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