In case you haven't figured me out by now, I write when I am in turmoil. I would love to be able to write everytime I feel happy or excited, but the truth is that when I feel that way, I don't *need* to write the way I do when I am in a crisis. It's a shame that those who don't know me only see this side of me, because I promise I am a pleasant, fun-loving person. But this blog is my way of working through my problems. After my post about child support, I was able to organize my thoughts into a rational, calm email to my ex husband to let him know what was about to happen. Had I not written through it, I would have continued to argue with my ex in a fog of feelings and confusion and this whole thing would have been more damaging than it has already been.
We called a lawyer after I wrote my other post and set up a consultation. I truly had the intention of only going to her, finding out what was fair and why the state has set up child support the way they have: what they factor in, what they don't, why he has to pay. As I said before, my ex believes that he and I share our kids 50/50 because he takes them one extra night per week than the standard arrangement. I truly want to believe that he just doesn't understand the system, because it honestly confused me as well, enough to accept so little child support to begin with. If he's taking them on Wed and Thu nights, and every other weekend, then he should have to pay less, right? Because they're not with me?
I sat down with the lawyer yesterday and explained all of these things to her. I know my ex doesn't believe me, but with my husband as my witness, I explained to my lawyer in detail all that he does above and beyond standard custody. He takes them overnight instead of for a few hours on Wed, and then he takes them overnight again on Thursday. When it's his weekend, they stay overnight Sundays as well. He pays their health insurance. I take all three as a tax deduction. Surely he gets a break in there, right? I WANTED to hear that I was wrong, because I don't want a fight.
The lawyer looked at me, and god bless her, I could tell she wanted to choke me. As do most people when they hear what I take. She asked, "Do you honestly believe that you are raising three kids on less than $4000 a year? Or, with your "half" added in, $8000 a year? Even if he pays you standard....that's $12K a year....can you provide food, shelter, clothing, activities, medical care, and basic needs for your three children for $24,000 a year???"
I continued to defend him. "But he buys them clothes sometimes, and pays for my son's haircuts sometimes..." to which she interrupted "HE IS SUPPOSED TO DO THAT. Above and beyond what he pays you. He has to care for them WHILE THEY ARE IN HIS CARE, and provide financial support to you because you provide their main household-a house big enough for all three, a car; you drive them everywhere, you take them to doctors appointments, you provide electricity and utilities and everything they need, IN THEIR MAIN HOUSEHOLD."
She used the calculator to come up with the state mandated amount, and deducted for his extra time (which, because he doesn't take them all summer, doesn't even really count)...and it was still more than triple what he pays me now. In fact, he pays less than half of the state mandated amount for ONE child, for his current salary.
Listening to her, I knew I had to do something. She wanted me to move forward immediately, because otherwise, he will become accustomed to his new $20K+ a year lifestyle and it would be even more of a fight. Even though I had agreed with my ex to just talk to the lawyer, and then discuss things with him, I knew he would never agree to a) increase child support on his own and b) give me anywhere close to what is fair. I did ask her to hold off on sending him anything until I could email him myself and let him know.
I've thought and thought and thought about why I am so upset to be "doing this" to my ex. After all, he had absolutely no problems spending my money, sleeping with other women WHILE I was pregnant, and to this day is cold to me in front of the kids. He thinks I am this money-hungry bitch who just cares about getting his paycheck and not about how much time he spends with his kids. As my lawyer said "I just don't think he understands what child support is set up for". He wants to have joint custody, and have the kids 50% of the time, but have me be free daycare for him. If we truly had joint custody, he would have to arrange to have the kids picked up from school and watched while he was at work. He'd have them half the summers, all day long while he worked, or be paying for camps or daycare (the way I do now). And he'd be paying probably double than what I am asking for in child support. I don't know why he can't make that connection. I want him to so badly, because I don't want him to think of me as a money-hungry bitch who is after his paycheck.
And then again...why do I care what he thinks?? When I sent him the emails, he immediately shot back a nasty response. Then the texts "Who are you??????" and then more guilt, and then threats of taking the kids away and fighting me for custody. I knew they were coming, and I knew that he would know exactly what to say to make me feel like scum, yet it still made me want to curl up in a ball and hide. He called me a bitch publicly on his facebook page, for all of our mutual friends to see, and one by one his friends began their arsenal of even worse names. All this because I stood up for myself and didn't allow him the chance to continue to manipulate me...I was called the C word: By a woman...another single mother.
He is like a child who has been told no and hasn't learned to blame himself for his own problems yet. I know this, because he reminds me of one child in particular: our 13 year old son.
Maybe this is the key to why I am having such mixed emotions. My son spent months in therapy learning that if he doesn't do his homework, it's actually NOT his teachers' faults for giving too much. Before therapy, if my son didn't get his way, he would begin a verbal arsenal against me, usually declaring me the worst mother ever, that he didn't love me, and that he wished he could live with his father. He knew the arrows he could aim at my heart that would do the most damage, and if pushed he would use them. My son doesn't do this anymore. I learned how to handle him. He didn't like it, but we're good now, and he can now claim to have a higher maturity level than his 36 year old father.
I now feel like I am at war with my ex husband, which is exactly what I was attempting to avoid when we first divorced. I wish that I had hired a lawyer back then to explain all of these things to me and to give me the backbone that I didn't have on my own. Had I used a lawyer, maybe he'd be mad at the state right now for mandating such a "high" amount rather than at me for actually enforcing it. This was just the first battle, I expect it to get worse as he still doesn't know how much I plan to ask for, just that I've decided to use a lawyer and all communication about this issue from here on out will be done through her. When he hears the number, he's going to lose it.
Rest assured, I have not responded to one of his threatening texts or emails, just one email to refer him to my lawyer and to ask the communication over the subject to cease. I haven't called him names on my facebook page. I won't stoop to his level.
I see my ex as a whole person. Maybe that is my fault. It's not so black and white for me. He was raised with no father around. He was raised by a financially irresponsible mother who taught him nothing but spend spend spend, and that money was for fun and not to be wasted on boring things like bills. He was put in the middle of his own parents' fights over child support when his mother would send him to his dad's and insist he ask for the money owed her. I understand his feelings, sometimes I wish I didn't. Maybe this is a lesson he has to learn, I hope that he will wake up and this will make him a better person. I'm doubtful, but I hope.
Maybe I don't want to admit to myself that I was married to such a person for all those years. Maybe I don't want him to be a bad person because he IS raising my children some of the time. I worry for them...I can see that if my son had continued on the path he was on, he'd be my ex in 20 years. Alone, miserable, blaming the world for his problems, manipulating others into getting his way. That's a really scary thought. I love my children so fucking much. I don't want this for them. I feel like an idiot for choosing someone like this...the type of person who would allow others to call me a C word publicly...to be the father of my children.
Either way, he makes it easier for me to go after what I deserve. Yes, I can support my three kids financially, on my own, without his help, and without my husband's help too. I did it for 2 years and I am proud of that. But I'm not a martyr.
Just because I can do it doesn't mean I should.