Monthly Archives: March 2012

Deadbeat Dads: Does Our Enforcement System Deter or Create Them?

I know there are a lot of deadbeat dads out there. Those men who are able to pay child support but who find every possible loophole they can not to pay. The laws currently in place are intended to protect women from being left financially bereft without the means to provide for the children now that the husband is no longer the husband. I understand that there are many, many women out there who’ve taken a beating due to divorce and now live an impoverished existence because they are now responsible for handling the finances of a family without a family-size income. I also understand that there are many, many men out there who actively shirk and avoid their financial responsibilities to their children. Might I suggest that today we take a look at another divorce reality impacting many men in a very different way. Let’s talk about the man who loses everything to the ex, and then his ex, instead of letting it go, keeps coming back and demanding more. Let’s discuss the dad who can’t catch a break because the ex and the legal system assume he is a deadbeat before he’s even been proven a deadbeat.

Disclaimer Number 1: I’m going to throw some specifics out there, but these specifics are really a compilation of many different experiences shared with me by men and some women over the last five years. They don’t point to a specific person’s experience, though it might sound an awful lot like your own. I’ve noticed some real similarities in situations where men end up being treated very unfairly by a law that was supposed to fairly equalize financial matters after divorce. It isn’t just women and children who lose.

Disclaimer Number 2: Also, please note that I am not an attorney and nothing herein should be construed in any way as legal advice. The only advice I can give you is that if you are seeking a divorce or considering a divorce or having one forced on you against your will, you should seek the legal counsel of an attorney, maybe even more than one. Usually a consult is 30 minutes to an hour and the fee is fairly reasonable even if finances are tight for you. It is money well spent in my opinion. You will at least know what you’re facing, what the associated costs are, and what your rights are. A good attorney will tell you all this straight up, they’ll tell you what the law in your county says and they won’t take your entire life savings to do it. It is worth it to get the counsel up front.

Disclaimer Number 3: The basis for my thinking I can even have an opinion on this topic is that I’m a blogger. As such I can pretty much say what I want, call it my opinion and rant on about whatever. Beyond that, I can only say that I have more personal experience in the divorce courts than I would wish on anyone. I also have the experiences of others as shared with me personally over the last five years. It doesn’t make me an expert, but it provides me with the opportunity to make some observations. These observations are what I would like to share tonight since I can’t sleep and I’m up anyway.

Disclaimer Number 4: I am going to refer to men and women in some very traditional roles simply for the sake of ease in writing and discussion. For this post, I’ll refer to women as the custodial parent seeking child support and men as the non-custodial parent paying support. Though this has been my experience, I know plenty of men who are the custodial parent and women who pay the child support. I’m not trying to perpetrate any kind of gender bias here at all. It’s just that typing men and women is easier to do than type custodial and non-custodial parent. Since it is so late and since I am typing this out on my iPhone from bed, I’d like to plead lazy and refer to the different parties as defined, though I am well aware the readers’ experiences might vary. I think the issues still pertain regardless of which role or gender you are.

Now, let’s get started.

Observation 1: The divorce laws aren’t fair. They give advantage in some ways to the woman (custodial parent) and unfairly penalize the man. Here’s an example I know to be true in my own county and of counties in a neighboring state. If the woman has a problem with the amount of support she is receiving, or if she believes the man is making more than he stated in court, or if she believes (read suspects, but has no conclusive evidence) that things have improved for the man financially she can simply go down to the enforcement office, fill out a form naming any amount, and in a matter of days there is a modification in place increasing the amount of child support the guy is now required for him to pay. She doesn’t have to have any hard data or numbers. She can make them up. The modification goes through almost instantly and the guy is notified, that he can contest this. For him to contest it means he has to provide all sorts of documentation regarding his income, and the process to get the support amount modified to an accurate amount, based on his real income, could take as long as a year. All the while the support is being charged to the guy at the new rate, based only on her word.

In another instance a guy I know has been unemployed for a long time. This is a man who sent out resume after resume daily, he made calls, filled out applications and did all the follow up. He got a job, which didn’t last. The ex got wind of it and the next thing you know he’s being charged an astronomical amount of child support based on an income he never earned. It will take him a year to get that amount modified to accurately reflect his income and the modification will not be retroactive to the day he filed the modification. So he accrues child support he can’t pay based on an income he never earned just because the ex says so. He’s immediately owing back child support, placed in the category of deadbeat dad, even though he has followed all the rules, even paying extra when he could and notifying the state whenever he gets a new job. In many cases, if a man is unemployed and he falls far enough behind in his support, his driver’s license will be taken away. I have to question the effectiveness of such a practice. If a guy lives in an area where a vehicle is needed to get out and job hunt and his license is taken for non-payment of child support, haven’t we just created a deadbeat dad? How can he possibly go look for work to land a job so he can begin paying his child support. Hasn’t the system just tied the guys hands?

This isn’t fair. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be an avenue for dispute, but it seems to me there should a few more controls in place to make things a little more balanced. One party shouldn’t be able to get immediate results while the process lags, unduly, for the other. At best, nothing should change in the status quo until all documents are received and a hearing is conducted. The consequences for non-payment of support should be reasonable and should not prevent a man from finding or keeping a source of income. This is an area where I believe many men are abused by the system.

Observation 2: Many women view the divorce/support/custody arena as a fight to the death. They enter in with the goal, not merely to come out with a document that will help her survive, but, instead,to annihilate their ex. The sad thing is that the laws seem to be written to support this in some places. In one instance, a female friend of mine shared that, when she was going through divorce, her attorney informed her that she was entitled to ask for a certain amount. My friend considered the amount the attorney named but she knew it was going to be impossible for her ex to pay it. Instead, she asked her ex what he thought he could afford to pay. Her ex named a reasonable amount and that is the amount that my friend insisted her attorney place in the divorce papers. Sadly, many women, will list the highest amount possible regardless of the ability of their ex to pay and they do it knowingly.

I know that in many places the amount of support is determined by a calculator that is based on a formula which takes into account the amount of parenting time and the income of both parents. This is a good thing. Even so, there are people out there who successfully work the system to squeeze every drop of financial blood from their ex. I’m reminded of the man who reported that his ex voted him off the marital island. They were separated for five years before she finally met someone she thought would be a viable marriage partner. Once she and her new beau had a date set, she filed papers on my friend. During the five years before she finally filed, my friend jumped through all sorts of hoops, hoping to restore his family and his marriage. He went to counseling which she would not participate in, he handed over most of his paycheck keeping only a small amount; barely enough for him to rent a room in house and to make his car payment. When the divorce finally went through he agreed to sign over all of the real estate they owned together (20 acres of prime developable land, plus the 3,000 sq.ft. family home). In turn, she agreed not to touch his retirement. She’s now remarried, not hurting at all for money or income, all the kids are in school and she is highly employable as a nurse. Even working part time this woman could bring in substantial income. Instead, she refuses to work at all and goes after her ex for money. My friend informed me that his ex has just retained an attorney to go after his retirement. The vindictiveness of this act is almost laughable, because the woman has literally stripped my friend of everything and now she’s hired an attorney to go after an amount that will roughly equal her attorney fees. In fact, her attorney fees might just be more than half the retirement. On what planet does any of that even remotely make sense?

Observation 3: Not all attorneys are created equal. I mentioned that I’ve had more personal experience in divorce courts than anybody should have. In my own experience I participated in two divorces, one custody trial and numerous mediations and other disputes, not all of them my own. I’ve had the opportunity to see at least 7 or 8 different attorneys at work. I’ve formed some opinions on what makes a good attorney and what doesn’t. Again, these are merely my opinions based on my own personal experience. The biggest indicator that an attorney is going to be a decent one to work with is that they won’t tell you what you want to hear in order to get your money. I recently had reason to go speak to my attorney. She’s a wise woman, knows the law and I’d recommend her to anyone in my area. What makes her so great is that she tells you what the law says, not what she thinks she can make happen for you. Example: If I were to go in there wanting to fight a parenting time battle, she will tell me straight up if I’m wasting my time. If what I’m proposing is likely to fail in the courtroom she’ll tell me.

In another instance a friend of mine found herself enmeshed in a custody battle. Her husband was going after his ex for custody of their four children. The ex was a convicted felon and there were some serious allegations of neglect, with repeated reports to children’s services on file. My friend’s husband felt that he had a case and he went in to see an attorney which they later retained. This attorney, in their initial consult led the young couple to believe that they actually had a good chance of getting custody. This attorney, passed papers back and forth increasing costs of the case without it ever going to trial. When it finally did get to trial the attorney was not prepared and failed to present some critical evidence. As my friend was writing the check the attorney made an offhandedly comment indicating that there are attorneys who intentionally throw cases if the account isn’t paid up before the trial date. $30,000 later my friend’s husband lost his court case. They later found out that it is almost impossible to win a custody battle, and they later found out that according to the laws in their area and the way judges tend to rule, they weren’t even close. My friend would have been wise to get a second or third opinion before deciding which attorney to retain.

Divorce is never an easy thing. Unless the two adults can be adult enough, in spite of their pain, to set aside their personal vendettas and work together in the best interests of the children, the divorce courts, attorneys, judges, and enforcement agencies will be around for along time to come. I agree deadbeat dads need to be held accountable, but maybe it’s time to hold the greedy, vindictive moms accountable also. Maybe it’s time to look at the enforcement laws and ask whether they really do the job of enforcing or do they, by creating impossibilities that can never be overcome, create the very deadbeat dads they attempt to go after?

It’s something to consider.

The Ex Files

The Ex drama continues.

After all week of this guy being a complete jerk, I get the confirmation from him that, yes, he is planning to bring back the daughter on Saturday. That text was received at just after 7, this morning. That was a relief. I really thought for sure he would just stonewall me and keep her the entire next week also.

At nearly 6:30 this evening, I get another text asking if I want the daughter back early. I am not making this up. After all week of screwing up my life unexpectedly and demanding his time with his daughter, he’s wanting to know if I want her back. Wow. Some people can’t stick to a plan even when it is the one they bullied others about to make happen.

Of course, I’m immediately suspicious, wondering if this is really my ex after all. I thought maybe it could possibly be my daughter. I had no idea. Who knows? I certainly didn’t want to insist on keeping the Saturday time, in the event that he truly was worn out with her. Also, in the event that she knew or sensed that he was trying to ditch her, I didn’t want her to read that I didn’t want her back. (We had after all planned a fun outing but I’d figured she opted out by pressuring her dad to keep her for the week.)

I responded with a pretty honest but not mean response questioning the legitimacy of the inquiry, saying I was confused about why the switch, but that I’m always glad to have my daughter with me. I mentioned also that I was tired, which is true enough. I mean, I didn’t say this to him, but it’s pretty rotten for a guy to behave this way to an ex one week after she gets out of her second cancer surgery. Oh, but wait. Why does this even surprise me? This was the same guy who, when I was diagnosed with a severe enough case of pneumonia that I should have been hospitalized, opened our home to his friends and family so he could have a party. A big, loud, party. No, this is not a man who cares about anyone but himself.

The bottom line is that she is going to be returning to me tomorrow; even earlier than he originally insisted. I suspect I’m dealing with an ex who wants to let an 11-year-old call the shots. I think I might have an 11-year-old who now believes she can rule the world, because she just pitted Daddy against Mommy to get what she wanted. I don’t know for sure. I guess I’ll know soon enough.

For now, I’m heading to bed. It’s been an exhausting week

The Judge Can’t Change An Evil Ex

Well, without disclosing too much, I think it is safe to say that the EE is back to pushing buttons again.  This time he is using the daughter as a pawn.  Instead of following the parenting plan, he arbitrarily took advantage of some vagueness in the language of the parenting plan and decided without discussing things in advance and without any warning to keep my daughter instead of bringing her home as stipulated. Now, I could have called the authorities and had them enforce the thing, but I’ve been part of that nightmare, and have seen the damage done to a child when a parent puts the child in the middle like this.  I decided to meet with my attorney instead.

Now, I don’t have a problem with him wanting to spend time with her or her him.  I have a real problem with the very selfish and inconsiderate manner in which he did this.  Instead of discussing it in advance and planning ahead, he takes her, keeps her and by so doing completely thwarts any plans or life I might have going on at this end. Of course, what can I expect from a man who, when we were married, would intentionally pack up our one vehicle with all the kids and take off just moments before I was going to head out the door to do something that I’d put on the family calendar weeks in advance.  Or who would make plans a month ahead for a particular holiday, requiring me to orchestrate a major adjustment in my children’s schedules and then completely do something totally different and unexpected (read usually something we had no desire to do and which cost me money, because he certainly wasn’t bringing anything into the family coffers).  I could go on, but to do so would only make me feel really unhappy, and really foolish for ever having married the guy in the first place.  He really is an ass-wipe is all I can say.  He is an evil and unkind and, yes, abusive man. And he is really, really good at making people around him think he is wonderful.  He’s not.  He’s really icky.

I say all that to say, that after spending some good money for a consultation with a very excellent attorney, I found that there is really not a whole lot I can do unless I want to spend a great deal of money for next to no results.  Well, essentially, no results.  My attorney thought that as it turned out, there is some vague language in our plan and I might want to go back and deal with that.  However, the downside to this is that he, then brings to the table all the stuff he wants to fix.  We won’t agree.  (We never have and he lies, so even if we did agree, it wouldn’t matter.  He does what he wants to do and the rules just don’t apply to him.) So the thing will end up in front of a judge.  Now, I’m reasonably certain that I won’t lose out much except financially if that happens.  As my attorney stated, “You really can’t change your ex.  If it goes before the judge, what can he really do?  He’s not going to change your ex to keep him from being the jerk to you that he is.  So, if you can let some of this roll, as long as she’s not in imminent physical danger, you might get more mileage out of just not fighting back. And…if it were to go to court, you’d end up with a plan that isn’t a whole lot better than what you have now and might even be a great deal worse.”  So, my decision is to be the adult here and walk away.

I have no idea how long he’ll keep her.  He mentioned until Saturday.  However, I have a deep and growing dread that Friday night, he will bail out of town to the coast and I won’t see my daughter at all during Spring Break.  In anticipation of just this, I asked my attorney about it.  The response?  I could call the cops…or I could let it go.  (The court in this area really hates when people get into the calling the authorities thing.) If he doesn’t return her to school then I call.  If he just keeps her for two weeks at Spring Break, I just write the extra week back into the summer schedule, somewhere.

I have 7 years left until my daughter is 18.  If I can hang in there taking his low-grade button-pushing power-playing BS until then I’m golden and that’s what I’m going to try to do. It is unfortunate that he is unable to negotiate anything.  It’s his way or the highway, which means I will always lose out and he will always push the envelope to get things his way, but when it comes to being flexible or considerate of my schedule…it’s not a two way street at all.  He’s working her now, though, to come live with him as soon as she wants.  Of course, I’m the sole legal and physical custodian, so he’s going to have a huge lawsuit getting that to change and he won’t be successful, however, he’s working her and playing every angle.  This is just part of that.

It really hurts.

I can’t do anything about any of it.

He’s not going to change and he’s never, ever going to be kind and thoughtful of me.  That’s why I left him.

If any of that happens, there’s nothing I can change by worrying about it now.  I’ll just have to cross that bridge when I get to it.

I think my attorney is right:  The judge won’t be able to change the Evil Ex, so what would be the point of taking it back to court.  He’d just find some other loophole in the plan to exploit.

So, we won’t be going back to court at my initiative, but let him beware if he ever tries to take me back.  I’m going to be so ready.

 

 

 

 

The Evil Ex

Ever had this happen? You’ve sent your child off to be with her other parent for an overnight thinking you will see her the next morning at her regularly scheduled time. As you are heading to bed you get a message in your voicemail from your ex stating that she will not be returning to you until another time several days out. It turns out he is taking advantage of the vagueness of the legal jargon in the order to garner more time for himself with his daughter. He is also, in the process, completely disregarding his child’s commitments and life and activities and routines, which she will be unable to do since he just arbitrarily decided to obliterate all of that. He doesn’t care about working together on her behalf at all. He only cares how difficult he can be and get away with it.

Yes, he’s one of those kind of ex’s. Regrettably, (I do, and I have every day since marrying him) he is my ex and this is my daughter(I never regret her, only that he is her father). I don’t mind a dad wanting to spend time with his kid. I don’t mind adjusting schedules when things come up and I don’t mind attempting to work things out. But…none of that is what he is doing here. What he is doing is a clear case of adult bullying and emotional abuse.

Here’s some background, but a bit of a disclaimer first. I’m going to be vague and speak in generalities for my own reasons. You, the reader, are just going to have to trust me when I say that spending more time with him would not be in the best interests of my daughter, for so many reasons and on so many levels. He is the evilest kind of evil: the kind that can conduct the evil while at the same time convincing everyone around that he’s doing a good thing here.

This man couches everything in terms of what is fair and right and in the best interests of our daughter, when the truth is, he does only what works for him and gives him a sense of power over someone; in this case, me. He is at best, an adult bully; at worst an abuser. In this instance, he is keeping her for a few extra days, because he thinks he can.

He can’t. I can call the authorities and insist that they enforce this. I know this. But is that really the smartest thing to do here? Is that, and the resulting tension and stress that would go with such a scene, really in the best interests of my daughter? I don’t think so. He also is banking on me thinking that way. He’s hedging his bets. Knowing I just went through my second cancer surgery, he’s banking on the fact that I won’t want to create any more stress for myself. He knows I won’t want to create a traumatic situation for our daughter (even though he’s perfectly fine with doing it himself).

Here are the issues I have with this kind of power play:

1. He utilizes the element of the last-minute surprise to his advantage all the time. He could have been a proactive adult, thinking ahead and discussing well in advance of this evening what he would like. Instead, without warning he pulls the wild card. This creates all manner of tension and negativity and he knows it. He did this routinely and intentionally in our marriage. When I reacted or couldn’t turn the proverbial Titanic on a dime, I was made out to be inflexible and “controlling”.

2. He doesn’t play by the rules. Ever. He creates them and re-defines them based on what he wants at the time. Everybody else’s schedule is at the mercy of his arbitrary dictates. It’s exceedingly difficult to operate a life with this man anywhere in it.

3. He expects to be treated with fairness and respect, but he doesn’t give that treatment to others.

It is really very sad that this situation exists. It is tough on me, but it’s worse on our daughter. I hate to say this, but I can’t wait until she turns 18 and I never have to deal with him again. But never having to deal with him again will never change the fact that I will, for the rest of my life, regret ever having met the man.

Not Sleeping Alone; Cats and a Crowded Bed

We usually sleep (when I sleep) pretty peaceably together, my four cats and I. I’m not a cat hoarder, nor am I one of those who will even remotely come close to having a million cats stuffed into tiny cages in my rundown shanty. First off, I live in a newer 1800square foot town home. There is tons of space and the cats have free reign to come and go indoors and out. Plus, they have several very large cedars to exercise their stealth climbing skills and to sharpen their claws on. Further, I don’t even like cats. Or I didn’t, until these particular four changed my mind.

It all started several years back when my youngest had a friend whose cat got out and played hanky-panky with a neighboring tom. This was about the fourth litter since I’d know the family that entered the world in this way. I must have grown weary of my daughter’s begging and of hearing how the babies were just going to be disposed of at the neighborhood humane society if homes weren’t found. I finally relented and allowed my daughter to choose a kitten. She was overjoyed. When we went to pick up her little fluffy baby, his brother caught my eye. He was jet black and so wobbly on his feet even for a kitten. I feared he might have brain damage, but I was smitten by the black kitten. Instead of leaving with one cat, we came home with two.

It wasn’t long after bringing the two brothers home that I realized that, other than the litter box, cats are very low maintenance critters. In fact, I was surprised to discover how well these cats fit into my lifestyle. It’s also a lie that cats are not affectionate. While less needy and demanding than dogs, cats are every bit as affectionate as dogs. They are just not as sloppy about showing it.

About six months after we brought the brothers home, a friend of mine found a stray kitten that she couldn’t keep. I agreed to take it for her and help find it a home. Right. My home ended up being the little guy’s new home. The last thing I needed was another cat, but he was a sweet thing and my kids would have hated me forever had I given him away.

A year later, I begin dating and eventually shacked up with The Significant Other. His cat brings the total cat family to four. Yes, I think we are done now.

I don’t know when it happened but somewhere along the way, the cats took over my bed. Now, I have a rather large bed, a California King, and I don’t use the entire space at night, so for a while, this was fine. It was even comforting at first. But then, the cats began sleeping on me instead of on the bed. Add to this another man-type human and the once expansive space begins to get very crowded.

But last night was the worst.

I think someone slipped my cats a full-strength dose of stimulants or else they discovered the Red Bull stash. It was a 4-cat high speed chase…all.night.long.

To make matters worse, the man-type was flopping around like a big fish just hauled in from the sea. One of the things I love about him is that we do sleep well together. In the past, sleeping with someone else in my bed doesn’t happen without a fairly long adjustment period. In my first marriage, that period lasted for 16 years. It was remediated through divorce. My SO is pretty easy to sleep with and to get along with most of the time. Last night being the exception.

So, between the cats and the Man Human fish-flopping all night, there was just not going to be any sleep. I’d just barely drifted off to doze when I felt him jerk again. I peeked open one eye and he’s sitting up in bed staring at me. It’s 8 o’clock and night is long over. I’d been out for maybe an hour. The cats were comatose finally. It was Sunday morning after a night of no sleep. It appeared it was going to be a day of no sleep.

Nights aren’t usually that rough for everyone in the house, just me. Last night was definitely strange, because for the first time I had company during my insomnia. Fortunately, I was able to catch a nap later in the day. There is a downside to doing that, however, because here I am…wide awake again.

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Money, Cancer, Aging and Losing Forty Bucks

The cats are at it again. Sometimes I really wish I would have paid attention to the fact that cats are nocturnal creatures before I allowed my children to talk me into getting one. I really wish I would have realized how wild their behavior can be at night before I signed on to take in four of the homeless creatures. Tonight they are flying around the house like they’re on speed, claws fully bared, tearing the place apart and me with it. It’s not cracking up to be a peaceful night of slumber.

In addition to that, finances have me tossing and turning. My daughter needs to apply for financial aid so she can continue schooling and because my cash flow and ability to help is zero, it’s creating some stress. No, it’s creating a lot of stress. I’m filing for bankruptcy, which is a smart move, but the paperwork burden and getting the right documents to the right people in the right amount of time has me twisting up the sheets as I toss and turn.

Then this cancer thing, yes, it is cancer, gnaws at me. While it really is the least of my worries right now (early stage, non-invasive), it still has me wondering sometimes about how much time i really have left on this earth. I hate thinking about that. Then that thinking leads me to realize I have no life insurance, and that I probably couldn’t get any now anyway. Then that leads me right back to stressing out about money that I don’t have now,and the lack of it I’m likely to face after I can no longer work. If I live that long. Then, of course, that spins me into a cycle of worrying about the kids, which takes me back again to the money. And so on.

I swear this all giving me dementia. I forget things more often now. I can’t remember where I put things. I can’t remember entire conversations, sometimes. This is terrifying to me. Today, I had $40. I stuffed it in my pocket until I could get it into my wallet, which I wasn’t carrying with me at the time. Between then and an hour later, that money completely disappeared. I retraced my steps, searched everywhere. No money. Now my mind is obsessively reviewing my day trying to figure out where the money went. I didn’t spend it. This I know for sure. Where is it?

There appears to be a momentary lull in the cat craziness. Now the place feels like a tomb, and the silence is problematic. I can’t win here.

I think there are some of those pain pills left from my last surgery. I didn’t use them for pain since I didn’t really have any pain, but they were rather effective in helping me sleep. Something I can’t do when wearing a bra to bed and after breast cancer surgery, that’s exactly what one is instructed to do. In fact, I was instructed to sleep but also to wear the bra. These two instructions were really mutually exclusive orders. I blew through the pain meds using them as sedatives. I think there might be one or two left.

I think I’m going to have to go find out for sure.

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