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

Posts tagged “money trouble

When Will I Get Over My Divorce?

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This is really a continuation of my rant that began here: Money is a Bitch After Divorce

Divorce changes everything. And what I thought were immutable agreements were immediately called into question.

As rants go, I think mine a pretty tame. It’s not because I don’t have access to my anger and vitriol. It’s more because I’ve been tempering my temper for so long, I’ve sort of internalized a lot of the anger. Maybe that’s what’s making me fat again. Or maybe it’s the stress of working a job and getting less than 50% of my take home pay. (Wait, I thought there was a clause in my decree that… Oh wait, with two kids they can take up to 60% of your take home pay.)

Money

When you have kids together you enter a pact. For better or for worse you are going to do whatever it takes to make their lives easier. In our case we agreed to split the chores of parenting 50/50 (as much as that is possible). And we agreed that I would continue to work full-time while she took the time she needed to parent, nurture, and do the mom-thing. It was how we saw the world together as parents. Or should I say, as married parents.

Divorce changes everything. And what I thought were immutable agreements were immediately called into question. In our case the idea of a 50/50 divorce was tossed out the window like a novel idea. Perhaps back in 2010 it was. And in the process, I agreed to a non-custodial, SPO (standard possession order), child support package. The problem was, my job had just ended, and while I was in some late stage negotiations with a company, after the decree was filed, the job fell through. So we calculated my child support amount on the potential job that fell through. It actually took me an additional four months to find full employment. And for each of those months I was still on the hook for the full amount.

And over the last five years, I’ve had various employment statuses. It’s sort of the nature of this unstable employment market. But the amount of child support I agreed to, back when I was blinded by the sadness of the proceedings and wanting to find the path of least resistance to get out, stayed the same. Today I still end up paying my ex-wife on behalf of my kids, about 2,300 a month. (1,200 in child support, 1,100 in health insurance) To be fair that insurance money doesn’t go to her, but the number represents my contractual obligation and my current employer does not provide insurance. Here’s how that works out in real dollars earned.

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 4.37.03 AM

So let’s see, I need a $36,000 pay check just to pay my child support and insurance? (I pay the taxes on the money before I pay her. And I don’t get a deduction.) That’s a lot of work. And if I want to provide for any kind of shelter or amenities for myself and my kids when they are with me… Well, obviously I’ve got to work a lot harder.

Time with my kids is the main loss of the divorce. As they both enter the teens I see their attention moving towards friends and dates and sleep overs.

And this sucks. I understand the idea behind it. And I also understand that I have to lawyer up to make a change to this amount. So, at this point, I’ve chosen to let the decree and this financial obligation to remain. “It’s for my kids,” I say to myself when I receive my portion of my salary.

When am I going to be over my divorce? Um, in about 5+ more years, when my second child turns 18.

Time

For this imbalance in money obligations I also get an imbalance in time with my kids. And if I try and see this as a benefit I can understand how dads began to get the reputation for being uncaring and stoic. I’ve had to stoic-up a bunch to make it though the extended weeks without my kids. And some weeks are better than others. Some weeks I can even imagine that I’m paying my ex-wife for services rendered as a child care provider. That’s funny for a minute. And then the next emaciated paycheck arrives.

Time with my kids is the main loss of the divorce. As they both enter the teens I see their attention moving towards friends and dates and sleep overs. The real time lost was when they were 7 and 9. Those were the years when they could’ve (I could’ve) used more closeness, more masculine nurturing, more dad. But that’s not how it worked out. And today, I’m resolved that I’m doing the best I can with the time I do have. Again, that’s the decree, that’s the way the State of Texas tends to divide the baby, so to speak. Moms are the nurturers and dads are the bread winners. I hope this continues to be challenged as a hurtful stereotype that does an in justice to the dads and the kids.

Anger

I think the real measure of being “over it” for me is how much anger I still have towards my ex-wife.

Today: not much.
Tomorrow: who knows, but she still pulls dramatic somersaults that can trigger me, so I’m not done.

I think for me, getting over the injustice of the divorce system and the divorce decree I signed was the biggest part. Well, okay, getting over her turning our affairs in to the AG’s office for collections was pretty bad too. (She knew I was unemployed and trying to save my house, but oh well…) Yep, I even have to get over that past “fk you” to move on with my life.

Do I get to leave it all behind like I did with my first crazy wife? No. With my kids involved my ex-wife is part of my life for the duration. Yes, I’ve heard of people truly walking away after their kids leave for college, but I’m pretty sure in this economy we’ll be dealing with each other and negotiating about money for a lot longer.

Can I maintain a civil relationship with the mother of my children? And can I see the bright eyes and hearts of my kids as the indication of a job well done?

I smile at the thought that our negotiations about money might move to a more equitable and fair percentage. And I wish there were some way for me to share with my ex-wife the feeling of futility and hopelessness that comes from landing a new job and learning that even with this new title, new salary, and new health benefits, I can’t afford an apartment or get a loan for a used car. Oh, but that has a lot to do with the AG’s office.

Am I still mad at my ex-wife?

Most of the time no. On payday, just a tiny bit. On some dramatic outburst about something, a bit more. On the AG’s office, well yes, that one I may not ever be able to forgive her for.

But I don’t let those feelings color my life much. They are still there, under the surface, if I’m honest with myself. But the degree to which the “divorce” stuff bothers me is very slight indeed. And for me that’s the main thing. Can I maintain a civil relationship with the mother of my children? And can I see the bright eyes and hearts of my kids as the indication of a job well done?

To those questions I must answer a resounding YES.

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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My Ex and Her Anger: Give Me a Bullet to Bite On

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It’s still hard for me to imagine that my ex-wife sent me into collections for child support. In some foreign state of mind she was doing the best she could. She claimed she was protecting the best interests of our children. But, wait…

Even as I try to make nice and stay positive with my co-parent, things are not easy.

I was not hiding. I was not lying about my current situation, but some how she was convinced that sending my file to the Attorney General’s Office was the right thing to do. Well, it’s seriously messed me up. And there was never any call for it. I told her what was happening when my company lost a significant client. I told her I would be late for a bit while I tried to catch up. I told her to be patient for a month and I would give her constant updates on the status of our new business pitches. I told her everything I could except when, exactly the next check was going to show up.

I’m not sure how we got to this point. I’m certain she had lost trust in me long before then, and this was the “issue” that kept coming up between us. My trustworthiness.

Somehow, we agreed to keep the kids out of our money troubles. I’m grateful for that. But the antagonistic and punitive actions she took were unnecessary, uncalled for, and will continue to do damage to my prospects for employment and housing long into the future.

Do you think she wanted me NOT to have a house? I don’t know. Do you think she was in danger of losing her house? No. So what’s the rationale for throwing your former partner under the legal bus? When we paid more money on our parenting plan than our legal divorce, we were agreeing to divorce compassionately. But somewhere along the road of surviving as co-parents, that compassion turned cold.

Again, I want you to know this was not a dead beat dad manuveur. I was not carping away from my financial responsibility. And I am NOT in any way trying to get out of paying. In fact, I’ve been paying 20% of every thing I make for a while now. It’s not enough. It’s not going to get me out of debt to the AG’s office. No, she’s gone and dinged my credit for the long haul. And today, when I was turned down for a RENTAL property, the credit issue about Child Support came on like a shameful curse. There was no discussion about the situation, just a big fat NO. Obviously, I was a dead beat dad. Why would anyone rent to someone so evil.

Except that’s not what happened. That’s not what’s happening. And even as I try to make nice and stay positive with my co-parent, things are not easy. And today, I had to simply shrug my shoulders as the realtor relayed the news. There’s absolutely nothing I can do at the moment that I’m not already doing.

See, to support yourself and make hefty child support payments to your ex, you need to have a pretty substantial job. Freelance, self-employment won’t cut it. Since the divorce took all of my nest egg with it, I have no cushion. So even when I felt like I was doing okay, even when I was caught up, I was scraping pretty close to the bottom of the available cash flow. And one change, put me under water.

Had she been civil, had she remembered who it was she married, she would’ve been able to see I was not lying. She should’ve been able to understand that I was desperately trying to keep a roof over my head, and when they were with me, my kid’s heads. But she didn’t care about that. I can’t imagine the thought process. I can’t imagine taking such a horrible swing at her for any reason. Infidelity, lying, cheating, nothing could cause me enough pain to strike such a hurtful blow at my former spouse.

She was tired. I didn’t do enough to help. And there wasn’t enough money for us to continue the way we were going. Always.

But her mind doesn’t work the same way as mine. And even before we divorced, she had been withdrawing emotionally and physically from me. She had stopped hearing my love songs. (I was still writing them at the end.) She had stopped recognizing my efforts. Sure she decided to break up the family rather than work on what what separating us, but even that was forgivable. It’s okay that we’re not married any more. And I do still hope she is happy in her new relationship.

She wasn’t at risk of losing her house. She didn’t have to strip her retirement account of all funds. She might have wanted more stuff, and more security, and more leisure time, but that was one of her constant choruses. That was always the issue. She was tired. I didn’t do enough to help. And there wasn’t enough money for us to continue the way we were going. Always.

Always as it is and shall ever be. So at some point that disconnection turned into anger. And at the first sign of blood she went in for the kill, rather than remembering that I was also the father of our children.

There was an amazing moment, when things were just beginning to get frosty between during the first month I was late with my child support payments. In an email she said, “Some how you think your bills and expenses are more important than the expenses and bills of your children.”

I counted that I was just trying to keep a roof over our heads. I shared my progress on job hunting and client hunting. But she hadn’t ever been very trusting about future plans, future hopes, future promises. So something clicked over for her, something inside her changed and she no longer saw me as a co-parent. She wanted her money. She needed her money. And if I wasn’t earning the money, maybe she’d give me some incentive.

Except that’s not how it works. I was incentivized. I was struggling and ashamed of my flailing career. I knew I would get back up. I knew I would get caught up on all of the money she was entitled to. But she didn’t know it. And she didn’t believe it. Somewhere, somehow she imagined that I was going to try and skip out on my debt and responsibility to my kids? WHAT?

I’m working hard to keep her in my prayers and well wishes, but it’s all I know how to do. Any action that hurts my ex-wife immediately hurts my children.

There is no way she could believe that. I kept asking her if she was getting prodded by her father to enforce the decree and turn me into the authorities. She flatly denied it. And yet she kept threatening, and by the end of the 2nd month, I suppose she’d waited long enough. She would no longer meet with me face to face about anything. She was shutting me out emotionally and physically. (She’d actually been building up to that for some time.) And somehow she must not have understood the ramifications of her actions. Because if she did actually understand that her angry slap was going to cause me to lose my house, cause me to lose several job opportunities, and now, even at the dawn of my new job, cause me to lose a rental house for me and my kids. Can I imagine actually doing something so damaging to my ex-wife? Never. In fact, just the opposite. I strive to keep 100% of my anger out of our parenting agreements.

Even now, even as her AG-move has caused me untold grief, I’m merely writing about it here in my anonymous blog. I’m working hard to keep her in my prayers and well wishes, but it’s all I know how to do. Any action that hurts my ex-wife immediately hurts my children. We are all deeply connected.

She is still unable to to see that. Even now, her actions do not show gratitude, they demonstrate her anger. Something about the entitlement to the money, the house, the good life. I don’t know. But she seems satisfied in her justification for everything. There’s no sense talking about it. Why poke the bear? Except I’m still getting poked, caged, and wounded over something that should’ve been collaborative and cooperative, like our divorce.

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

divorce - child support

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

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

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

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

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

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

I understand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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I 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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Stay At Home Mom: A Dream Unfulfilled

mother staying at home
I wanted my wife to be able to attend school functions, meet the bus after school, provide the stay-at-home lifestyle that was so common in our neighborhood. And for the first 5 years it was almost so. I went off to work with the expectations that she could provide a nurturing landing pad for them in and around school activities.

We lived in an upper-middle class neighborhood with plenty of affluent families who could afford the one-income lifestyle. And again, we were close. But for some portions of that time she was a part-time working mom. Booking any where from 10 – 20 hours a week.

We could’ve lived across town. We could’ve decided that our time with our kids was more important than the great schools we were affording them. But we didn’t. I soldiered on with my big job with big benefits while she went to mid-morning events at the school, and chummed up with the other less-than-full-time moms. And perhaps that was a sore spot for her too. We were surrounded by couples that had made it. Our’s was a different path.

And she was much better at school events. She handled proctoring the table of first-graders much better than I did. She was never short of ideas for kid-friendly activities. She never passed up a kid’s request, “Can we paint?” It was one of her gifts. She was fearless with the kids.

So it was a slightly dogged dad that I had become trying to support this selective imbalance. And for the most part I was fully on-board and supportive and happy that she had the extra time to be with the kids. But there was a sadness too.

I was sad somewhere deep inside, about not being able to provide as well as my dad did, making the nice home, nice neighborhood, nice stay-at-home wife. And sometimes when I would visit the school in place of my wife, I would feel guilty, like SHE was supposed to be there not me. And somehow it was my fault that she was having to work and I was filling in.

But the reality is this: I deserve time with my kids as much as she does. I gave up my ability to proctor classroom activities for a shot at allowing her to be there. There are plenty of families in our school district who have two working parents. And we had certainly achieved an agreeable fit. At least that’s what I felt about it.

Today I visited my daughter at school for lunch. She didn’t know I was coming. I didn’t really plan it out, I just looked at the schedule and noticed that her lunch was at 12:4o and off I went. She was delighted to see me. She proudly quizzed me about her friends names and laughed with them as I couldn’t remember any of them. And we sat and chatted with the group while she ate.

Looking around the cafeteria there was one other man in the room. I was in the realm of women and children. But the sad tone did not creep into my thoughts. I was happy to have the time to visit, I was happy my daughter was doing well with the divorce, and I was happy to be able to know that the value I provided was over and above any income bracket or nice house. What I provide for my daughter is a solid male example.

I left before the lunch was completely over. The table was getting excited at the anticipation of going out for recess. I high-fived my daughter and said, “I’ll see you after the bus today, at your mom’s house.” I was picking up my son and my daughter was choosing to stay at home with the very cool babysitter. And we were happy with the arrangement.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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