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The Company Picnic

Most people have one day a year that they dread.  For some, it is the day they have to finally own up and pay the taxes.  For others, it is the particular day of the holidays when they have to sit next to one of the least favorite outlaws at dinner.  Some dread the day they have to put a child on the plane bound for dad’s for the summer.  For me, it’s The Company Picnic.

My company is a rather large organization with 19 offices in three cities.  We serve over 13,000 clients annually in a personal face-to-face environment. Our clients receive services from us, some of them for over 20 years.  We also have affiliates in other communities nationwide. So, essentially, my organization is a large one.  But it is dreadfully small on Company Picnic Day. As long as I live, I will never cease to question how I can be in a basketball gymnasium filled with thousands of people and never see a person I know, yet, take that same stadium and fill it with thousands of people from my company on what we dub as Company Hug Day, and I can find The Evil Ex even if I’m not looking (and I always am, just to avoid him).  This year, not only was The Evil Ex present and accounted for, but so was his Wife, who apparently has now been hired by the company and working in the same office he is working in.  To add insult to injury, his son’s wife, a cute young thing was also there. Now, I have nothing against their happiness, or the fact that apparently there is some real nepotism going on which I don’t understand, because The Evil Ex is not even good at what he supposedly does for a living. Why would the Powers That Be hire anyone associated with him?  I don’t get it. (In fact, the company had grounds and could have fired him 12 years ago.  I know.  I was there.  They didn’t.  Instead, in a classic case of sexual discrimination, they demoted me (the more experienced and qualified female employee…and I’m not making this up or being bitter…I can prove I’m the more qualified and skilled individual) and promoted him.  And why?  Because I foolishly made the mistake to fish off the company dock.  (I was not informed that this only works out for the men in the equation.) I was also too fearful and intimidated to take on the legal battle.   What I take issue with is that it just seems unfair that those who are so inept, succeed over those who are more competent …or seem to.   Okay, the job situation ticks me off, but he’s also inept relationally.  How is it that he gets a relationship though he’s a jerk and I’m a decent person of good character and I can’t find a match that will last to save my soul???  Yeah, let’s not go there.

He is a creeper.  I had a restraining order on him.  He has less than the normal minimum days with our daughter. He should have been fired.  But that’s not how the world works. They retain the men. And fire or demote the women, essentially ruining their careers…especially if they get pregnant.

I guess I am still bitter about all of that.  It doesn’t eat at me…at least 364 days of the year it doesn’t eat at me…but on Company Picnic Day…when I see him representing the most prestigious office in our region (think monied clients and a comfortable corner office to work out of)…the injustice of it all floods my psyche.  You see, back in the day, before we decided to fish, before he decided to stalk me and later abuse me, I worked at one of those elite locations, with that elite clientele, with a very comfortable corner office, with windows, all done up in blue.  My life was made. Until he entered the scene.  And I’m not bitter when I say this, the man is incompetent.  He can’t handle his own personal matters, let alone those required for his job.  The deal is this:  he’s a great liar and pretender.  He can present himself to so many as something he really is not.  He has a way of lying about things so that, while preposterous, they sound believable.  For example, this summer he perjured himself under oath.  He told the judge he was still providing insurance for all of his children due to the fact that one’s children are now covered until they are 26.  The reality:  he has 7 children…not including the one we have together which makes 8. Of his 7 children, 5 of them are adults, and 4 of them are married, over the age of 26, and/or have their own insurance coverage. So, he told the judge he was paying insurance and covering all these people and what it shakes down to is, he’s covering exactly two other children (besides himself and his wife) and not our daughter. I was stunned.  I was not able to reply to this statement because I wasn’t given adequate opportunity. He lied.  He wins.  He puts himself off as this great man of character and of God, but then he doesn’t  pay his half of the medical expenses and he’s an asshole when it comes to negotiating the differences regarding our daughter.  In fact, there is no negotiation. He just does what he’s going to do and I am left dealing with the fallout.  That’s  how our marriage was.  Can I expect anything different in our divorce?

So, he won in the work arena.

He won in the court arena this summer.

And today, apparently, he’s winning in the Love Arena, because he was there with his wife and daughter-in-law, while I was there, completely, undeniably,  and obviously, ALONE.

And by alone, I mean really alone.  The last couple of years I told myself it didn’t matter.  And, really, it didn’t, because I didn’t have his wife and daughter-in-law in my face at close proximity. (Yes, our last names all end with the same letter so I must attend all the excruciating meetings with them.) But also, I knew I was going home to someone.  I knew then, at least, I was in the relational ball park.  Last year at this time it appeared I was winning or, at least, staying in, that particular game.  This year, it is a totally different story. I’ve been kicked off the island, or my partner couldn’t leave my island fast enough.  My inability to maintain a relationship over time is glaringly apparent to me, to the world, to the company and, worst of all, to the Evil Ex and his family who now, apparently, works for our company.

This does not feel good.

I mostly don’t mind being alone, but never having a significant other in my life was simply not what I ever wanted in life.  In fact, even more than kids, I wanted that quality relationship with another adult. I gained in the kids arena, but apparently I’m a complete flop in the relationship arena.  This just doesn’t always sit well with me.  In fact, at times, like today, when I am faced with my failure, it is incredibly painful.  I wonder why he gets the happy relationship though he never spoke to me ever, once, in six years, in his passive-aggressive abusive manner of dealing with people. He is disrespectful, unreliable, and irresponsible and all sorts of other things I don’t want to take up space with here.  How does he get love and I can’t find a quality partner to save my soul? He’s a taker, an abuser, and people flock to him.  I don’t take, I give, I deal honestly and fairly, and men use me up and move on.  No one stays.  What’s wrong with me?????

So I posted that video and post about being Alone.  I’ve made my peace with being alone.  I can handle it.  I’m content most of the time.

The truth is, I’ve lied.  I like being in relationship with a man. I like the companionship.  I don’t like being alone…in that way. I especially don’t like the idea that this is the end of the relational line for me (and the sad reality is that age being what it is, and men being what they are, it is the end).  Like I said, most of the time, this is not an issue with me.  I enjoy my boring, little life.  I have wonderful friends. I love my kids.  I’ve been blessed with four beautiful, intelligent, dynamic individuals as children, who are so successful, in spite of the fact that they had so many risk factors (divorce, poverty, etc.) working against them. I can’t take credit for that.  They chose that. The work I do daily matters, not just to the people I work with, but to the people they, in turn, impact.  It’s an amazing job and I am good at it. I’m grateful for that.  And if you asked any of my friends they would tell you and they do tell me that I am an amazing person.

But…

at the end of the day…

when the kids have gone home to their families…

the friends are busy with their own lives…

…and I can no longer work

…I am alone.

I don’t exactly want the highlight of my days to be my latest, greatest Facebook status update.

I don’t exactly like the idea of rocking alone on the front porch of the old folks’ home.

Apparently, I’m just not amazing enough.

I hate Company Picnic Day.

The Hearing, Basketball Camp and New Shoes

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Several months ago, The Evil Ex filed for a modification of child support. This resulted in me filling out over twenty pages of supporting documents, proving the expenses I carry for our child (which The EE does not assist with at all) and protesting the modification. The result: I’m losing my child support for my daughter at a time when costs to support her will be increasing. In addition to the expenses of her starting middle school, there will be increased uncovered medical expenses for her since she will need braces and since our deductibles are increasing. The EE is ordered to pay half of all uncovered medical expenses. In the five years since we’ve been divorced, he has not paid a dime.

Of course, when all this started going down, I consulted my attorney. At that time, the idea of losing the income was all very scary. Of course, that was at a time when things were ultra tough for me financially and I was worried about making it even with the child support. I received some good advice, filed my response, and learned that I am losing child support. So, of course, I requested a hearing.

This hearing occurred a couple of weeks ago and was the single greatest source of stress for me this year. It was a phone hearing with no attorneys present. My goal was to prove that out of pocket medical expenses were going to be increasing and that, in light of the fact that The Evil Ex hasn’t and doesn’t pay his half of the uncovered medical expenses, there should be some cash medical support awarded to me for our daughter’s expenses. I’m almost certain this hearing was an exercise in futility. I won’t know for sure until I get the judge’s decision in the mail, but I have a pretty good hunch that I need to begin planning on not planning on that child support.

Sigh. It would have been really nice for that change to have happened next year. That’s just how this year is going for me.

In spite of that very disappointing downturn, there are other things that are improving for me. My bankruptcy discharge has gone through. I am now working on rebuilding my credit. I have one credit card; a small one. I pay it off each month. I refuse to take on debt again. The Hesitant Boyfriend continues in his hesitation to either move things forward or move himself out, but he is now bringing in some steady income and helping to pay for groceries, gas and bills. This definitely helps. I’ve also been able to find additional work, which will help me get caught up on paying the medical bills. I was even able to afford to put my youngest daughter in a basketball camp this week, and buy her the necessary shoes and shorts.

It seems silly to use a basketball camp, shoes and shorts as an indicator of success, but it has been a long, hard, brutal haul since I left The Evil Ex. Being able to provide my youngest with some sort of childhood before she leaves childhood completely means the world to me. I simply haven’t had the resources to do anything like this for her in the last 5 years. Even if I did, her dad would have sabotaged it by not getting her to events if she was with him when they were scheduled. The timing and cost of this camp were perfect for us. In the big scheme of things, when the last few years have been so rough, this was a nice thing to have happened.

The Evil Ex Saga Continues

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Never, ever ask yourself the question, “How much worse can things get?” If you do, you are tempting fate, and you are likely to discover the answer to your query. I must have asked this question. This year has been nothing, if not a direct answer to that very inquiry. I’m ready to be done with all this (insert expletive here).

I mentioned last month that The Evil Ex, had requested a review of the child support he barely pays. The Hesitant Boyfriend, picked up the ticket for the certified letter from the District Attorney’s office yesterday and failed to mention it to me. He texted me this morning and mentioned it. I was mildly annoyed that he’d done this, knowing as he did, how the whole situation has created such angst for me. I had him take a picture of it and message it to me, I then emailed the picture to myself and printed it off. I spent my lunch time dashing to the post office, praying for good news the entire way, only to find that I was losing over $200 each month in child support. Welcome to the genius of our current child support system which seems to somehow punish the decent people who pay into the tax system while rewarding those who do not. Never mind that I am a single mother with four children I am still responsible for, while he has a second and third income–I make more money than he does. Never mind that I am now responsible 100% for ALL the medical expenses and I don’t even have an order anymore requiring him to pay half of all the uncovered medical expenses. Yeah, it pretty much bites.

I could request a hearing, but I think the income he stated is accurate. I don’t think the DA will consider other issues. Like the changes in our out of pocket medical expenses. The stress and likely cost of getting an attorney involved will be more expensive than just adjusting my lifestyle and moving on. The less I have to do with this man, the better it is for me.

On a good note, I feel completely free to be vindictive and inflexible when it comes to planning the summer schedule. My answer will be no, plain and simple, unless it works for me.

Sigh. Words cannot express how much I detest this man and all he says he stands for. I have to move through that, but I am just not there right now.

On a better note, I do have three weeks of work lined up this summer that will help me get caught up on bills and, hopefully, stack some aside in a savings. On an even better note, The Hesitant Boyfriend, has been getting anywhere from two to four days of work a week subbing for the school district. This means a couple of things. First, half of that will go to his Evil Ex. That’s a good thing. He has been unemployed and unable to pay anything for so long that quite a bill has accumulated. So, please, State, take your half and leave him alone. The second good thing is that he can now begin paying some of his own bills and pay me back for some of what I’ve had to put out to support him this year. That should make next month do-able even though I’ll lose the child support.

If he HESITATES with any of that, I’m kicking straight to the proverbial curb. And then I go get a second job. And a housekeeper.

What I really need is a sugar daddy; good-looking, intelligent, wealthy, and willing to share the wealth. Right now, I have everything but the wealth. I’m really not looking to trade in The Hesitant Boyfriend, but money matters. It especially matters when you don’t have enough of it. The lack of it can create real strain in a home. I just don’t want that.

Now that I’ve said all that, let me finish by saying after being really disappointed and unhappy about this financial turn of events, I’ve already begun thinking of things I can do to cut costs and increase income without a whole lot of upheaval. It’s going to be okay…isn’t it?

Surviving Difficulty in 20 Not-So-Easy Steps

Yes, I’ve bemoaned my pitiful luck this month here on several occasions.

No, this is not going to be another down-in-the-mouth, woe-is-me bitch session.

I’m actually going to be positive for a change and since I have only small change, I guess that’s a good thing.

I’ve bemoaned my financial fate of late and poured out my misery as to how deplorable and desperate I really am…economically…right now.

I’d like to make the following observations of the data of my financial life this month:

1. I began the month by ending last month in the negative numbers…oh…about $300. (This is NOT normal for me…at least not since those first few months after leaving The Evil Ex.)

2.  At the end of last month, in addition to the negative bank balance, I had to post-date two checks to my mechanic one for last month and one for May for the water pump that broke.

3. I am still trying to pay off utility bills for the rental unit (aka, my old house that I am walking away from).

4. I started my month with about $200 to pay over a thousand dollars worth of bills.  (That was after I paid some of the other bills first.  I don’t just have a $1,000 overhead.)

5. I was looking forward to a $3300 tax return, the first in 5 years, which would have been a nice windfall, allowing me to get caught up and all and I was required to turn this over to the bankruptcy court trustee.  Thanks to Ms. Trustee, I was allowed to keep the money I received from my partial rent payment I recieved.

6. I put everything possible up for sale on Craigslist.

7. I did have to write one post-dated check to The Good Ex for a hundred bucks to get through this week after the cat started oozing mysterious pus last Friday night. (Please, do not tell me I should have let the poor cat die.)

8. I sold nearly everything I put up on sale, except the stupid juicer, and paid all but two bills, small ones, which I will double pay tomorrow because it is payday in exactly 10 minutes.  At midnight that paycheck will dump in and I can start over for another month. The bills were the water and garbage and I’m writing the checks now for double the amounts.

9. I just checked my bank balances.  I have exactly $7.49. 83 cents of that is my savings.

10.  I have no credit cards.

11.  I have 83 cents in savings.

12. I am NOT overdrawn, in spite of this nightmare of a month.

13. Someone just called about a coffee table I had advertised on Craigslist.  20 minutes after answering that call, I now have $27.49 to my name.

14. I still have a $200 post-dated check that my mechanic will cash on the first and a $100 check that The Good Ex will cash tomorrow coming out of tomorrow’s paycheck, but…

15. I’m not overdrawn!!!!!!!!

This, in and of itself, is a huge step forward for me financially. It is small, but very definite, progress.

16.  I have not had an unexpected car repair this month…and I won’t because the car is parked and I’m not going anywhere tonight.  If it breaks down tomorrow that will come out of next month’s pay.  Let’s hope it does not break down.

17.  I had to pay $150 to an attorney last week on top of having to pay bills, put gas in two large gas-sucking vehicles, and feed a family of five, two of whom are teenagers.

18.  I got all my paper work in to the District Attorney’s office in response to The Evil Ex’s request to review the child support order. I feel better now.

19. I made a decision about what to do about the tenants in my house. I’m terminating the agreement, because I can.  The money and the stress are not worth it.  I feel even better now.

20.  I paid my bills, didn’t go into the red again, and I survived this month.

April 2012 was, by far, the most financially stressful month I’ve had in four years and I made it.

I can, for the first time all month, breathe deep, relax…and feel very, very good about being very, very strong.  Lesser people would’ve slit their wrists or swung from rafters if they faced my difficulties. (They do this because they have life insurance.  I do not have life insurance because I cannot afford it…yet.)

My Life on The Titanic

Someone once stated, “All we have to fear is fear itself.” For the most part, I’d agree. I have my own statement about fear, “Fear never made a good decision.” Today, as I faced my first of 33 sessions of radiation, I wonder if facing the unknown isn’t also a valid enough cause for fear. By unknown, I don’t mean the unknown where the possible risks or consequences are relatively minor. I’m talking about the high stakes unknown where the risks are great and the consequences unknown or potentially damaging, lasting, or life threatening.

My life is a convergence of unknowns right now. This creates a great deal of stress for me. Stress is not good for our health and even more so with those dealing with cancer or pre-cancer.  I liken my life to a vessel like the Titanic, which is large and carries the responsibility for the lives and futures of many. I’m not a control freak, but I do like to have my cake and eat it too, whenever possible. I like everyone to be able to do their life and attend all their events. With five or six schedules to deal with, this can be a challenge. I find that if I know in advance, I can usually plan things or get the needed help or money in order to make it all happen. As long as I know far enough in advance, I can maneuver around the icebergs in life and make sure it is smooth sailing for everyone.

When navigating icy seas at night, charting a course that is mostly unknown is, to me, terrifying in many ways. Of course, not many are gifted in seeing the future. This unknown is always with us, and for the most part, I don’t worry a bit about it. But today, lying in that treatment room, both arms frozen over my head, alone, with only the buzzing, clicking and spinning of a very large, intimidating, flat-faced one-eyed machine to keep me company, I felt my first really strong emotions since this whole breast cancer journey started. it wasn’t panic, but it was something close. It wasn’t fear, but it was something close to fear. There was great sadness there, too, along with wonder and a substantial dose of gratitude, which is always part of my emotional palette.  Maybe it was just the fact that I was tied down in a room with a very large and intimidating machine that seemed to move of its own volition that spooked me.

The radiation treatment took barely 25 minutes from the time I walked in the building to the time I walked out. I feel nothing…yet. More blue ink drawn on me to ruin my clothing and, with no great fanfare, I’m off to a day of making life smooth for everyone; dodging icebergs along the way and retorting as needed.

But I’m scared.

What if I have made and am making devastating choices with irreversible consequences?

What if the results of these decisions, intended to make the sailing through life smoother for us all, actually make things worse?

And…the question that plagues me and can really make me crazy if I let it…what if…instead of getting better, things don’t ever get better…or they get worse?

Then of course, there are other unknowns, more practical ones.

What is my schedule for radiation treatment going to be?  Will I need to take more time off?  How will my body respond?  Will I be able to continue work without having to take any time off?  My last treatment is scheduled to be June 5.  That is three days before the last day of school. How will this impact the rest of the school year?  How long will the effects of radiation last and how will that impact my summer?

Then, there are issues about the school district discovering my recent move and insisting I complete an inter-district transfer, since my new address is out of the district where my two older children attend school.  This gets tricky because it means both districts must approve the request.  If they do not, then I have a daughter, who within seven weeks of graduation will have to face finishing her senior year at another high school.  Now, I can’t imagine any school district official being so evil as to insist that this happen, but budgets being what they are, school districts are less likely to grant transfers than they have in the past.  I will also have a son, who at the end of his sophomore year, will have to attend high school where they have none of the activities that he is currently involved in.

On a side note, you might wonder why I moved if the high school in the district I was moving to was inadequate.  The move was a good one, for my youngest.  The entire family, even the high-schoolers were, and still are, in favor of moving to where we moved.  I just didn’t imagine the transfer issue would be a big deal.  I’m now hearing that it could be. I don’t yet know. I filled out the paperwork and we will just have to wait and see.  It’s an iceberg I can’t exactly dodge or move right now.  I’m kind of hope it’s a mirage and it will evaporate as I approach.

Then there is the added stress of the Evil Ex seeking a modification of the child support. The unknowns here were more frightening until I met with my attorney this afternoon.  I had to part with $150 hard earned dollars, but it was money well spent and good information I received. She was able to paint a picture of the worst likely scenario (bad, but not intolerable).  She was also able to paint a realistic picture of what was likely to happen.  This helps me chart the course through the iceberg strewn sea of Post-Divorce Dealings With The Evil Ex.

In other posts, I’ve mentioned the financial iceberg that creates stress as it slides along the ship that is our family.  I worry that any day now an edge will puncture us and we will sink.  For now, we remain afloat.

The icebergs continue to converge with no relief.  One after another appears out of the fog of unknown possibilities and they are all frightening in their own way.  I can’t do anything about them right now…I can’t even see them clearly enough to know which direction to turn the ship.  All I can do is survive today.  And after today, tomorrow.  And after tomorrow, the next day.  I hope that, by so doing, I will eventually find that I have successfully maneuvered my way through the icy currents I’m experiencing to warmer, more pleasant waters.

Craigslist To The Rescue

They say money doesn’t buy happiness. It’s been said that money isn’t everything. I would agree. Happiness has to come from within and there are things far more important in life than one’s net worth. In the movie, Becoming Jane Reverend Austen makes a much more accurate statement:

Nothing destroys spirit like poverty.

I have to agree. Money isn’t everything until you don’t have any of it. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but I’d rather be crying in my mansion with the Lamborghini in the garage as I’m packing for a shopping excursion in Europe.

I’m sick of always scraping by. I’m tired of alternating which bills I pay this month in order to catch up on the bills I didn’t get paid last month. I’m still really unhappy that I had to turn over my tax return. I’m certain my bankruptcy attorney could have communicated and timed things a bit better so that things didn’t go the way they did; costing me even more money than I had and requiring me to forfeit what I had coming in tax returns.

My divorce attorney got back with me about dealing with the child support review. It is going to cost $150 for an hour, which isn’t bad, and my attorney is definitely worth all that. It’s just that I don’t have the money. I’m tired of not having the money.

I scraped together the money, this time without having to dig into the family grocery and gas money. I did what I have done for a while now: when things get tight, I sell something on Craigslist. I was fortunate this time, in that I actually had a few things I could get rid of. So far, it all added up to $170, just a little more than I needed for the attorney. That definitely helps. I’m just weary with having to operate like this. Pretty soon, I’m not going to have anything left to sell on Craigslist. Then what?

Hopefully, by then, I will have this little season of difficulty behind me. The Hesitant Boyfriend is actually working and making some decent money. Even though it is only for a few months and he won’t see any of it until next month, it will help. Things will get better. I hope.

The Evil Ex And Another Dastardly Deed

I’m telling you my life is insane. It is definitely a case of when it rains, it pours these days. My life is also an experience in extremes. Yesterday, as I’m breathing a sigh of relief that I don’t have to owe any more taxes and will actually be getting a size-able amount back, I get a big fat letter in the mail from the District Attorney’s Office of Child Support. Knowing this is not coming from the Good Ex, I sigh and wonder what The Evil Ex is up to now.

Upon opening the envelope, I discover it is a request to review the child support order, particularly as it pertains to medical coverage of our one joint child. After the initial rush of anxiety that still always overwhelms me when having to deal with this man, I had to wonder what exactly this man is thinking. When we divorced, our support order, like most others was based on income, number of overnights and the number of non-joint children we each had. It also had the standard clause that says we must split any uncovered medical expenses incurred.

There are several particulars in our situation that make it dicey. First off, he has a bunch of kids from a previous marriage I have only three. My income is higher than his, and he gets less than the normally allotted minimum of overnights. These realities, through the state calculator, meant that even though my income was higher and he had more non-joint kids in his favor, I still ended up getting child support.

Here’s where I have to wonder if the guy is completely nuts or not. Most of all his kids are out of the house, and won’t be credited in his favor in the calculations. I, on the other hand, still have all the same children living with me that I had before. He makes as much or more than I do now. I don’t get it. Given that he’s not paying that much for child support now, a thinking person would have said, “I don’t exactly want to risk having them raise my support,” and they would have left well enough alone. Emphasis on “a thinking person.” My ex is clearly not a thinking person. In fact, if left to his own devices, he would probably never deal with anything. The problem is that he has a new wife who now thinks it is her job to meddle. I suspect, he has now run through her money with his careless spending, and she is frustrated now that the bills are mounting up and things are getting tight. In addition, my ex has never once paid the uncovered expenses of anything, let alone, medical expenses, so I’m wondering what is up with that.

I called my attorney, but haven’t received a call back. I think I’m just going to fill out the paperwork, send it in and see what happens. Of course, I won’t do any of this without doing considerable research at the state child support website. Then, if the modification that comes back is unacceptable, I will contest the heck out of it.

But, it is just one more thing to deal with in an increasing list of issues mounting up. To add to the boiling cauldron of simmering stress, in the next week, I will begin radiation treatments. My Evil Ex is fully aware that I have cancer and have been dealing with treatments. I believe he picked this time intentionally, probably at the behest of his wife. This is an evil thing to do at an evil time, which is one reason among a multitude of reasons,why I call him the Evil Ex. If you were to ask him, he’d call himself a Christian; a big part of the problem, I’m guessing. He’s literally insane. Not because he calls himself a Christian, but because he is truly evil and thinks that all he has to do is say “God Bless” and he’s golden. Personally, I just wonder if he isn’t just giving Jesus a bad name.

Clearly, The EE is up to something dastardly and all I can do right now is sit tight and wait it out.

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.

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