Any of you who have voluntarily lowered the FOC recommended child support amount? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 19 Old 08-08-2011, 03:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Some days I think that the dilemmas this divorce process has had me face have just not been worth it. As dysfunctional as our marriage was, as crazy and abusive as my ex became as things peaked and fizzled and peaked and now as they have plateaued, I actually find myself occasionally wanting to erase the last year and keep trying to make things work. Of course, usually I sit with that thought for a day or two and then some interaction with XH lets me know that I did make the right decision, really the only decision that could give me a chance at a healthy and happy life. 

 

I do see though, ways in which divorce makes an already bad situation, worse. It just seems like it encourages distrust and dishonesty, makes things that are really complicated come down to just $$, etc. It just really sucks. A lot. But, I digress.

 

Did any of you agree to a lower CS amount than what FOC recommended? I did on a temporary basis, but as our divorce settlement is being finalized, have (with my lawyer) gone with the FOC recommendation. I just feel unsettled about it and it's hard to tell if that unease comes from it genuinely being the wrong decision or is just the discomfort that comes from changing my long-term habit of trying to save him from himself. At first, I knew that my XH could not afford the full CS amount including our child care costs, and my decision to accept a lower amount was all wrapped up in the same codependent problem-solving that I practiced throughout our marriage--basically getting in the way of him experiencing consequences for his poor decision-making. As we spent more time apart and I was able to detach a little from him, I thought about the fact that his budget is none of my business, that he could conceivably get another job, or make choices that reduce his monthly expenses, etc. So that was what went into my deciding to accept the FOC recommendation. I thought that if I just took myself out of the process as much as possible and let the court decide, that it would cease to be something that he felt was my "fault," that it could just be sort of matter-of-fact and business like. 

 

XH and I are both pretty low-income. Like, we both make btw 23-25K/year and live in an area without much affordable housing. I moved into a cooperative of townhouses with subsidized rent and have done other things to reduce my expenses, but he moved into an apartment that is almost double the cost of where I live. I think he did this because he wanted to be closer to his job, thinking he could use his car less and bike more, save money that way, etc. Both of us have debt. The CS amount including child care costs is going to be about 1/3 of his income. I am a pretty frugal person, and even I can't figure out how he pulls off basic living expenses on what he will have left. I have no desire to have him be punished by this divorce and I feel pretty pained imagining how shitty his quality of life is right now. Aside from being broke, he's also pretty emotionally handicapped and isolated and has no family or close friends to help him deal with all of this. He's just going to stuff it and feel anger, outward toward me and maybe our kids and internalized toward himself. As much as he has hurt me and treated me poorly throughout this process, I care for him a great deal and it SUCKS to watch this pan out. 

 

I need the money from CS, to pay for child care and my daughter's preschool costs and also to help pay bills, because my income is not enough for me, either. I don't want to make myself suffer more just to try and help him out, because that has been my pattern and aside from being bad for me it is also kind of insulting to him. He is an adult and can ask for help if he needs it.

 

I just feel this guilt that I don't know how to let go of. I don't know if I should be doing something differently or if I am taking on guilt for things that I am just not responsible for. In an ideal world, I would want us to still function as "family," in some ways. Like, it's in the best interest of our children that both their parents are healthy and happy and able to eat well and pay their electricity bills, so in an ideal world we'd work with each other and help each other when we are having trouble. But also in an ideal world, we'd communicate honestly and not take advantage of one another, which is not reality.

 

When is it unethical to accept all this money? When is it unethical NOT to, since the money is for our children and even if I don't "need" all of it to maintain our household, I could always put the extra in an account for our kids? I have considered sending any extra that I don't need for childcare/school/bills back to him at the end of the month. 

 

Ohhhhh, any experience/advice would be welcome. 


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#2 of 19 Old 08-08-2011, 03:21 PM
 
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"and my decision to accept a lower amount was all wrapped up in the same codependent problem-solving that I practiced throughout our marriage--basically getting in the way of him experiencing consequences for his poor decision-making"

OMG what a wonderfully concise sentence!!!  you SO nailed it!  i accepted less $$ from my XH in the interest of getting the divorce over with quickly and because i was living with (now married to ) a wonderful man who i assumed would never leave me ...he still hasnt, but what if he did?

I allowed my XH to give me about half of what i was supposed to get,  a few years later, he lost his job..i did it again - i allowed him to cut his payment in half - for the duration of his unemployment....that was 3 years ago.  He has since found part time work and has not increased the CS payments.

Go to court, get it in writing, get the FULL AMOUNT THAT YOU ARE OWED.  If you really have cash to burn at the end of the month (we all know you wont!)  you can start a college fund for your daughter. 

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#3 of 19 Old 08-08-2011, 06:18 PM
 
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Child Support is for the support of the child.  Your STBX's budgeting issues are not your concern.  Surely your DD would love a gym class, swim class, art class etc?  Just because you can make your basic expenses doesn't mean your DD won't benefit from the child support. Also who's to say 3 months or 3 years from now your child's tastes will change and she will want a really expensive winter coat? Not the $20 super cheap sale find one.  Ya know?

 

Take what the court recommends.  If STBX cant/wont pay let the arrears build up.

 

Say it with me.... STBX is not my concern.  His budget and finances are not my concern.  How he chooses to run his life is not my business.

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#4 of 19 Old 08-08-2011, 06:29 PM
 
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first you have to separate this issue. its not about ex. its not about ur dd.

 

its about you and your ethics. 

 

forget your ex and your feelings for him. 

 

you have to look at this issue impartially.

 

i was able to do it and not accept any CS (x paid daycare costs till we didnt need it at all). he paid me CS till he started taking dd half time and then stopped CS after telling me.

 

i decided that was ok for me. i am poorer than him now. he buys a lot of dd's supplies - at least 70% of it. to me that equates as CS even though dd is with me more than with him.

 

i came to this conclusion by looking at the situation - not him or dd or for that matter me. how would i feel accepting the money (for me it wasnt just that he couldnt afford it, it was more of a pissy attitude when he had to pay me). i struggled but cld live without the CS.

 

however you have to decide on one or the other. either accept or refuse or reduce the amount. but dont do if you have money left over you will return to him. that is a big hornet's nest. if your relatiohs get worse it will be a hard place to be. 


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#5 of 19 Old 08-09-2011, 03:44 PM
 
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I'm going to provide another perspective here because I am the one paying CS in my divorce.

I pay 40% of my income to my ex as that is around the guideline (and max) for my state.

 

Honestly at the beginning of the split I offered to let XH continue to pull a certain dollar amount for things like food even though I have no legal obligation to (he was staying with a relative when we separated) until he abused it and withdrew twice that amount. I moved all the money out of the joint account. I was left paying all our joint expenses and honestly didn't have any money left to pay this without ruining both of our credit by not paying the mortgage, car payments, etc. I put everything like our house up for sale and did all the work keeping it up, taking calls from realtors, getting the pets out of the house, etc. while working FT and taking DD about 70% of the time back then. At this time XH never filed for support so I legally had no obligation to pay him anything.

 

XH was living for free with a relative and knew the situation with the finances. He chose to move out rent an apartment. We live in a high cost city too.

Once I got rid of everything I paid CS and had to learn to live on what I made when I was finishing college. I got a cheap apartment (we live only a few blocks from eachother and my place is $200/month less with most utilities included). I learned to cut other costs. I've had a couple of surprises but have learned to live with less and even save a lot more than when we were married.

 

Next year XH's alimony is up and he will have to learn to support himself. As long as dd has a roof over her head and food and care I really don't feel I have more obligation to help XH and support him like I did most of our marriage. My worry is that XH won't be able to provide dd even the basics and I'll have to deal with that if it happens.

 

 

 

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#6 of 19 Old 08-10-2011, 05:50 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow, ZoeyZoo. That's a lot of money when you share 50/50 custody. I was under the impression that no one pays CS with a split custody arrangement like that. This is why I don't necessarily think that FOC recommendations are fair and equitable. Is the goal of the FOC rec's to make the standard of living for the child about the same in both households? Sometimes the amount seems really high to me. 

 

I understand that CS is supposed to be for the "support of the child," but I know that my kids are not that big of an expense at the moment. If I didn't have them, I would still have mostly all of the same expenses I do now. The costs for them are really child care, some recreational stuff and occasionally some clothing. Probably in total the direct costs for our children are about $500/month. I get food stamps so groceries are not an expense, and they are 1.5 and 4 so barely eat, anyway. I can see if we were a family that was more "mainstream," that all that CS $ could be used on direct kid expenses, easily. But, I buy all of our clothing at thrift stores, we don't have cable or video games, we just don't really spend a lot of money on nonessential stuff. Part of my guilt about accepting this full amount is that I question whether it is in the best interest of our children to have this exchange of money if it results in one of their parents essentially living in poverty and foregoing things like healthy food, healthy recreation (their dad almost never goes out or does anything for his mental health), etc. Obviously, it is his choice how he spends his money, and he could certainly prioritize differently than he has, but he really has very little wiggle room. He earns about $2000/mo, his rent is $850, and he pays about $600 in CS. That leaves him with only $500 for all bills, food, gas, and any other expenses. I am very frugal and I can't see how that's possible for him to live on. I know that his budget/expenses/job/life is mostly none of my business, but when is it reasonable to care about this kind of thing? He's not my husband anymore but he is someone I care about and someone who parents my children. I want him to be healthy and happy, so that he can be a good father to them.

 

I think that, more so than being materially comfortable, it is important for kids to have parents who are able to work together to meet their needs and who can communicate and share in their joys and support them through their challenges. This money has seemed to deepen the wedge between us, partially because he takes it so personally and sees it as me "taking his money," but I think in large part because it is just so much money for him.

 

It just feels so cold and unnatural for me to treat this purely as a business arrangement. I know that my attitude about it might stem from codependency issues and maybe I need to just get over this guilt--maybe it is unwarranted. I just have such a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that I should treat this as something that's not personal when ALL OF IT is personal. Our divorce was personal, our kids are personal, recovering from the grief and instability this has all caused is personal. I feel like "the healthy thing" is basically ending up being for me to act like I don't care about him or like we have no history, and that is really REALLY hard. 

 

I want to protect myself and have good boundaries, I want my kids to be taken care of and to be able to enjoy a few extras now and then, and I also want to act in a way that fosters respect and kindness and dignity between XH and I. 

 

Keep the experiences coming my way, if you've got 'em. It really helps to hear about other people's thought and action process through CS issues. I know that many of us have XH's who have acted similarly too in terms of abusive/controlling behavior and hostility after separation, so hearing how you have acted ethically and compassionately while also maintaining boundaries that don't allow you to be taken advantage of is really helpful. Thanks for all the input so far.


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#7 of 19 Old 08-10-2011, 06:46 AM
 
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I struggle with co-dependency and left an abusive marriage as well... and I knew what EX makes and how much CS he had to pay on his older child from a previous marriage... and I fell into the same trap of feeling bad for him... so I knocked $100 off the recommended monthly support amount.

 

I regret it all the time.  lol  But I also don't feel like going through the process to get it ammended.  I just do my best to make due. 


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#8 of 19 Old 08-10-2011, 06:47 AM
 
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If he has a history of being abusive, then this is just yet another way of abusing his power over you.  He knows you feel sorry for him (and all his expenses), and he knows how to manipulate you into agreeing to less than your children deserve - don't go for it.

 

And, you may think that you would still have those expenses if you didn't have the kids - but what about the size of your car?  It has to fit all of them.  The number of bedrooms in your apartment (which directly affects how expensive it is)?  The water bill (which is directly affected by how many people are showering)?  The electric bill (which is affected by how many people live in the house)?  What about afterschool childcare?  If you don't need it now, you may in the future.  A college savings fund (something that child support can be used for)?  Someday your kids might not want to shop at the local thrift store, they might want those really great sneakers.

 

 

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#9 of 19 Old 08-10-2011, 11:55 AM
 
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"And, you may think that you would still have those expenses if you didn't have the kids - but what about the size of your car?  It has to fit all of them.  The number of bedrooms in your apartment (which directly affects how expensive it is)?  The water bill (which is directly affected by how many people are showering)?  The electric bill (which is affected by how many people live in the house)?  What about afterschool childcare?  If you don't need it now, you may in the future.  A college savings fund (something that child support can be used for)?  Someday your kids might not want to shop at the local thrift store, they might want those really great sneakers." -

thats all the stuff you arent thinking about now ....

when i moved out - my co-dependent problem solving saw that since i had nothing, it would be easier for me to move.....My XH had amassed 23 electric guitars and over 10,000 CD's - this was back when music had to be in a physical format!  lol    i felt bad for him since he was unemployed - but his girlfriend was paying teh mortgage, he still had $$ for cigarettes,  at this point in the divorce he wasnt paying me any CS and still took the kids to McD's drive thru where they were allowed ONE item off the 99 cents menu for dinner.   ( i learned of this much later on....) 

i was working three jobs (one full time , 2 part time)  and lived in a one bedroom apt - kids were 6 and 3 at the time  - good thing i had heard about co-sleeping!   When the kids were at school or with my XH i was at work.   It was pretty difficult.  I opted for a lower CS amount because by the time he got around to paying me ANYTHING - i had moved in with another man - lightening my financial burden.  But essentially, my current husband is paying to raise my XH children - what would i do if he left me? 

your XH can get an extra part time job to make sure that the few meals he is responsible for are decent.  Who buys the clothes for the kids?  who buys the school supplies?  who has to pay for field trips?  co pays at the dr./ dentist?  who has to buy birthday presents for other peoples children when your kids go to a party????  Who buys the kids their favorite brand of whatever - even when its NOT on sale???   if the answer is YOU - than you need the full amount of CS.  

 


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#10 of 19 Old 08-10-2011, 12:39 PM
 
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I accepted half the recommended CS amount when going through my divorce.  It's been 2 years and I don't regret it.  Even half the amount is a hardship on XH.  I am able to live comfortably without the CS, so it is used for fun activities for DD.  At the time of the divorce I accepted the lowered amount in exchange for XH signing the papers as my lawyer prepared them and not putting up a fight/extending the process.  It was very worth it.


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#11 of 19 Old 09-05-2011, 07:12 AM
 
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Chicaalegre, I'm in a very similar position.  I know there are codependency issues, and I know XH can't afford all of what he is supposed to pay, (he would literally be in the negative if you go by the standard calculations), and I am also struggling with feelings of guilt and not wanting to put him through that (partially as I care about him as a person/my children's father, partially b/c I want THEM to have a decent place etc. when they go to visit him).  We also had issues of verbal/emotional abuse and threats, and I know that the harder it is on him financially, the angrier he'll be and the more he'll take it out on me or the kids.  I also know he'll battle me for more $$ and I'd rather just pay it to him than to the lawyers to fight him on it!

 

I also don't want to drag this out any longer than necessary, both for mental health (for me and the kids) and financial (legal costs) reasons.  I believe, though I may be wrong, that the quicker I agree to what he wants, the easier it will be on all of us.  But I also know that he bullies me and threatens me and manipulates me in to doing what he wants, that has been a pattern in our relationship, so I am wondering if that is what is happening again.  He would be able to move back in with his mother to save some money, or he could get a better job/2nd job.  He has never really taken much interest in the kids and I know he'll greatly resent having to pay for them long term.  I know him, and I know the anger with seethe inside him every month as he sees the withdrawls going to me from his bank account.  I also think it will lead him to try to get 50/50 custody when that is not at all what he wants or is best for the kids, but he'd do it for sure to stop paying me.  He already helped his brother scheme and do this.

 

I am also struggling b/c if I agree to less or no c/s, it means the kids and I will have to drastically reduce our standard of living, we will likely have to move/sell the house (which I could otherwise afford on my own) and my kids would have to change schools etc.  It also means as they get older and expenses increase, I will be the one trying to come up with the money, I will be the one saying "no" to the extracurriculars their friends are doing, I will be the one with the stress to pay the mortgage/provide a home for them if I lose my job, etc.

 

But all of that seems easier for me to deal with than his anger.  And I just feel bad as a person for causing him to be in a difficult financial position, (though I guess he could do something about it, and it's not my responsibility, right?).  I also have this "ideal" vision that we would be able to be good co-parents and support each other, etc. if needed, but in reality, as I'm writing this I realize he is so angry about so many things, and he would NEVER help me out financially if the roles were reversed or if I run in to financial difficulty down the road.

 

But honestly I just want to get the whole thing over with, and I do not want him to be in a position of trying to get the kids 50/50 just for the money down the road.  He couldn't take them 50/50 due to his work schedule at the moment, but if that changes, I've no doubt he wil try.

 

Hang in there, this whole process just s*cks!!!

 

 

 

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#12 of 19 Old 09-05-2011, 07:19 AM
 
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There is nothing unethical in going with the state guidelines when it comes to child support. That is money for your kids.  Your ex has an obligation to support them just as you do.   

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#13 of 19 Old 09-06-2011, 04:36 AM
 
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thumb.gif  This is exactly what I am going through right now.  I have given my XH an ultimatum - either he agrees to the amount I need, or I have the court handle the decision and making sure he pays.  I am too prone to my own codependency patterns to be able to negotiate this well with him myself, and I can only hold the line for so long.  We owe it to our kids to make sure their dads are responsible to them.  If it helps to think of it about the kids and not you, go ahead.  They deserve whatever the law allows them - or more if their dad will give it.  It's not just about what we, the moms, can "live with" or make do with.

 

They do need to feel the consequences of their choices/actions, and us stepping out of the way to let that happen is NOT us being mean or cruel or uncaring.
 

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Originally Posted by motherhendoula View Post

"and my decision to accept a lower amount was all wrapped up in the same codependent problem-solving that I practiced throughout our marriage--basically getting in the way of him experiencing consequences for his poor decision-making"

OMG what a wonderfully concise sentence!!!  you SO nailed it!  i accepted less $$ from my XH in the interest of getting the divorce over with quickly and because i was living with (now married to ) a wonderful man who i assumed would never leave me ...he still hasnt, but what if he did?

I allowed my XH to give me about half of what i was supposed to get,  a few years later, he lost his job..i did it again - i allowed him to cut his payment in half - for the duration of his unemployment....that was 3 years ago.  He has since found part time work and has not increased the CS payments.

Go to court, get it in writing, get the FULL AMOUNT THAT YOU ARE OWED.  If you really have cash to burn at the end of the month (we all know you wont!)  you can start a college fund for your daughter. 

You may feel that co-dependent voice sing strongly now, but ten years from now - you will feel differently!



 


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#14 of 19 Old 09-06-2011, 06:00 AM
 
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When I filed for child support, my ex was just opening a business, and when the support officer asked him how much he makes(not will make, but makes) he gave them an outrageous number. I think it was based on his delusions, or ok, his hopes of how much his business would eventually make:-P His business had only been open a few weeks at that point. I know he could never pay the amount of CS based on that outrageous number, he's never made that much in his life...so a few weeks, maybe a month or two later, he asked me to go with him so he could ammend the amount. I did it because I knew he could never make those kinds of payments, and had made a huge mistake in the amount of income he told them. Right now it's about 100 a month per kid(three kids) with another hundred fourty something on top of that for arrears(he's very much behind...). I don't get it regularly, until he gets a warrant and has to pay the purge, but hopefully someday...Anyways, there was no recommended amound of CS for us which I thought was really weird. It was based on the amount of income ex said he made...they did have his tax info but still, he could have said anything.


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#15 of 19 Old 09-07-2011, 05:06 PM
 
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This is so hard.  The "right thing" to do depends on so much.  Be gentle with yourself..there are a lot of good but differing recommendations on this board, so move forward as feels best for you!


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#16 of 19 Old 09-07-2011, 07:53 PM
 
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I think you're being co-dependent, perhaps ridiculously so, and still suffering from the effects of the abuse.  Those guidelines are made by people with more experience than us- actuaries, accountants, etc.  There are so many issues that could crop up for your kids...mine for instance, have a medical condition which we do not treat with pharmaceuticals, so I am on the hook for expensive nutritional supplements.  And keep in mind if you make one dollar over the limit for food stamps, they take them away.  Here the limit will be $2008 a month for a family of 3.  And I am the most frugal of frugals, but my 15 year old car is getting new brakes today.  I think that you need to honor your ex by allowing him the opportunity to live up to the full responsibility. As for my X...He makes 30 grand a year.  I make waaaayy less than you.  But he was abusive to me and kept me trapped with gaslighting for 8 years, so I don't care if he has to take 3 jobs to pay for CS!

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#17 of 19 Old 09-08-2011, 05:34 PM
 
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Being a parent means putting your kids first even if that means you suffer without the comforts you're used to. You ought to at least give him the opportunity to bear his metaphorical cross in all of this. He'll get plenty of sympathy and banana bread from other people in his life when he tells them all his money goes to you. The others here are right. He has the ability to increase his earnings if CS puts a cramp in his lifestyle.


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#18 of 19 Old 09-08-2011, 06:53 PM
 
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Your children deserve the full amount of support.  If paying the full amount of support will make him so disgruntled that he'll be a worse father because of it, then he'll be a lousy father anyway.  He should not resent supporting his children!  And if it's 1/3 of his income... well, I'm guessing that you spend 100% of your income on providing a life for your children, so in comparison, 1/3 isn't too much.  Plus, they are very young now.  Trust me that the expenses will amount to way more as they get older!  And that is coming from someone who doesn't shower her child with all sorts of materialistic things, nor does he ask for them... it's just the truth.  Activity expenses, taking them out for bowling and pizza sometimes, and once school starts, look out... it goes on... plus what about college some day, braces and who knows what else?  If you have "extra" money now, bank it away, because at some point you'll be so glad to have it!  What if you lose your job, what if ex loses his and doesn't pay... The more money you have, the less strained you will be.  That is very good for your children.  It's not about you or your ex or how you each feel about it.  It is the minimum amount of support recommended by whatever state you're in.  They deserve that!

 

My ex pays the state's allotted 17% in child support, but I did not go after maintenance (alimony), or half of his 401k, or any other asset I would have been entitled to... I did not want to make waves and create resentment as we were figuring out visitation, etc. at the same time.  I did NOT want to be in fighting mode when it came to the best interest of our child!  And boy, was ex excited that I was signing all the stuff away with the stroke of a pen.  He agreed to less visitation, he was so excited (which is better for our son since ex is a narcissist and has a whole host of emotional issues), in fact.  Anything to get me to sign that money away.  But then of course the minute the divorce was stamped and official and there was no way I could ever get my hands on that money, he then complained about the visitation schedule.  Uh-huh.  Too bad, buster, that was your priority.  But the clincher is that to this day (we divorced over 4 years ago, separated long before that) he complains about the child support he pays!  (Complains to our child, no less, that I "take" his money.  Delightful, isn't it?)  So yes, although I signed away a whole lotta stuff (we didn't own a house together, but he makes a 6-figure salary and I could've gotten some money), he still has the gall to complain about the one, state-mandated, financial responsibility he has left.  It's pathetic.  Do not let the same thing happen to you. 

 

Anyway, you say he ABUSED you.  Abuse!  That means he created this situation.  A situation you obviously could not sustain, nor should you.  And the consequences of his actions are the expense of two households.  If he didn't want that, he shouldn't have abused you.  That's the way the ball bounces.

 

 

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#19 of 19 Old 09-08-2011, 07:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks all, for your input and support. I agree that codependency has played (and still does, sometimes) a large role in my dealing with him. I feel guilty for things that are not my fault nor my responsibility, to be sure, and I will just have to get over that. I do need to allow him the dignity of experiencing the consequences of his actions.

 

Our divorce was finalized yesterday. I agreed to keep the CS payment as it has been the past few months (about 25% less than the rec), pending a FOC review in 6 months. I initially said that I wanted to take the FOC recommendation, and of course he said that he couldn't afford it, and I said that if he felt it was unfair or impossible then he could appeal to the judge or to FOC and have it reevaluated. My lawyer actually recommended that I go the route of accepting a lower amount temporarily, because changing it now would put a pause in the delivery of the checks, which I can't really afford right now. 

 

It was incredibly validating to be in court, because the judge saw that we were deviating from the recommendation and required "further testimony" as to why she should accept the deviation. He stated that he couldn't afford it, that our schedules were in transition, that childcare costs may change, etc. She approved it for now but only with a review in 6 months and then looked at him directly and said "I see no reason to approve a lowered amount in the future, this is sufficient time for you to get your situation in order and you have a responsibility to support your children, so expect to pay the full amount after the time of review." 

 

It was great to have him hear that from someone who he sees as an authority figure, rather than from me and my lawyer, and to have it affirmed that this amount is not unfair. I felt kind of backed into a corner in agreeing to it for even 6 months, but at least it's only temporary.


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