By the Numbers

July 7, 2011

Remember the whole dispute, with my Ex, about his salary and appropriate child support and college savings?  I eventually went to talk to a lawyer – one I’d consulted with before.  I met with her on May 18th.

In the meantime, I’ve been asking the Ex to help out with some of the girls’ summer expenses.  Because I’ve paid $10,000 (this includes only a slight amount of rounding — mathematically acceptable rounding.  Meaning the literal number is something north of $9,500) toward camps and sports activities in order to keep the girls engaged and happy all summer long.  Typically, I would pay approximately $2,000, maybe a little bit more, because he usually has them in July.  So I thought a contribution would be fair.

But he refused to agree to any amount of a contribution until he knew how much additional child support I’d be asking for.

Despite his apparent willingness to contribute some money, I was very doubtful.

If, say, he was thinking he’d give me $1,000 toward summer expenses, and then I said, “I think that in light of the fact that you make DOUBLE the salary you’ve previously admitted to, you should pay an extra $100/mo in child support,” my belief was he would say, “well, I was going to give you $1,000 toward the summer expenses, but now I need that $1,000 to cover the extra child support that you’re demanding, and that I cannot afford.  I don’t know what I’ll do after the 10 months is up.”

But nevertheless, I started to harass that attorney I had spoken to (meaning … a full 4 weeks after I met with her, I called her.  Then again.  Then again.) I had left her office on May 18th, with the promise for an estimate of appropriate and realistic (i.e., what a judge would order) child support in light of the Ex’s true salary.

Finally, on July 1st, she sent me a letter.

Now I’m going to talk numbers (his, not mine).

The Ex had been leading me to believe that he made something like $58,000/year.  Based on this belief, I believed that my salary was some multiple of his.  Based on what I saw as fairness, I had agreed – upon the start of my job in BigLaw, to $500/mo – total – in child support.

I waived contributions to extra curricular activities.  My thinking was that it was unfair for me to make unilateral decisions on what the girls would participate in and require him (with such a low salary) to contribute equally.  So we decided that when they were with him, he would pay for activities, and when they were with me, I would pay for activities.  (Which, of course, only resulted in them sitting around watching t.v. all day during the time they were with him.)

This was also a considerable reduction in costs for him because he was no longer paying toward child care.  Because the girls got old.

From the point of that decision to accept $500/mo (knowing that the Massachusetts child support guidelines suggested that the right number was $850+/mo), my salary increased each year, while he shared tales of woe and budget freezes and increased expenses and general poverty.

So much so that one summer he convinced me that if he had to send me child support while the girls were visiting him, he would be unable to feed them.

That began our summer waivers.  Because how could I possibly deprive my own daughters of FOOD?

So, my recent discovery was that he is in fact making over $100,000/year, plus significant income ($30K, approx) in the summers.  And this is in the Middle of the Country, where the cost of living is approximately 60% of what it is here.

Now – just to be clear.  I am actually not looking for more money to flow into my budget right now.  The entire inquiry into his salary came out of a meeting with a financial planner to talk about funding the girls’ college education.  Because the Ex and I together made the decision to have our children when we were young (22 and 24, to be exact) and not yet done with our own educations, we did not begin saving for college during our marriage.  He did not finish his dissertation until months (years?) after our separation, and never had a salary during our marriage.  I supported our family with various part time jobs and my own business while we were married.  After our divorce, I struggled to make ends meet as a single mother of two pre-school aged children, and again, was not saving for college.  I think that after our divorce, it didn’t even dawn on him that he may have some responsibility toward the girls’ college education.  He did not save.

As I told him, my proposal is that any amount that any increase in child support will be deposited – either by him or by me – into a savings account for college.  Whether alongside my own aggressive monthly contributions, or in a second account. (Although I’ve also made clear that any arrangement we make is contingent on me keeping my current job.  If I move on from BigLaw, I will not have the same considerations, as this salary is only available from this kind of job.)

My lawyer took the new salary figures, taking into account my salary, and told me that she believes that the proper figure for child support paid by him is somewhere between $1,800 and $2,000 per month.  This only includes his annual salary, and not his summer income.  (He insists that his summer income is variable, and refused to come to any agreement if summer salary was factored in.  In reality, adding in the summer income changes the equation by approximately $60/mo, and so I don’t care.)

Under the current arrangement, he makes $107,000/year (at least), and contributes $5,500/year toward the support of the girls.  If we were to take the low side of the lawyer’s numbers, he would be contributing, instead, $21,000/year.

But I think that $1,800 is too high.

I did tell him that is what she came out with, and of course, he freaked out.  “I can’t afford that!” And then regaled me with a full explanation of his budget.

I told him to stick it.  I don’t give a crap about his budget.  Child support is not made of whatever is left over at the end of the month.  It is a starting place from which you create your budget.  It’s one of the very first line items.  Like rent, and loan payments.

But, still, I think $1,800 is too high.

I told him that I’d been thinking an additional $500/mo, deposited into a savings account.

Funny how talking to him about an additional $1,300/mo affected his thinking about an additional $500/mo.

He was completely receptive.  Fine.  What kind of account?

I guess this just goes to show that he knows he was wrong in deceiving me about his true income. Like he was just waiting for this shoe to drop, and is resigned toward it.

Also – he’s sending me $750 toward the summer.  Which is fine.

So there’s that.

I guess next up is a dispute over next summer & the girls’ time.  As Lemon has increasing commitments for school sports, and Mouse just does not want to go there – like, ever – it is only getting harder.



  1. I’d say you’re entirely too kind. He hasn’t been cheating you, he’s been cheating his children.

  2. No, I think he’s been cheating me. I know that for people with low incomes, a father not paying can mean the kids go without. But mine do not.

    I pick up the slack for the girls, and will continue to all the way through to when they’re in college. They need new clothes for school, or just because they just went and grew another 3 inches, they don’t go without because he doesn’t send enough child support. I buy them the clothes, and *I* go without. If they need $200 for a sports fee, they don’t get told that they can’t play because it costs too much. I take care of it.

    If he was sending what he should be, I would have less of my budget going to their support, and maybe instead, you know, have a retirement fund. Or new work clothes more than once every two years. Maybe shoes that aren’t falling apart at the buckle. Or money left in my account at pay day. Or something else that is typical for a person at my income level.

    We should be sharing the “burden” of the child-rearing costs. Instead I am shouldering them. But they are getting taken care of.

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