Archive for the ‘divorce’ Category

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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.

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A Different Kind of Summer

July 5, 2011

Since 2002, when the Ex and I separated, the girls have spent a significant amount of time with him in the Middle of the Country over the summer.  The amount of time has varied over the years.  Started off as too much time the first year, cut back significantly the second year, then settled into the 3-5 week range for a few years, with one spike for a 7 week summer because of a vacation with his extended family.

Every year, the girls dread going.  They don’t want to leave “home.”  (3-5 weeks in the summer plus one holiday visit and one spring break have not worked to create a second “home” for them at his house.)

Every year, there is a part of me that looks forward to the break.  I feel guilty, because they are unhappy and they are tearful and I am sort of “Go!”

When they were little, and I was dealing with tight budgets and tight timing (work, daycare, school), it really was a break.  Also, by the second summer that they were gone, WD and I were beginning our relationship.  We took things pretty slow, in light of the girls, and so the summer was our time to really try on the relationship.

But as our family blended, as the kids got older, the stresses less, summers became sadder.  Throw in a dash of tearful miserable phone calls from the Middle of the Country, and summers became almost unbearable.

WD and I tried, over the years, to capitalize on the time that they were away.  We went on trips.  Hikes. Dinners out.

During my first law school summer, we were too broke – I don’t think we went anywhere.

During my second law school summer, WD and I went on a fantastic trip to Bar Harbor, Maine.

After my third year of law school, we went to Europe!  (My post bar exam trip.)

But then, WD went to school.  He got his masters in fine arts (creative writing), and starting that first year of my employment, he went away while the girls were away.

Huh?

I had 10 days to myself?

Well, not so fast, sweetheart.  That was the year we moved.

So I had 10 days with empty boxes, cans of paint, and very “helpful” parents.  (The quotes aren’t fair – they really were helpful.  But they were also “helpful.”  Just because they’re my parents.)

And last year, I really did have 10 days to myself.  I was so looking forward to it.

And then it kind of sucked.  It just wasn’t as fun as I anticipated.

Now, this year is happening.

No trips to the Middle of the Country.  Just girls, at home, every day, every weekend, all the time.  (For the most part.)

But WD is still heading to his alma mater, where he still functions as a graduate assistant for 10 days in the summers.

10 days.

10 days with no WD.

The cook.  The grocery shopper.  The one who is home to make sure that Lemon has her snack before her transition between activities.

10 days without him.

Gulp.

It was hard enough last year, when I had to come up with things for my own self to eat every evening for 10 days.  But now I have to do it for the girls?   But they eat a lot!

Which means I have to be home at a reasonable time?

[Fortunately my department continues to be very, very slow.  So I don’t have to worry too much that work won’t let me out.  Never mind the other worries that this causes – that’s a post for another day.  Or not.]

I was sorting through some of the girls’ various activities today – looking at where and when they are doing what, and found a secret little golden nugget:  A week that they’re both away!  Mouse’s second week of sleep-away camp is the week that Lemon has decided to go and visit the Ex.  It’s not a full week, but it’s something.

I wonder what WD and I will do?

[Especially since every one of our pennies are paying for this very full summer!]

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Flashbacks v. 2 — A (Gilded) Brush With Poverty

June 14, 2011

For the past two plus years, I’ve been working closely with a medical/legal partnership organization on a pro bono project at my firm.  I really enjoy the work, and I enjoy being involved in the leadership of a very important endeavor.

This morning, the organization I work with ran a “poverty simulation” for several firms, including mine.  This wasn’t the first year they did it, and it’s often very well received by the associates and summer associates who participate.  The idea is that the young lawyers and lawyers-to-be role play to see what it feels like to live at or under the poverty level.  To “experience” the hard decisions that must be made when your resources do not cover your liabilities.  How once you find yourself in a hole, everything in your life tends to topple right into that hole.

I was sitting with a colleague as the introductory remarks were being made, and she leaned over and said, “have you done this before?”  Meaning – have I played the roles?  In the past years that the firm had the event?

Um.  Yeah.  I’ve “played the role” of being at or under the poverty line.

Only, for reals.

There is no doubt that always, in my life,  I have been very lucky.  Or charmed.  Or both.  I am aware of that.  I’m aware of the fact that my brush with poverty lasted three months – maybe six – makes me so much more fortunate than most who find themselves slipping down that horrific slope of Need.

But back in 2001, soon after the Ex and I split up, I was in dire need.  I left him during a time where we were in an elective state of poverty – otherwise known as living the student life.  We had no savings.  We had no assets.  No accounts to empty.  Nothing.  We barely had available credit.  We had low rent, but that was because he was a student, and we lived in graduate student housing.  But HE was the student.  Not me.  Not me, who had the kids (never was it a question that he might take the kids).

There was nowhere in my very expensive student town that I could afford to live.  First, last, deposit?  Impossible, it seemed.  I was working 28 hours a week in a job that paid ($10/hour?  $12?  I can’t remember – but I took the job as a way to pay for the family’s groceries, not as a way to support three of us entirely).  I was also doing a good bit of freelance work, but it was erratic.

I ended up moving an hour away from my job, from the town that had become my home, to live near my sister, and to pay crappy-town’s rent levels.  $550/mo instead of $1500/mo.  And I drove to and from my hour-away-job, while trying to figure out what I was going to do. My sister watched my girls a couple of nights a week, and the Ex had them on the weekends.  Until he moved.  Very Far Away.  (The Middle of the Country is far away, no matter which coast you live on.)

The situation wasn’t sustainable, but it got me through the initial separation, and helped me to have my sister nearby.  It was such a dark time for me, and for her.  She was struggling through the end days of her own marriage.  She later told me that she had just geared herself up to leave her husband, and I announced to her that I was leaving mine.  So she felt she had to wait.  I think she ended up waiting another year and a half, if my memory and math is right.

So I headed back toward “home.”  I needed to find a place to live, a daycare for the girls, and I needed to find a full time, real-money-paying job.  It may be the topic of another post to discuss how unhappy my parents were that “home” did not mean their house, my home town.  But for many, many reasons, that was just not an option for me.  I believe the primary reason was that running back home to mommy and daddy felt like failure.  I wanted this to be transition, not failure.

So I was heading back to the San Francisco Bay Area with no savings, a part-time barely-more-than-minimum-wage, 2 kids, and a car.

I looked into subsidized housing, but the waiting lists were forever long.  I spoke to daycare centers, and was shocked that I was going to be paying almost $2,000/mo for two children.  (I was making $1200/mo, total.)

It felt impossible.  I really wasn’t sure how I was going to make this all work.  Looking back and telling the story now, it seems almost more impossible than it did back then.  Back then, I was determined.  Now, I look back at that Suzie and shake my head …

Not too long into looking for an apartment, a friend put me in touch with her landlord.  One of those who doesn’t want to keep her several properties up to code, and is happy to charge a little bit less rent to get her tenants to keep their mouths shut.  Fortunately, “not up to code” meant she didn’t have all 3 units in the (very nice Victorian) house split onto separate utilities accounts.  I really didn’t care.  I paid $1,400/mo for a 3 bedroom house on a great street around the corner from a Whole Foods.  And while she took 1st month’s rent and a security deposit, she waived the last month’s rent.  So, that went on my credit card, but how was I going to pay the second month’s rent?  I needed a job.  But how could I look for a job without childcare?

And this is where I went looking for public benefits.  In the form of subsidized day care.  I took my $300/week pay stubs and went to a city office, and I applied for a daycare subsidy.

The miracle?  What I now know to be a miracle, after working with clients who are wholly dependent upon public benefits?

I was approved that day.  I had my voucher within 2 hours.  The woman who helped me was kind, caring, interested.

Wow.

Within a week of the girls being in full-time care, I had a new job.  I was a paralegal in a small firm, making $40,000/year, instead of under $15,000.  And when I got my first paycheck, I brought it back to the office that gave me the childcare voucher, and canceled the voucher.  Boy, was the Ex pissed (since he had to pay for 1/2 of childcare).

So while my truly rocky days lasted less than 6 months (I left the Ex in October of 2001, and I moved into my apartment and started my new real job in February of 2002), the repercussions lasted a lot longer.  Other than the childcare voucher, I didn’t have much financial help in those first months, and I put a lot on my credit card.  I ended up overwhelmed with credit card debt pretty quickly.

Soon after I started working at my new job and was settled into my new apartment, I was able to realize just how lucky I was.  Not just lucky that I got the job – but lucky that I had the education I had, the experience that I had, the credit score that I had – things that were, essentially, handed to me early in life that allowed for these pieces to click into place.  How easy would it have been to fail at my reestablishment if only one of those pieces weren’t in place?  If I didn’t have work experience, or I didn’t have the option to put those start-up costs on a credit card?  Or if I had a sick child? Or if that child care subsidy person wasn’t actually my Fairy Godmother?

I had a lot of hard times in the next several years.  Like the day that the bank decided to put a 3-day hold on my paycheck, locking my funds over a weekend when I had no food.  I was so very angry talking to the customer service representative – how can you put a hold on a paycheck?  The same paycheck I get every single week?  I ended up hanging up on him.  If using the term “hanging up on” is typical for “throwing my phone into a concrete wall so that it shatters into a thousand pieces.”  [The kids were not around to witness that.  But I did do it.]

And when all of that credit card debt came home to roost, and I found myself choosing to give up my car (and my car payments) so I could start digging out of the hole — the mornings and evenings of being dependent on public transportation, being so very anxious that I’d be late to pick the girls up from daycare or from after-school care.  And it was all compounded once Lemon started school and Mouse was still in daycare.  I had to get to Mouse by 5:15 and then strap my bike to the front of a bus (one that came “every 30 minutes”) and get to Lemon by 6 on the other side of town.  Getting home so very late because “every 30 minutes” on the way home really isn’t.  Do you wait for the bus, even after 45 minutes, with 2 very hungry and grouchy children?  Or do you hook their backpacks to the bike’s handlebars, and walk them 30 minutes home, stopping at the grocery store to grab some food before their bedtime?

[They pick on me today – when they look back at those days of eating Annie’s Mac & Cheese more often than we’d ever eat now – they think I made those choices because of a lack of cooking skills.  They don’t remember what our evenings were like.]

But I still look back on that time as proof of my good fortune, and with gratitude.  And I won’t ever let myself forget just how hard that was, and how much harder so many people have it.  Bootstraps had nothing to do with my fortunate transition.  Happenstance – of birth, of education, of privilege – gets the credit, and no one else should be discredited for not having the same.

No one should be judged – ever – for not having things click into place as easily as I did.

 

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Struggling to Maintain Civility & Dignity.

May 9, 2011

So, the Ex and I have been exchanging some emails.  We had our initial confrontation, he didn’t deny lying to me, seemed to acknowledge that some increase would be forthcoming, but still said, “suck it,” essentially.

I stayed in my paralyzed funk for a bit (a week?), and then I wrote him to request his last 2 years’ tax returns.  He waited a day or so and wrote me to say “of course” I’ll agree to him redacting his wife’s income & assets.  I said no, I do not agree.  Definitely not on the income (because if she’s making a decent income, I’ll feel less guilty about the whole thing, not because her income would increase his child support owed), and the only way he can redact her property is if there’s a prenup.  Because otherwise, it’s his property, too.  (Which also doesn’t affect child support #s, as far as I know, but again, will make me feel less like an ogre.)

Then he said he had more to “disclose,” in the way of additional income.  From what I can gather based on his cryptic statements, it’s $20-$30K of additional income, each summer, for at least the last 2 years.  He says he will not agree to any arrangement that factors in that money because it’s summer income, gained through competitive applications, and there is no guarantee he’ll get it again.

But I’ve since asked him FOUR times if he’s getting it again this summer, and he’s ignoring the question.

I’ve also called a lawyer.  She’s going to get back to me.  I will use her to help me set reasonable expectations in the first instance.  And then, if negotiations break down, I’ll have her file the necessary papers.

With the Ex’s resignation that some sort of increase is imminent, I am thinking we can potentially resolve this without going all the way to a legal dispute.  Since the first day, even with the disagreements, we haven’t been “fighting,” and have been carrying on concurrent conversations about potential visits with the girls this summer and about braces, and other little things we need to interact about.  Without arguing.  Cooperating, even.

It’s really been fine.

What I’m thinking is that any increase that we end up implementing (voluntary or otherwise), will go directly into a college savings fund.  I will even let him make the deposits himself.  I am not trying to get myself extra spending money – I am trying to secure the girls’ future as much as I can.  Even if we do set this up as I envision it, he’ll be putting 1/3 the amount away for their college that I am.  Or maybe 1/4th.  But I will not complain too much, because I hadn’t thought this much would be happening.  I guess in some ways, despite the conflict that results, this whole thing still provides me with an unexpected and pleasant benefit.

At the same time, I asked him to contribute to their summer activities.  He said he’ll “have to think about it.”  I’m sure he’ll come down on the side of “no.” But I thought I’d put it out there.  I really am shelling out obnoxious #s of thousands to keep these girls engaged this summer.  Just when I thought I’d finally squeezed every ounce of blood from every stone to get things covered, Lemon came home with info on a Crew program for another $2K.  Jesus.

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Paralyzed

May 4, 2011

I hate that I have been divorced.  I hate when something happens in a conversation with someone I’ve recently met that requires me to divulge this information about myself.  For example:  “What do your kids do in the summer?”  Or, “Oh, did your husband help change diapers when the girls were little?”  Or even, “oh, you lived in California, what were you doing there?”  Well, I was there while my husband went to grad school.  No, not this husband.  The other one.

It’s not a huge issue in my life, and I don’t try to hide it.  It’s pretty much on par with the way I try to avoid the question of “and where did you go to undergrad?”  Because I’m embarrassed of that, too.

I’ve considered myself fortunate that the Ex and I do not bicker too much.  Whether it’s because we’re adults or (more likely) because he lives so damned far away, I’m pleased that we don’t invest too much time or energy in spatting with one another.

When something does come up, I prefer not to broadcast it far and wide.  I will share with my closest friends, and I will share with WD.  But I don’t bring it up with everyone I bump into on the street, or in the course of typical conversations with co-workers.

I don’t even tend to discuss everything on my blog.  Because the divorce and the disputes therein are not who I am.  They are not a part of what I consider my life to be.

But the most recent thing that came up is weighing heavily on me, and I’m going to use this cloak of anonymity to vent, and to try and think through the situation that I find myself in.  Maybe some of my very few readers will even have some advice for me.  To help me as I wrestle with my options.

_________________________

Last week, WD and I went to talk to a financial planner.  I think I’ve mentioned before that it’s time that we get a bit more organized in our finances.

My life has taken such a non-traditional path.  My trajectory is so different from that of most of my peers:

  • Work hard at building a career while single;
  • get married in the late 20s/early 30s;
  • continue to build your career as well as your financial portfolio;
  • buy a house,
  • have a baby or two,
  • maybe buy a bigger house;
  • tweak your career to accommodate your family, but not so much that you aren’t still adding to that portfolio,
  • raise your kids with confidence that you can pay for their college and enjoy your own self once they get the hell out.

No.  That was not me.  I did this instead:

  • put choice career on hold for the sake of getting married at the ripe old age of 21;
  • continue to put choice career on hold for the sake of having babies at the ripe old age of 23;
  • work at non-choice career to support baby-faced husband as he pursues his choice career;
  • continue to work at non-choice career while said husband decides his choice-career is actually something different, and requires 7 more years of schooling;
  • divorce said husband;
  • continue to work at non-choice career for another 2 or 3 years while figuring out how to be a single mother and to pay off divorce-granted 1/2 of ridiculous debt accumulated during ex-husband’s non-working student days and while paying for full time child care for 2 preschool aged children and for a decent apartment in one of the most expensive cities in the country;
  • decide to pursue choice career;
  • get remarried to a great guy who also did not follow typical life-path;
  • finally graduate from law school;
  • realize your pre-teen and teen children are getting really fucking old, and you have very little savings to speak of because you’ve spent so long hoping that there will be enough money for food.
  • freak out.

And that’s what brings me to a financial planner.  At long last.

I’ve long-ago come to terms with the fact that I’m not going to ever buy a house.  Not in this town I chose.  This town that I’m now pretty committed to, both because of my kids’ community, and also because of my own.  We’re also committed because of the great schools and other opportunities, the location, the culture, the politics.  We love where we live.  So we rent.  For half the monthly cost than we’d be paying if we chose to buy a place with half the square footage of what we’re renting. (I’ve kind of come to terms with it.  I still lust over houses.  I sometimes have searing pangs of jealousy when someone buys a house.  But it’s fine.)

But I’m not coming to terms with the fact that I may not be able to fund 100% of my kids’ college expenses.

When I went to college, my parents were able to pay for 100% of my college.  True, through the power of the purse, they insisted upon that school (or one like it), and they refused to pay for the schools that were academically sound and that I was very eager to attend, based on both finances and on what they perceived as “moral depravity.” (i.e., there were signs up on campus about a pro-choice rally.)   Back then, college cost $10,000/year.   It was not a drop in the bucket to them, but it was not 1/4th of their salary.  It was a single digit percentage.

Today, a year’s college tuition is 1/4th of my salary.  Which I know puts me in better shape than most, but the reality is that I do not know how long my salary will stay at the level it is currently at.  I may have a different job by the time Lemon heads to college in 3 years.

3 years.

God.  When I think about how quickly the last 3 years went by …

So – financial planner.

She tells me I need to seriously consider paying for half of their college instead of all.  If I pay for all of it, I can retire when I’m 95.

She asks about grandparents, the Ex – can they help?

Nope.  I say.  My parents are way too stressed about their own retirement, in light of the fact that they didn’t start saving until relatively recently (because of their own kids’ college, etc.), and there is no way they are going to have money to contribute.  The Ex’s parents might have a little money, but not much.

But what about the Ex?

Oh.  He can’t.  He makes very little money.

We move on.

Later, I’m chatting with a friend about college expenses.  She is currently married to a college professor, and is wondering aloud why we both made choices to marry people who make so little money. Why did we not marry investment managers or even fellow lawyers.

While I was chatting with her, I found myself – FOR THE FIRST TIME – questioning the Ex’s salary.  I mean, he’s been a professor for a very long time.  He has tenure.  While still chatting, I employed my sweet friend Google.  After all, the Ex teaches at a public university – his salary is likely public record.

Why is this the first time I thought about this?

I guess because I really did think we were adults.

Google tells me, no.

The Ex makes 2x the amount he has told me that he makes.

2x.

Meaning, the amount he had been letting me believe he makes, and then that amount again.

The amount he had been letting me believe was low enough that I said, “oh, never mind the child support guidelines, I understand things are tough for you, you can pay $300/mo less than that.”

And when he made tenure, and I said, “did you get a raise with that?”  Did he say “yes, approximately $40K!” (And that it was on top of an already-much-higher number than he’d been leading me to believe.)

Nope.

He said, “Only about $3K.”

Huh.  Because according to the website, the first # was the right number.  Not the $3K number.  The $40K number.

And last year, when I kind of put his back to the wall about who gets to claim Lemon for tax-purposes, he surprisingly caved on the issue.  Now I know why.  Because if he fought me on that, and we went to court, he would have to submit financial records, and then I would know that he’s been lying to me.

I was pretty upset.  Not tears upset (I’m not a cryer, after all), but angry.  Because he and I were in the midst of a very cordial email thread (wherein he told me that no, his parents won’t be contributing to college, and either will he), I just told him what I saw.  He basically said, “yeah, well, fuck you” in response.  First, he tried to say that he didn’t tell me because “it didn’t come up.”  Which is, of course, bullshit.  He didn’t just “not tell me” – he lied on multiple occasions.  He let me fill in erroneous numbers for our little child support calculator without correcting me.  He outright lied about whether he’d received raises more than once.  Of course, I obsessively checked my email history to gather proof of these transgressions.

He left it as, “So, have your lawyer contact me.”

And then I slipped into a funk.  For at least a couple of days.  Mostly feeling disillusioned over the fact that I’ve prided myself in being fair, and in being, even, kind.  And in response, I’ve been lied to.

I am no longer in a funk, but I still haven’t done anything about this.  I know now that when taking into account my salary and his salary, he should be paying more than twice the child support he currently pays.  But you know what?  I don’t want to be that person.  I don’t want to open up a court file here in Massachusetts.  I don’t want to take him to court, from 1/2 way across the country, to get more money out of him.  Is it my fault he has two new babies?  No.  But I still feel like if I drag him to court to insist on some higher amount of child support (any such increase would, of course, go entirely to the girls’ fledgling college accounts), I’m a jerk.  A real jerk.

I know that when it comes down to it, the court cannot (will not) make him contribute toward tuition.  And even with his true salary being 2x what he had told me he was making, it’s not a huge salary.  He likely cannot pay for half of their college.  So increasing child support to the appropriate level and using that increase to supplement the savings is the most I can expect.  I can probably also extend child support past the girls’ 18th birthdays, until they graduate from college.

But even if I do get this increase … it won’t help tons in the overall picture.  In the three years between now and when Lemon heads out the door, the increase maybe will have accumulated to equal 1/2 year of college.  One semester.  But there’s two kids.  So …. ?

Is it worth it?  I just don’t know.  I really do not want the fight.  I don’t want to be that person.  I don’t want the fact that I have been divorced to take up that much of my time and thoughts.

Not one person I have spoken to thinks that it is appropriate for me to let this go.  Every single person thinks I should take him to court and get the higher number.  Of course, if I were to talk to his mother, or perhaps another divorced non-custodial parent, I would get a different perspective.

Also to note, if I were to get the increase to the levels that the MA guidelines state as the true level, he would be paying considerably less than 10% of his gross salary to child support.  Which means, yeah, he’s currently paying about 4% of his gross annual salary toward child support.

Another thing – I do not know that his salary is all he makes.  He also has several speaking engagements per year, and participates in many other professional endeavors.  Those could be supplementing his salary in a significant way.  And since I know that he does not feel like it is his responsibility to ensure that he’s providing Lemon and Mouse with support appropriate to his income, I know he would not volunteer this information.

For now, I have asked him for his last 2 years’ tax returns.  I don’t know if he’ll provide them.  I’m guessing if his salary is it, he’ll send them.  If there’s more, more to hide, then he will not.

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Why am I not moving at 75 mph?

April 25, 2011

My 3-day drive-a-thon went as well as could be expected.  Perhaps I could have had less rain, but it didn’t slow me down.  Perhaps I could have gone without the brunch with the in-laws, but it was virtually painless.  Perhaps I could have a 16 yo with a driver’s license, instead of an almost-13-year-old with the propensity for napping, but that will come with time.

I don’t regret the drive for a moment.  I will even go so far as to say I enjoyed it.  I’m glad I did it.

The drive to the Middle of the Country was uneventful.  I drove a lot, stopped a little, and gamed the numbers on my GPS as much as possible without getting a ticket or compromising my safety. Two small things of note:

  • Just as a rainstorm was about to hit me, some rubber weather-stripping came loose on my car roof.  It was whipping around frantically, amusingly causing the cars around me to get out of my way.  I’m sure the idea of having your car whipped is a frightening one.  It didn’t take much to re-attach the strip, and I only got hit by the very beginnings of rain drops in the process.
  • At one point, a red pick up truck passed me.  The truck wasn’t new, but not too old, either.  It was obviously used for the purposes for which it was created — the bed was full of useful items, perhaps used to build houses or barns or something.  There were bungee cords holding some sheet rock in place.  And driving the truck?  A 20-something gal with long curly tresses wearing a tiara.  She was smiling and singing.  It made me want to listen to Taylor Swift.  (But I didn’t, because it was “Suzie Solo Drive” playlist day.  The teen/tween playlist was in the queue for later … I didn’t need a preview of that hot mess.)
During my drive, I ended up with a few new favorite musicians:  Adele, especially her newer album, titled “21”; The National (almost every song); Anna Calvi (thanks to WD for that find) and Florence + the Machine.  Old favorites remained favorites, and I enjoyed spending time with them:  Elbow (love love love love); Coldplay; and The Decemberists.  The Decemberists, especially, I enjoyed having the quiet focused time with.  Their lyrics are so damned interesting, and I can’t focus on them in my usual life.  It made me miss my high school/college/early 20s days, when I would buy a [tape or] C.D. and just lie on the floor listening over and over while reading the included lyrics.   Maybe “rewinding” the tape to listen to a particularly compelling song more than once.
I arrived at the Ex’s house approximately 40 minutes later than I meant to.  I’d forgotten that I would be crossing into another time zone when doing my planning.  Upon coming to the realization in my hotel somewhere in the middle of Indiana, I was very excited.  It meant I could sleep!  Until 8 a.m.!  Which meant I could watch another episode of Jericho! And stay up until midnight!
What I forgot was that I’d have to re-factor the hour when I crossed back over the time zone line.  Duh.
Instead of sleeping for an extra hour, I should have texted the Ex and said, “I meant 11.  I’ll be there at 11, not noon.”
The only real reason for the rush was that Mouse wanted to swim.  I’d worked hard to find a hotel with a pool (and paid a little extra for the pleasure), and didn’t want my lack of math skills to keep her from her swim. Which means – it really wasn’t the end of the world to be running a little later.  In the end, the extra hour of sleep was probably very good for me.
Brunch went well.  My Ex-Mother-In-Law hasn’t  changed an iota from when she was my plain old Mother-In-Law.  It was relatively interesting to watch me, my ex, his new wife, his parents, our daughter, and his baby daughter, all interacting.  It was very natural, cordial, and even pleasant. Mouse loved it.  She sat at a table between her two parents for the first time in several, several years.*  His wife is very nice and easy to talk to.  She had a few blips in the past years where she approached Evil Stepmother status (probably while dealing with infertility and pregnancy), but by-and-large, for the past 10 years, she’s been a very positive presence in the girls’ lives, and I have little to complain about.
Mouse and I had a pretty easy drive.  I’d planned for a shorter drive on Saturday, and more hours on Sunday, and I’m glad I did.  We did end up at the hotel with a couple of hours to swim, and then went in search for food.  Upon looking at the plethora of fast-food-only options in the Middle of the Country, we decided we weren’t actually hungry. Instead, we went to Walmart.  It was her first time, since her mother is typically anti-Walmart.  We got some forgotten toiletries, and generally took in the sights, sounds and smells of an American phenomenon that she had not yet experienced.  The next day was liberally peppered (by her) with knocks on Walmart, and the inferior quality of the items purchased there (but seriously, the Cadbury Mini Eggs did taste a little funny ….)
She is not a good listener of music.  She cannot just settle into a playlist.  she wants every song to be “that song I really want to hear!” and so she did a lot of connecting and unconnecting the iPod from the stereo, and searching for certain artists (Avril Lavigne, Avril Lavigne, and Avril Lavigne, mostly).  She was dismayed at one point when I finally cried uncle and insisted that MY playlist get a turn, and A Fine Frenzy came on.  “Why do you have them?”  Because I like them.  Duh.  Apparently, when your mother discovers and even likes an artist that you thought you discovered and liked as an independent teen, you get upset.
Not very upset, though.  Moods stayed good the entire time.
As it turns out, our route home took us on the highway that passes within 2 miles of my parents’ house.
When I went to the middle of the country, I obeyed my GPS and took the northern-most U.S. highway.  The problem was, in order to go where I had to go, the highway made me turn north, stay straight west for some time, but then turn south along the great lakes before I could head back west.  Felt like wasted time.  Also, honestly, the freeway through upstate New York is not exciting.  So on the way home, we took the other highway.  The one that makes you go east, then turn south for a bit, then go east, and eventually turn north again.  Grrr.  Why can’t you just go east/west from Massachusetts?  What’s up with all the turns and twists and unnecessary mileage?
We decided if we had to go all zig-zag anyway, we may as well take the zig-zag option that lets us pop in and say hello to our parents/grandparents.  We had every intention of making it a surprise, but as my parents’ Easter dinner plans came clear (through their 10,000 calls to me to make sure I was okay), we realized a surprise could cause a problem.  So we told them at 2 that we’d be there at 4:30.
They were having dinner at my brothers’ house, and they all decided, “oh, let’s wait for them for dinner, instead of eating at 3.”  But they decided that after Mouse and I said, “oh, they’re eating at 3, so lets stop and get food so we aren’t hungry when we get there.”
And my mother was in rare form.  I am not entirely sure what was up with her.  But she was in rare form. I ended up getting a 5 minute lecture about my “attitude” when I was in college.  When Mouse and I got back in the car, I thought about giving her a 10 minute lecture about her toddler tantrums.  How dare she act so irrationally?  What was she possibly thinking?  But, actually, those tantrums were only 9 years ago.  Not twenty years ago.  For crying out loud.
Then, to top it all off, the last 2.5 hours between my parents’ house and my house was our first run-in with traffic.  It was riddled with traffic.  When we first got in the car, our GPS told us we’d be home at 8:15.  We got home at 9:54.
It was good to spend a lot of time quiet and with less input.  It was great to spend time with my sweet daughter.  And she was a sweetie.  At one point, she dozed in the car, and the blanket I’d brought for her got twisted in such a way that she was uncovered.  I reached over and covered her up, and she rolled over with a big smile & blew me a kiss and grabbed my hand from the gear shift, and fell back asleep holding my hand.  We enjoyed each other’s company and made each other laugh.
And it is good to be home.
* I had them for brunch once, a couple of years ago sans the parents and baby daughter.  Same thing – much civility, pleasantry, and get-along-ability.  Bodes well for weddings and graduations, I think.
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Lunch with the Exes. All of Them.

April 19, 2011

As I’ve mentioned (ad nauseum?) – I am driving to the middle of the country this coming weekend.  Mouse doesn’t want to be there alone (of course, however, she’s doing FINE now that she is), and she hates to fly. In an attempt to make this easier for her, I am going to fetch her, instead of putting her on a plane.

I’m still pretty much fine with it.

I had toyed with asking the Ex to meet me in Chicago.  A 2 hour drive for him, shaving that much off my drive.  Mouse was actually the one to suggest it:  “Seriously, mom, if you’re driving 18 hours, I think he can drive two!” But then, within a heartbeat or two, she said, “although, if you come all the way, you can see the baby!  And you can see dad’s apartment!”

I’ve had the ex here, at my house, before.  Him and his wife.  They’d come to town for one of the girls’ many plays, and I had them over for brunch.  It actually went well.  I brought out the baby albums, we all laughed.  There were no bad moments.  Not a one.  I was very proud that I could show the girls that they are not being torn apart by their parents, that they didn’t have to choose, that we could all be together.

He’s come a few other times, too.  Incidentally, when on the east coast for a conference.  It was always fine.

So, he texted me today to ask when I planned to be in his town.  I thought about saying, “can you meet me in Chicago?”  Instead I said, “noon.”  He said … “we’ll make lunch for you.”  I said, “okay.”  He said, “is it just you, or WD, too?”  I said, “Just me.”  He said, “Well, of course, we would have made lunch for him, too.”

Oh, the kindness.

Honestly, if it were just him, his wife and their babies, I would be pretty darned neutral about the whole thing.

But it’s not.

It’s him, his wife, one of the babies (because of the whole, “our family is above togetherness” that goes on with them), and his parents.  His parents!

Agh!

I do not like his parents.  I honestly never did.  His mom is hard.  Very hard.  His step-dad is mean.  Very mean.  He’s mellowing with age, but he was mean when I first met him, and even meaner when my ex was a young child.

I’ve seen them a time or 2 since the divorce.  It didn’t go so bad.  I’ve emailed with his mom.  It didn’t go so well.  I’ve been clued in about things they’ve said about me – they weren’t such nice things.  But I know that I’ve said more not-nice things about them (with confidence it wouldn’t get back to them).

So this will be challenging.  And, as Lemon said, “Awktopus.”  (Ridiculous word, but still an understatement.)

And it’s true.  I’d feel a hell of a lot better about it if I were thinner.

[Why is that???]