking for.

I’m looking forward to being a solid provider again. And the ex-y will get what’s coming to her, to the letter of the law. But the partnership could’ve produced some great opportunities and cushion. Oh well. On to what’s next.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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