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

Posts tagged “standard possession order

The Complaining Never Ends, Even After Divorce

OFF-2016-wife

Yesterday my ex-wife texted me about my son’s phone. She’s still got the kids for 4 more days, and I knew the repair was about $80 bucks, so I asked her why she thought it was necessary to give this task to me? I mean, they spend an exorbitant amount of time at the mall, a simple drop-off and pick-up while they were shopping…

I asked, “Why are you giving this to me?”

My ex-wife, even when she was my wife, is rarely happy with how things are. She used to always complain that she was the only one who cared about the house, who paid bills, who took the kids to doctor’s appointments.

Then came the extraordinary reply that went into her health, her schedule, her work, and how if she “ever asked” me for anything it was with great effort. Um, yeah, I don’t think so. She asks for other’s to do her “work” all the time.

Am I enjoying some of my ex-wife’s exhaustion too much? Hmm. Good question. Am I withholding support of my kids in order to punish her? No way. So she’d like me to handle this mundane chore while the kids are with her? What? I just didn’t get it. Then in a conversation with another parent, not divorced, I said, “You could be dealing with the exact same shit as a divorced parent. It doesn’t stop.”

And that’s when it hit me. My ex-wife, even when she was my wife, is rarely happy with how things are. She used to always complain that she was the only one who cared about the house, who paid bills, who took the kids to doctor’s appointments. And this is when she was either not working or working 10 – 15 hours a week. Yeah, she was right. There was an imbalance, but it was never enough, no matter how much I pitched in.

And there is one tiny bit of poetic justice here.

At the beginning of our divorce I was asking for 50/50 parenting. I was thinking about the kids and not the child support. And I was denied my request for a number of reasons.

  1. She was the primary caregiver.
  2. The kids needed their mother more than their father.
  3. She was the more responsible parent (keeping track of doctor’s appointments and kid’s school assignments)
  4. (the big one) If we went to court this is what she would get.

So in the heat of that discussion, I was railroaded into giving up my dreams of being a 50/50 parent. I was told what I was going to get and I accepted their verdict. But I did not agree with 1, 2, or 3 at all. It simply was not true.

What was true is she got the house, a nice child support payment, and 2/3 of the kid’s time. It was a trade-off, I guess. For the money she was given, she would also provide for most of the child care and extracurricular activities. That’s just how it broke down. And this is when our kids were 6 and 8.

Now our kids are 13 and 15 and she’d like A LOT more help with all the parenting duties. That’s understandable. But, it’s not what we agreed to. So perhaps the non-custodial role has some benefit later in the divorce. Perhaps my reward, or my consolation prize (because I would’ve preferred having the kids with me 50% of the time) is that now she also has most of the extracurricular duties as well.

What I can do is be the best dad I can be given the time I have. And I don’t rub the situation in on my ex-wife, though I chuckle a little every time these complaints get filed on me.

Let me be clear. She was not the primary caregiver. We split that down the middle. From diaper changes, to nighttime feedings, to cleaning up around the house. And I do not agree that mom’s are more necessary for the kids. I believe dad’s get the shit end of the deal in traditional divorce. I think if you parented 50/50 you should divorce 50/50. And finally, she was not the most responsible parent, we had divided some of the parenting duties up, and scheduling was one of hers.

My ex-wife complained when we were married. And now that we’ve been divorced over 6 years she’s still complaining. And while I hear her requests, I also hear her asking for a more 50/50 parenting arrangement, something she denied me. Is it bad that I’m holding back on this? I don’t think so.

Today, with teenagers, I’m not so sure I want 50/50 parenting. Had I been given the same consideration when they were younger, I might think differently today. But I’m getting enough of my kids, at the moment. Sure, I miss them when they are away, but I can’t ever get back their early years. I can’t make up for lost time.

What I can do is be the best dad I can be given the time I have. And I don’t rub the situation in on my ex-wife, though I chuckle a little every time these complaints get filed on me. We’re no longer married. You no longer have my undivided attention for such things as “being tired.”

I love my kids and I still love my ex-wife for being such a good mother. But she’s still the custodial parent, and with that comes a salary and additional responsibilities. That’s what she asked for, that’s what she gets, even today.

Respectfully,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

< back to The Hard Stuff posts

related posts:

image: still from Mad Men, creative commons usage


The Long Tail of Parenting and Custody After Divorce

OFF-2016-NYC

At the time of my divorce my ex wanted primary custody. I wanted joint custody. She wanted the majority of the children’s time. I wanted 50/50. In my understanding of parenting and what my kids needed, I was certain that our roles were equally important. For some reason, probably financial, she did not agree. And in our fair state of Texas she was awarded the custody just as she knew she would be.

It’s interesting today, that my now-ex is much more interested in arranging a 50/50 schedule. She complains how exhausted she is from running the kids to all their activities as a single parent.

So, for the last seven years from the time my daughter was six and my son was eight, she’s had the responsibility and pleasure of parenting my kids two hours for every one hour I get. Back in the early months and years of the divorce this was devastating. I never got enough time with my kids. I longed for them twice as often and twice as long as she did. And in those tender years our kids really needed both of us. My son needed his dad more than he was getting him. My daughter craved my hugs and happy lifestyle. But that’s the way the divorce went down.

It’s interesting today, that my now-ex is much more interested in arranging a 50/50 schedule. She complains how exhausted she is from running the kids to all their activities as a single parent. Well, she is engaged, but it’s a separate house, separate living quarters kid of engagement. And I imagine she is not lying when she says it’s hard.

And there is a part of me that still misses my kids during the 2-for-1 hours they are with her. But today, as teenagers, the quality and type of relationship with your kids is very different. Back then I wanted to teach my son to ride a bike, I wanted to take my daughter fishing more, I wanted to expand their horizons and let them see and be with their happy father. I didn’t get as much of an opportunity to do that. But back then it was a different type of parenting.

Today, as teenagers, my kids are even more interesting and self-driven, but they are also a lot more work. Most of the parenting activity in the teen years is driving them from place to place, waiting for them and their friends to get ready, and feeding and clothing them. It’s not as rewarding. It’s still engaging and important, but the “kid years” are really the golden age of parenting and attachment parenting specifically.

What I am able to give my kids now, in the reduced-dad role I was given, is a happy, energetic and always positive parent.

My life is also very different. A bit over a year ago I started dating a woman who quickly captured my heart and imagination for the future. Today we are happily engaged and living together in a modest house that has two rooms in the back for my kids. And I relish every hour I have with them. But I don’t necessarily want more carpool and cafeteria shifts. That’s the hard work, low return, parenting duty that makes up the majority of parenting teenagers.

What I am able to give my kids now, in the reduced-dad role I was given, is a happy, energetic and always positive parent. I am more than happy to carpool them. I thrive and excel at making them breakfast before school and getting them to their appointments on-time. It’s not a chore, it’s a pleasure. I’m guessing, my overwhelmed ex is asking for 50/50 parenting now because the mundane teen years are harder and less interactive than before.

So I lost the golden years of parenting. My son is a bit less masculine at times and he still doesn’t know how to ride a bike. He doesn’t want to learn, either. That’s okay. We have the relationship we have as a result of those years of absence. All those years where their mom tried to fill in the dad blanks. But I was not there. And I was given that share of the parenting duties by her selfishness and greed.

I’d love more time with my kids. But… I am okay with the time I have with my teenagers. In the time I do have with them I know I am the best dad they could ever have. And they are not begging to go 50/50 or anything. Why would they want things any different? It’s my ex that wants the change and today, unfortunately for her, she’s got the Standard Possession Order (SPO) she argued for and won. She’s got the kids about 2 hours for every 1 of mine.

Today, in the long tail days of parenting, it makes me smile. I’m still missing my kids just as much as I was as a newly divorced dad, but I’m missing a different role. I can’t get back that early dad role. They are grown and growing now and have different needs. There are different ways I can be an influence on their lives. And one of my greatest gifts is showing them how to live a happy and fulfilling life.

Now, I need to go wake one of my teenagers up so we can have breakfast together and talk about the world.

Respectfully,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

< back to Single Parenting

related posts:

image: my crew, nyc, spring break, the author, creative commons usage


The Game of Divorce

OFF-2016-chess

If divorce was a game would you be so competitive with your spouse to WIN? Are there limits to which you would not stoop? Like damaging their livelihood? Burdening them with so much debt and payments that they can’t afford a place to live and thus a place to have the kids on their alternating weekends? What’s the fair limit between partners who just want to split amicably? Is that even possible?

Let’s look at the game board and the moves you decide on.

First Move: 50/50 parenting or something else?
If something else, why? Is the other parent worse than you at some critical task? Would you feel more sad if you had your kids less time? Is it about you or the kids?

I was going with the instinct that we had been lovers, parents, and now even in parting we were going to do what was best for BOTH of us. I did not have the same killer instinct my soon-to-be-ex-wife had.

Second Move: Keep the house or sell it?
The kids should be able to stay in their home through this trying time. Sure, that’s a good premise, but if keeping the home pushes the financial picture out of balance, what can we use to make things fair? Retirement savings? Okay, but do you realize those will require a 25% penalty if they are withdrawn early?

Third Move: Joint Custody or Non-Custodial/Custodial Parent Roles?
If not joint, then why? What makes your decisions carry more weight then your former partner’s? Or is this one just about the money?

Fourth Move: Child Support?
Shouldn’t the parent that makes the most money help offset some of the expenses of raising the children when they are with the other parent? Oh wait, what if the other parent wants 50/50 parenting, what’s the financial split then? Can you base the child support on BOTH incomes and not attach it to the dad every single time? That might be more fair.

But again, this isn’t about fair at this point. Divorce is about winning.

Fifth Move: Insurance for the kids?
Who pays for the kids to be insured? Somebody’s got to be the responsible party? How about the parent that already had the child support payments? Why not give them an additional financial burden? And if they lose their job, what’s the plan then? Oh perhaps you can turn the whole thing into the AG’s office for enforcement.

So in the GAME OF DIVORCE I was unaware of the real consequences of all 5 moves. I was going with the instinct that we had been lovers, parents, and now even in parting we were going to do what was best for BOTH of us. I did not have the same killer instinct my soon-to-be-ex-wife had.

This game is rigged and the courts know it, the wives know it, and the divorce attorney’s who’d rather represent the moms, know it.

In 80% of the family court cases the man loses every single move. Unless you are prepared to go to court and spend some money, get ready for the Game of Divorce to hand you a very lopsided playing card. You don’t even get a say in the outcome. Here’s what you’ve lost:

  1. SPO (Standard Possession Order) works out to about 35% custody. She’s getting them almost twice as many hours as you are.
  2. Custody sets child support and in Texas the fee is pretty much set at around $500+ per kid.
  3. Insurance responsibility settles on the non-custodial parent as well. Just to keep things simple, one party owes money and services, the other party receives money and services.
  4. The home will go with the mom, 80% of the time, because the kids usually go with her, and there is case history that shows the kids should be disturbed as little as possible at this difficult time. What about the dad’s disturbance?
  5. The Attorney General’s Office does not represent you, they represent the Custodial Parent. Listen to their voice-tree navigation system. “If you are the custodial parent, press one.” All others, be prepared to HOLD.

I lost the Game of Divorce in a big way. Not because I didn’t play. And not because I didn’t ask for what I thought was “in the best interest of the kids” and FAIR. I lost because that’s the way the game is stacked against the fathers today. The financial hardships often cause newly divorced dads to live in crappy apartments while struggling to make the money to pay their ex-wives so that they are allowed to see their kids.

I’m not a men’s right’s activist, but am a DADS LIVES MATTER advocate. This game is rigged and the courts know it, the wives know it, and the divorce attorney’s who’d rather represent the moms, know it. But that’s not the way it should be.

Respectfully,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

This post continues with: Not Winning At Divorce

< back to The Hard Stuff posts

related posts:

image: it’s good to be the king, creative commons usage


Giving the Blunt Mom Her Due

OFF-ave

 

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.

AG-blur-fin

How quaint. Keeping the hobble on your ex-husband horse is a good idea. Because…

Dad’s 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.

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.

WAIT!

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.

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 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

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 6.25.23 AM

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.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

< back to The Hard Stuff posts

related posts:

reference: Mommy is a Goddamn Saint – Blunt Moms

image: ave maria, creative commons usage


Trusting Your Unreliable Ex

OFF-stones

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.

She’s tired of having the majority of the school morning parenting. It’s hard. I get it. She’d like a break.

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.

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 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
@theoffparent

back to The Hard Stuff

related posts:

image: our stones, rebecca partington, creative commons usage


Love, War, Divorce: Why I’m Not Fighting My Ex-Wife About Custody

OFF-dance-d

[This post is a continuation of a discussion started here: Divorce is Not About What’s Fair, Let’s Get That Straight]

My dad was fighting my mom in their divorce. And he was fighting to win. I’m not sure it was all about me, but that’s what the courts were involved in. My dad was going for blood. He wanted my mom to have very little of his ample estate, and he wanted me, the only minor in the family at the time. And in those days, in that circumstance, I am grateful that my dad did not WIN. I am grateful that laws and judges were in place, to protect my mom and me from my dad’s wrath. He was angry, bitter, and vindictive.

When he married his new wife, my only step-mom, before his divorce was even final, I’m sure the consequences could’ve been dire, had my mom had the money or resources to fight back. But she simply wanted out. And she wanted a way to provide shelter and food for her sole remaining minor child.

I am grateful to my ex-wife for having the job, so far, while I have struggled to find full-time work while continuing to do my best as a consultant while I’m looking.

In those days, the courts started with the assumption that the kids belonged with the mom and that the dad would provide for their maintenance and health, in accordance with the lifestyle they had become accustomed to. In my dad’s case, that was a pretty fancy lifestyle. And I think he was most angry about the money. Sure, he fought for me, but it was mainly to get back at my mom. (Of course this is all mythology by now, what really happened is up to interpretation.)

And yet my father fought and lost. It was not such a huge loss for him financially. ($500 a month in payments until I was 18.) And it wasn’t really about losing me either. I think my father’s anger and war was waged because of his hurt pride, his sadness, and his own depression around his failed marriage and how he had ultimately turned to alcohol as his mistress.

Today, I am guessing many of the divorce battles are similar. If you are in a contested divorce, you need to gear up for war. And if you spend any time on the web discussing divorce, it’s not long before the very sad stories emerge about how warring parents try to damage and hurt each other. This is a fact. I do not contest that there are really messy divorces and often they are driven by really angry men, who are madder than hell about having to pay the money to their damn ex-wives, who seem to be living in the continuing lap of luxury. I get that.

That is not how my divorce to the mother of my children went.

Divorce sucks. It’s expensive. It’s painful to all parties. And I would do anything to make things easier on my kids, and thus, my ex-wife.

And still, as I was negotiating, in good faith, with my soon-to-be-ex and a highly paid divorce counselor, I was fed the non-custodial and paying father option as if it was a given. And the real sore spot was, it was being presented as “what’s best for the children.” And the earliest disagreements in our split-counselling sessions were about who was the fittest or most “responsible” parent.

Again, these are heated moments. Emotional and hard to navigate without feeling attacked. And the counselor did a good job of helping us talk. And then she advised me to take the deal.

What?

“In the best interest of the children” was used a lot.

And I bucked for awhile. I brought in examples from books I was reading. I made a sample 50/50 calendar for consideration. And somehow, it was like I was not part of the deal. And when I confronted the counselor she was quick to point out, “if you went to court… blah blah blah.”

Of course that was the reality. But that wasn’t the reality of our parenting roles, nor the reality of what was best for the children. It’s hard to describe this without coming across as vindictive or angry. I’m not. But I’m concerned that most men are put in the same position. And in our case, we were negotiating a cooperative divorce, uncontested, and with both of us willing to forgo lawyers and fights. AND in this case, I was still given the “deal” of the non-custodial dad who pays a hefty child-support payment, regardless of my employment status.

We need to rethink what’s in the best interest of the children. If it’s not staying together and working on the marriage, then it might not be an assumed financial stipend for the mom who just wants out.

And I agreed to the deal. What could I do? Fight our counselor and my wife? And then head for court and fight again? I’m guessing this is the situation facing many dads who are wanting to do the right thing. And we get screwed for being the nice dad. Did I have to start with war to get a fair deal?

Now, four years into the divorced parent role, the child support payments have become a battering ram. If you know anything about the economy, you know that many folks are having a hard time finding a job, much less a job at their previous splendor. And I’d have to say I am grateful to my ex-wife for having the job, so far, while I have struggled to find full-time work while continuing to do my best as a consultant while I’m looking.

And there was no need for her to file against me and go to the Attorney General’s office to enforce the payments. THERE WAS NO NEED TO INVOLVE THE COURTS. But she did. Even while she’s had the good job, and she’s had the house and equity in the house, and she’s got the children a lot more than I do. It’s been hard.

Again, I’m not bitter, and I’m not trying to sue her to change the “deal” we made.

As a nice dad, I am working to find work at my old income level, a level that would allow me to support her and at least have an apartment of my own. As it turns out, I was forced to sell my divorce recovery home, due to some of the shenanigans of my ex-wife and her pursuit of the money. Even though the money was never at risk or even being contested.

I do get that she has bills, just like I do. And I do understand that the money for food, clothing, shelter, and health insurance are requirements for any parent to provide to their kids. And I do get that she’s been the “more responsible” one in being able to stay employed at this wildly competitive time. I bless her daily for her efforts in this.

And yet, I cannot earn enough to have a house? Where is dad supposed to live?

Divorce sucks. It’s expensive. It’s painful to all parties. And I would do anything to make things easier on my kids, and thus, my ex-wife. And this is why, I am NOT fighting for 50/50 custody. This is why I hired a lawyer only to protect my credit and did not take any action to change my child support payments, even though my earnings have been much less than our projected agreement.

But what are my options? Earn more money. Give up a healthy job and balanced lifestyle and return to the big corporate job? Or file for joint custody and let her fend for herself in the housing and credit markets just as I have for 4 years?

It’s not fair, it never was supposed to be fair. But we were supposed to be negotiating in good faith for what was “in the best interest of the children.” And today, in many cases, this is simply: mom gets the kids, dad pays. It’s the same starting point that my dad fought against as an angry and vindictive ex.

We need to rethink what’s in the best interest of the children. If it’s not staying together and working on the marriage, then it might not be an assumed financial stipend for the mom who just wants out. The greener grass has a history of child support payments to help pave the escape path and provide the ladder over the fence.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

< back to The Hard Stuff

related posts:

reference suggested by a reader: Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood – and Why It Matters

image: dancing couple, wikipedia, creative commons usage


Divorce is Not About What’s Fair, Let’s Get That Straight

OFF-mermaid

Let’s get something straight right off the bat. Divorce is not about being fair. It’s about following the law, and hopefully, doing what’s “in the best interest of the children.” But that’s not really the intent of the law either. The laws surrounding divorce and custody in Texas are in place to streamline the average divorce, and provide the mother with some support once the father is gone. Staying in a bad marriage just because of the money is a bad idea. But again, that doesn’t mean the law is fair.

Early on, when we I was finally convinced that divorce was the only option, I agreed to seeing a counselor who would help us build the perfect parenting plan for our kids. The idea was, that in cooperation, we could lessen the impact on the kids, be civil to each other in a difficult process, and go through the process of divorce as simply as possible. We were “kids first” in our approach to splitting up. All that was good.

Building the parenting plan, and the agreements we would abide by as parents was the most important part of the divorce for both of us. And the “impartial” therapist was there to help us work it out. So we paid a lot of money to her, rather than lawyers, to advise us in setting our kids up for success in the post-family world.

And then, somewhere along the way, during the process this statement came out of our counselor’s mouth.

“This is what the mom would get if this went to court. So we can start here.”

What about me? Well, that’s where the fairness ends. Because if I can’t make the full payment, at any time, my ex can file against me at the Attorney General’s office and wreak all kinds of havoc on my credit and career.

I had been heading towards 50/50 parenting or bust. I had made my case for how much care I had provided in the past, and how much care I was willing to provide as a single dad. Still the words from the therapist’s mouth were hard to swallow. She was saying, if we went to court, my ex-wife would get primary custody and the SPO, as they always did. Oh, and, “this is what’s in the best interest of the children.”

What?

I didn’t really know what all that meant, but I trusted the counselor and listened to her. It was not fair. But that’s what my ex would get if I fought her in the courts. I was confused, that’s why we were paying her all the money, because we were not going to go to court. We were using her to avoid court, and to come to an equitable arrangement as civil adults and caring parents, without fighting about it.

We were meeting weekly with her to determine what was best for our children in our case, not to abide by what the State of Texas generally did in the case of divorce. I was pissed, but I didn’t really have much support for my view. I had bought a few books about cooperative parenting, and suggested a 50/50 schedule that was recommended in one of them. This was the offer that was being shut down by our cooperative therapist with the approval and appreciation of my soon-to-be ex-wife.

Here’s what I am slowly learning.

  • 85% of divorces in Texas end up with the mom as the primary custodian. Dad’s are considered non-custodial parents as a default.
  • And most of those dads are then given the SPO, as what’s “in the best interest of the kids.” The SPO (Standard Possession Order) is the governing calendar for your time with your kids.
  • The SPO is not near 50/50, and the “month” in the summer is a joke to offset some of the inequity. But show me a dad who can take a month off in the summer to make up for time lost with his kids, and … Well, it’s just not realistic.
  • With the non-custodial role comes a big fine. In Texas someone is going to pay. And the non-custodial parent is saddled with a set fee, based on estimated income, that is defined by the state and enforced by the state. If you’re the non-custodial parent get ready to pay.

While 50/50 parenting is not uncommon, it is not the norm. And if that’s what you want (as I did) you should fight for it. In our case, I should not have had to FIGHT for it, that was why we were mediating and paying a counselor to help us determine what was best for our kids. What we got was a good parenting plan, with “if you go to court this is what she’s going to get.”

So using some abstract numbers for a second, let’s see what that non-custodial assumed fee (called child support) looks like.

Let’s say you have two kids. And for simplicity’s sake let’s say your mortgage on your house together is $2,000. When you divorce, you’re going to 1. give her the house for “the kids;” 2. pay her a monthly support fee for “the kids;” 3. pay for the kids health insurance; and then, if you can afford it, 4. figure out how to put a roof over your head too.

So let’s see. If together we were paying $2,000 for our house. And separate she’s going to pay $2,000 for the same house. But I’m then going to pay her $1,000 for child support, and $500 for health care for the kids, then in theory she’s paying $1,000 for the house, and if I can find a 3-bed-room apartment nearby for $2,000, then I’m paying $3,000 plus $500 just for living expenses. I mean, I do what what’s best for my kids, and I do want them to be able to keep the house, but…

What about me? Well, that’s where the fairness ends. Because if I can’t make the full payment, at any time, my ex can file against me at the Attorney General’s office and wreak all kinds of havoc on my credit and career. So to start, I’ve got to make $3,500 a month before I get to think about electricity, food, water, clothes for myself. Um, that’s not such a good deal.

So how could we have made this more fair? Well, to start we could have negotiated in good faith, rather than this “what she’s going to get” BS. That was a low blow, and I’m still a bit angry with the otherwise, stellar, counsellor.

As it turns out, I agreed to the non-custodial deal, and the SPO and the payments to my ex-wife. And as it turns out, the economy has beat my income stream into ever-changing levels. And when I began to get behind, even as I was explaining to my ex exactly what was happening, and that I was not trying to get out of paying 100% of what she was owed, even with all that good will, and “what’s in the best interest for the children” talk, my ex-wife filed on me for being two months behind on my child support.

The cascade of my financial collapse was pretty swift after that. While I had been able to buy a house (shelter for my kids) I was falling behind on my mortgage too. And since my great job evaporated, I had not been able to replace it. I was working as a consultant, but I wasn’t making enough to cover all my expenses (survival expenses, not travel, or new things, or extravagance) and make the $1,500 support and health care payments. I was confident I would get caught up, I was expressing that to my ex-wife, and for some reason she filed anyway. Not fair, I thought. But that’s not what it’s about.

The point is not that I owe her the money, or if she is entitled to the money. She is entitled to every dollar awarded to her through our agreement.

I had to sell the house to get caught back up on my debt to Wells Fargo. I had to hire a lawyer to protect me from my wife’s actions with the AG. And I’ve been struggling to find a new full-time gig, at a much higher salary, so I could pay for all of this AND a place for me to live, preferably with three bedrooms so we all have our own space.

But in the SPO world, there really isn’t much consideration for what I will do, how the dad will do if he struggles a bit. It’s good for the moms to be taken care of. And most of all it’s good for the kids to be provided for, without a lot of drama or fighting between the co-parents. But I was unceremoniously tossed out of my house, which I agreed to give her, and told to pay a whopping $1,500 fee to her, and THEN look for somewhere I could live. In an expensive city, with kids in an expensive school district, it was not a pretty story. And while I nearly made it, my few months of struggles were enough for my “friendly” ex-wife to basically use the State of Texas to sue me for her back child support.

I’m waiting today for the expected good news that I will be starting a new full-time gig shortly. One that should provide for my child support and even a place for me to live. If I can afford a three bedroom place to live, is yet to be seen. I’ve got my fingers crossed, and am still putting in applications elsewhere every day. And other than how it would affect my kids if I were homeless, I’m guessing my ex-wife could care less, unless it means the full child-support payments will resume immediately.

That’s the plan. I’m not sure it’s a fair plan, but that’s the plan.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

[Please note: This post is likely to draw a lot of heat from the single mom’s. The point is not that I owe her the money, or if she is entitled to the money. She is entitled to every dollar awarded to her through our agreement. And she will get every single dollar awarded to her, as I promised/promise her. The point is, had I known all my options, I might have fought for the 50/50 parenting plan I wanted.]

back to The Hard Stuff

related posts:

image: models dive 25 meters, bejamin von wong, creative commons usage


Every Other Saturday Night: Dating After Divorce

OFF-dating-devil

If you’ve got kids and you are divorced you’re most likely on an every-other weekend schedule like me. While it affords plenty of opportunities for self-improvement and creative endeavors, it’s hell on dating. AND if your “date” is also divorced with children, chances are their schedule is exactly opposite from yours, if they’re on the SPO prescribed by the state and enforced on 80% of Texas men, for example.

Okay, so you’ve got approximately two weekends a month to do as you please.

TIME is what we need to figure out how compatible we are. TIME is what it takes, for me, to understand adoration and appreciation, apart from the drive to have SEX or be in a relationship.

In trying to move a  significant love interest forward (I’d place the remaining woman with potential in this category) it is hard not to press for some commitment. Some indication that we are in a relationship. We’ve snuggled. We’ve hugged goodbye and had the occasional closed-mouth kiss. And then we’re off to the static silence that is the rest of the week in a busy single-parent’s life. She has a 16 year-old daughter, and that entails a lot. AND… of course we are both hyper-committed parents. For me that runs a staggered schedule, for her, with the father no longer in the picture, it’s 24/7 mothering.

So rather than asking for some sign, I’m looking at the time. There is not much time to be together. And the joining takes effort and intentionality on both of our parts to make it happen. Why do I need some profession, some major milestone (a passionate kiss, lovemaking) to confirm our relationship? Do I? It might just be my longing and desire for those things, rather than some insecurity.

In terms of my available weekend nights, this summer, I have two Saturday nights a month. (I take my kids THU/FRI during summer vacation.) And now, with a little imagination, I can establish “dates” on those two nights and make the most of what is available.

I kept thinking, “Well, she’s really busy.” But it’s ME that has the time. And for real relaxed socialization, the weekend offers the most return. So Saturdays it is. Every other Saturday.

That’s not a lot of time to get time together. And today, at this moment, I’m okay with that. I admit to getting restless and desirous and checking my OKCupid profile for any “visitors” who might look interesting. BUT, in general, I think this developing story serves me well.

  1. I am busily working on my creative craft (writing, journaling, playing music)
  2. I am reinvigorated in my fitness and slimming quest
  3. I have an engine of passion and longing in imagining “being” with her (and this serves the love poem, and love song output quite well)
  4. And with things still being OPEN, I have flexibility and opportunity to explore whatever whims happen to arrive

TIME is what we need to figure out how compatible we are. TIME is what it takes, for me, to understand adoration and appreciation, apart from the drive to have SEX or be in a relationship. I want those things. BUT, I’m clear that my mistakes of the past will not foreshadow my next relationship commitment.

I can use every ounce of energy to improve MYSELF and MY VISION, and continue to dig into the wacky meanderings of my mind and my past/future mistakes. Most of all, I can stay present.

When I jump in, this next time, I intend to jump in feet first. Both times I fell head-first in love and married some of the fundamental parts of the relationship mismatch had not been revealed. (Of course, with hindsight I can imagine I would’ve seen them, but I was blind with passionate love.)

It’s enough right now to know someone is out there, someone I aspire to, someone I adore and appreciate for herself, AT THIS VERY MOMENT, without ever having passionately kissed. (I can say this, today, tomorrow might be a different tune.) She is showing me what ADORATION looks like when it grows and moves slowly.

Sure, I’d really like for a woman to take a shine to me and light up like a Christmas tree. And maybe that will happen, maybe this pause, and calm/steady snuggle artist is just what I need to prepare me for what’s next.

And I can use every ounce of energy to improve MYSELF and MY VISION, and continue to dig into the wacky meanderings of my mind and my past/future mistakes. Most of all, I can stay present.

All of this self-examination is fine if we don’t ruminate on the past or future. I feel, today, as if this writing has allowed me to shed the pain and disfunction of my divorce and explore my life as a happy single person, again. And GF #1 showed me that I know how to be open, honest, and truthful in relationships. She showed the way to what’s next. It is my job to stay present, and not rush into anything (for any reason) unhealthy. TIME is my most valuable currency. When planning my two Saturday nights, I’d be wise to choose with intention.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

< back to On Dating Again index

related posts:

resources:

image: me, nick, and marie, richard riley, creative commons usage


Single Parenting Magic – The SPO Has Given a Happy Moment

July 2012 the SPO delivers a "fifth" weekend

One. Three. Five.

Do those numbers sound familiar? In the SPO (standard possession order) those are the weekends the typical dad gets his kids. The first, the third, and the ever so lucky fifth. So this year we have Christmas in July. For some great turn of the calendar, this coming weekend is a magic “fifth.” And what that does, if you don’t know, is set up the double-weekend.

So I’m not saying she’s not being a good mother, but I do think our priorities are different. In some ways she WAS ahead of me in the entire divorce process. She would say it wasn’t premeditated, but she was closing down our communication channels for several years as she distanced herself from intimacy with me. It wasn’t hard. I was compliant. I took care of myself. But in doing so, I lost the heart of why I was in a relationship. It’s more clear now that I don’t have it, but I was desperate to stay connected. When that wasn’t offered, I was desperate to stay together until things got better. (Um, yeah. That’s a bad equation. NOTE: The other person is NOT going to change. They “might,” it’s possible, but it’s like waiting for the alcoholic to stop drinking. There’s always wishing and hoping and planning and doing better… And then there’s the slip or exit.)

Drop off and pick up can change the tenor of my entire week. Going by our old house was almost unbearable for the first year and a half.

So within weeks of the finalization of our divorce she was leaving the kids with a sitter to have sex with a repair man in another city. Oh boy! Yes, the word REBOUND came screaming up at me when I heard about it. And in my divorce recovery class, it was the only solace I had. Yes, she was already having sex with someone else. BUT HEY, it was a definite “rebound.” Fuck that. In many ways she had moved on and was all ready to GET IT ON with someone else. I have to say, “I get it.” But I was a little more calculated in my decisions, or maybe I was just so far behind in understanding emotionally what was happening.

The loss of the kids, the unlimited time with your kids, is the hardest thing. Well, that’s AFTER you get over the fact that this person has decided to bet against you. And suddenly you are left alone (and in my case homeless) to fend for yourself. And on all those nights that she has the kids for consecutive nights, you will learn to lick your wounds and get back up on your feet. Yes, it’s a process of self-discovery, but it’s like having the ladder out-of-the-hole kicked out from under you.

I guess there’s no good age for kids in divorce. And while my kids are thriving, I can see the loss in my daughter’s face when we are finally back together after a long period away. And her hugs and “mother hen” affection are just a bit over the top. I love it. I glow in it. I am careful to be the awesome dad in the father daughter constellation. As they say, she is learning, will learn, how to be with men by the healthy ways she learns to relate with me. It’s a huge responsibility. And it makes me sad not to be there for her. (The ex-y can date and babysit herself to her heart’s delight, but my daughter has become one of my primary concerns.)

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with her “relationship,” these days, but it does seem to me, that she puts her needs ahead of the kids. Perhaps that was the switch that allowed her to actually file for divorce from me. At some point she had to detach from me first. Then she had to make a decision that being without me was better for HER than being with me.

The kids are the hard part. Drop off and pick up can change the tenor of my entire week. Going by our old house was almost unbearable for the first year and a half. It was too close, to easy to want to crawl back into my old bed, to easy to long for a “return” of some sort.

And the SPO does take a huge portion of the time away from the dad. The lawyers and counselors likes to point out that “it’s pretty close to 50/50.” The problem with that logic is how that balance is achieved. There is this provision for the summers, that the NCP (non-custodial parent) can have the kids for an entire 30 days.

Let’s see what the problem is with that idea.

1. Financially it would be a huge hardship. If you could take the month off, it would be a killer vacation opportunity. But, like most parents, I would guess we have to keep working our normal schedule, then it becomes a 100% child care expense for a week.

2. Emotionally the kids are going to suffer being away from the other parent for a month. Maybe as the kids get older this will be an easier decision. But right now, the kids would be hurting to be away from Mom for that amount of time.

3. Logistically, you’ve got to make provisions for their care, entertainment, and nurture, while continuing to provide financially for both them and their mother.

As they say, if she’s happy, my kids are happy, and that’s supposed to make me happy too. It sort of works that way.

So, let’s just say, it’s going to be awhile before I am able to swing (or even want to swing) a 30-day visitation during the summer. THEN, the next best thing is the magic fifth weekend.

One more moment of reflection on the “balance of the schedule.” So JULY for me is going to be like EVERY OTHER MONTH is for her. OUCH!

I’m not interested, nor do I have the funds to change our legal agreement. BUT… at some point the “balance of time” vs. the “balance of the financial obligation” might have me looking at changing the custodial arrangement. I simply don’t have the funds to pursue it. And, for now, it’s working out to my advantage. A sad and somewhat lonely advantage, but nonetheless, I am getting a ton of work done in my “off parent” time.

So for now, I can thank my ex-y for taking care of the kids the majority of the time. (Note: during the school year she does shoulder an unfair burden of school parenting and homework, but hey, that’s the breaks.) And I can be the best dad that I can be during the time I have my kids. And I can celebrate the little gifts of the “fifth.”

And she can go right ahead and remarry, as she’s already mentioned in relationship to her current boyfriend, if that’s her path. I’ll do what I can to support her and the kids through whatever’s next. And I will keep the anger and bitterness here, in this process-writing, rather than in the my dealings with my ex-y. As they say, if she’s happy, my kids are happy, and that’s supposed to make me happy too. It sort of works that way.

In July, this year, I’ve got a lot to celebrate.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

related posts:

resources:


The Language of Divorce – Like a Stranger In a Strange Land

graffiti of the heartTo GROK is to know, consume, and “become one” something. The concept comes from Robert Heinlien’s Stranger in a Strange Land. In the book a Christ-like man has returned to Earth in the very distant future. And while this man can indeed do miracles and does appear to many to be the return of the Christian Jesus Christ, the ultramodern society cannot quite embrace his proof. In the end this uber-Christ is killed. And in a bazaar “final supper” his followers boil him into a soup and eat him. By finally Groking him, they are knowing and becoming him.

The language of divorce had the same effect on me. I was disoriented and unprepared to begin talking about my ex-wife. There was none of the newly-married fascination that comes with referring to someone as “my wife.” Do you refer to her by her name? Do you call her my ex? Or my ex-wife? Or on good days, “the mother or my children?” I actually prefer “their mom.”

Sometimes it is good to say “my fucking ex.” The words have power.

And terms like Standard Possession Order and Non-custodial Parent become new definitions that you have to get help to understand. And you will learn new ways of talking about yourself as well. Do you want to be referred to as “single” or “divorced?” And what do you say when people ask after your now-ex-wife?

A friend from my divorce recovery class told me after about 6 months of knowing me, “I’ve never known your ex-wife’s name. You always just call her ‘my ex'”

And you also develop subtle ways of letting people know you are a single parent. “Oh, I have the kids that weekend, we’d love to come if it’s kid-friendly.” And the ever popular, “They are with their mother that weekend.” Words like “the kids” and “their mother” become keywords that identify us as DIVORCED with CHILDREN. Not exactly a humorous or popular term, but one which you must embrace and GROK before you can move on into becoming what’s next.

But after a while, after consuming the broth of everything that was your marriage, you will begin to recover a new self that is ready for what’s next.

There’s an amazing scene in the movie The Descendants when we meet the older daughter for the first time. She is drunk and very unhappy. Her first line of the movie is “Fuck Mom!”

I was in the process of courting a potential date online last week and I referred to my ex as “my fuckin ex.” Oops. I was trying it on for measure, almost as a line from the movie. The woman I was communicating with was not impressed. And with a few quick txts we established that I was still mad at my ex-wife and would refer to her as “the mother of my kids” or just her name.

That’s okay. But sometimes it is good to say “my fucking ex.” The words have power. But it might be best for you and your same-sex buddies rather than mixed company. And it’s true, if you are constantly triggered by the thought of your ex, it might be necessary to do some more “work” on them.

I think we have to reach a comfort with the language and rhythm of divorce. At first we are lost and confused. But after a while, after consuming the broth of everything that was your marriage, you will begin to recover a new self that is ready for what’s next. It’s a bitter soup. It’s a process that requires many spices and experiments. But you’ve got to rise above the “fucking ex” in order to move on.

In some ways this writing is my soup preparation.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

related posts:

resources:


“Watch out squirrel!” I Needed To Shout This Today: “Fk You!”

squirrel loses the war

“For some reason I needed to tell you today, that I fkin hate you for giving up on me. And, of course, it is a blessing. We weren’t happy. But as much as I’d like to talk about the sour grapes, I’m still somewhat devastated. You bailed.”

Ah, that anger again. We’re gonna have good days and bad days. And today has been a good day. When I was driving to the store today I saw a vulture snacking on a squirrel. Why this reminded me of my own pain, I’m not quite sure. But today, with an email from you, I learned what it was about.

I am not okay.

And I am fine. But here’s the rub. We were so fkin close to making it. Sure I hid some of my desires and you pretended to still have them for me. And sure the economy has been tough, it’s tough on everyone. And then like the squirrel, I got distracted. I paid attention to your anger rather than my own. And now the vultures are snacking on my heart. [okay, that was for dramatic effect only. let me recalibrate and try again.]

As so many things are coming back together for me, after almost two years of struggle, I am sorry not to have you as my mate to share this wonderful time with. That’s the part that still has some kind of sting. But that’s my shit. And I’m working on it. [here]

In the same way WE were so close to making things work out back then, I am very close today, on both a personal and professional level. Sure, a relationship will follow, at some point, but I’m taking major life/balance things first. And before the divorce was started, when I said to you, “You know we can’t afford TWO houses in this neighborhood.” I was wrong. Sort of.

There’s an imbalance to how all this divorce stuff goes down. I’m not angered by the child support payments. My kids need a lot of stuff. And I’m happy to provide. BUT… Some how I’m now paying TWO mortgages. How did that work? How is that fair? Who’s helping me out?

There’s some statistic about the SPO being about even. But there’s a real big mistake in that logic. HUGE actually. The SPO has this wonderful provision for the working dad, primarily the one who gets the shorter end of the stick on the SPO laws. And this provision has the kids spending an entire month with dad, theoretically during the summer. Um, yeah.

QUESTION: When the fk am I going to be able to afford to take a week off with my kids, much less a MONTH? REALLY! No, Dr. Who-Knows-Best, tell me about that mythical MONTH that helps balance the schedule out the rest of the year.  Oh, and before you answer, let’s talk about how much of the financial burden I’M going to be carrying, in addition to trying to scratch out a living for myself. So, really, what’s the fkin SPO percentage when I can’t afford to take that MONTH off, in fact, we don’t DO that part of the SPO, because it’d be too damn expensive.

Another big shock, if you’re on the mortgage for another house, it’s gonna be harder than hell to afford a new place. Much less, BUY something. And when they are looking at your financial feasibility, they are going to examine your SPO like frikin proctologists. Because, my friends, the dad is getting fked right up the wazoo.

Without going into numbers, let me illuminate the situation.

My child support payments, which include a percentage of my salary AND the cost of healthcare for both kids, is exactly $100 less than my new mortgage. And about $200 less than the mortgage on my old home. So how did the math come out, that we’re getting the kids 43/57 but I’m still paying both mortgages? (Here’s a link to the Standard Possession Order in the State of Texas.) Here’s what the Attorney General’s website says about our great state, to give you the full flavor of the situation here, “In Texas, about 10 percent of non-custodial parents are mothers.” – handbook for non-custodial parents.

Yeah, yeah… Men often make more than women. And yeah, yeah, women often suffer more financially than men in this situation. Fk that, it hasn’t been so in MY CASE. [sorry, i’ll try to quit shouting.]

Here’s what you are going to hear from your legal support team. (her’s and your’s) “The SPO is the way to go. Being the Non-Custodial Parent (NCP) is no big deal. That’s how it’s going to go even if you fight it. It’s just the way it is.”

And there’s going to be this, “50/50 is too hard on the kids. Too much transition. The SPO is better for everyone. It has been worked out over time.”

So what do you do? What did I do? Of course I went in asking for 50/50 and the Dr. advised that my request was more of an emotional matter, and not one that was necessarily in the “best interest” of the child. And “The SPO is the best approach.”

And I kid you not, she said this, “And she’s going to get that if you fight her or not. Most of this is about what she is willing to negotiate, knowing that she would win in court. But neither of you want that.”

And she was right. I was in no position to fight. I was still reeling from the idea of losing something much bigger than a custody battle. I was willing to put everything in the “best for the kids” column, if it meant less time dealing with the trauma of the divorce.

Besides–and this still haunts me–“what she is willing to negotiate.” The assumption, even by this neutral [ha!] third-party was… SHE WINS.

As Dad’s we just need to deal with it. Buck up and be prepared to PAY.

+++

I’ve been lucky. Even in my devastating depression, surrounding such a depressing event, I got a pretty awesome FT-job about six months after the divorce was final. And I moved quickly to purchase a house on that job.

I have nothing to complain about. I mean, I can rant here, but overall I am personally in pretty good shape. And while my first post-D job only lasted 4 months, I am poised to start some contract work that could put me solidly back in to the black. Where I get to pay both of our mortgages for way less than 50% of the time.

I’ve got a funny way of looking at it: If I had to pay for childcare during all the time I have to myself, I’d probably be paying  A LOT more. So do what you can to get over the anger. And get the possession order that makes the most sense for YOU. I’m meeting a ton of parents who do more of a 50/50 thing. I wonder how that would’ve affected the amount of money I had to pay to my ex-y.

Let me be clear: I want my kids to be provided for. I want to be that good provider for my kids. But… where does it say that she gets a free house in the deal, just for starters? “Because she knows that’s what she’s going to get.”

I’ve officially just burned through my entire retirement savings. I could probably petition the court and show my REAL INCOME for the past 18 months and have the support amount reduced significantly. Heck, I was optimistic when I signed the SPO and decree outlining how much I was going to pay my ex-y for the next 9 years. But mostly I was just trying to get through the loss AND the process of the courts. And of course, everyone counseled me that she would get the SPO anyway, and I should just agree and move on.

That’s fair, right? Fk that! [don’t be a fkin squirrel or the vultures are gonna rip your furry body apart.]

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to The Hard Stuff pages

Resources:


Thursday Happier Hour and the SPO (Standard Possession Order) Morass

The Plumber Fkin Your Ex WifeThere is a business networking happy hour that happens once a month on a Thursday. And I’ve never made it. I probably should make it.

But when the world shifted on its axis and my kids orbits suddenly had large periods of time on the dark side of the planet, Thursdays became my joint-custody Standard Possession Order day of the week. You’ll get to know and love the language. SPO – standard possession order. And First, Third, and Fifth is another common process. And your attorney will probably want to start with the SPO and make variations from there. It’s all been worked out ahead of time for our benefit.

No sarcasm meant. But there’s no way to be grateful under the circumstances. But the kind counselor we went to for Divorce Counseling was happy to tell me, “It’s a pretty good deal for dads.”

Not being up on the literature or common practices I had my heart set on 50/50 down the middle, rotating the kids out very other weekend. This other 1, 3, 5 seems to be easier for some reason, but it does cause some unexpected problems. The minute you look to enter the kissing pool again, you’ll discover that if every dad has the kids 1-3-5, then the divorced moms have their kids exactly opposite. (grin)

So you want to date someone. Um, every single weekend you have OFF she has kid duty. I think back to that moment when Dr. Knows Better kept saying, it’s easier for everyone. I kept asking “WHY, what makes it easier?” If you have the same feeling, you might keep asking until you get an answer, or you and your soon-to-be ex decide on an alternative. Sure it made it easier on the doc, but now it’s a bit complicated if I want to meet someone after work for drinks.

The corollary to this law is kind of funny and painful at the same time: When your ex starts asking for changes in the schedule, it means they’re fucking somebody. Excuse me, “dating,” somebody. I mean, think about it, are you going to get into it with your ex over switching up the schedule if there isn’t some damn compelling reason?

I’m just pissed it’s happened twice from her side so far and nonce from mine. But I’m over all that jealousy stuff. Really. Over. It. She can DO who ever she pleases at this point, I’d rather DO someone else as well. So best to take my bitterness and get in better shape.

Oh that’s the one great thing Dr. You’re Getting a Divorce did set up. In our plan we cannot introduce a “dating” partner to our kids until the “relationship/dating” has been steady for six months. That’s awesome right. It sure helped my piece of mind when my ex-y started a rebound screwing of a plumber from a few towns over that first month after the divorce was final. At least she waited until it was final. I spewed a few spiteful barbs at that time. And thank goodness I got my ass into a divorce recovery class soon after.

Another funny moment happened about three months ago, my daughter was playing with my iPhone. She loves them and was looking at my pictures and stuff. (No surprises there. Think twice about taking those candid shots on your phone, won’t you?) And she noticed a few TXT messages coming in from a *Debbie.* And at one point she squealed , “SWEETHEART.”

Um, I had some explaining to do.

So I talked it out with them and now it’s sort of a running joke. “If I had a girlfriend, which I don’t, I couldn’t tell you anyway, but this woman, is not my girlfriend.”

At this point they roll their eyes. And one of them will say something like, “Yeah Dad, we don’t believe anything you say about that anyway. Because you can’t tell us.”

It did give me some satisfaction txting the ex-y, “I had the 6 months chat with the kids. It went well.”

Of course the hidden message was, “Cause there’s someone else…” But I left it unspoken.

And that’s the final piece of advice on this subject. NEVER fire the sharp barbs at your ex-y. They never hurt her as much as they hurt you. Being mean or mad at her is only a symptom of your unfinished emotional work. It never helps. Yes, I know, sometimes it feels good.

And that one I sent in regards to the plumber (nothing against The Plumber with the Dragon Tattoo) “WTF? Do you think this is a rebound? He’s not even in our TRIBE.” All I could think of inside was, “Thank god she can burn through this one without having to bring the kids into it.” And sure, it was over in less than a month, but I was hurt and freaking out a bit. And living at my sister’s house, for crissakes. Not a happy situation.

So the email arrived today for the happy hour tomorrow night, and I had a moment where I contemplated getting a sitter… And then I smiled and thought about my HAPPIER HOUR. With my kids.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

Resources: