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