Early this year, my oldest daughters were at a nexus in their relationship with their father. They’d had some pretty serious issues with him, but there had been a proverbial “last straw”. Because of that, they asked...no, BEGGED, actually...me to make some changes to the custody. It wasn't an isolated incident (though, his last blow-up certainly could have seemed like one). It wasn't something that had been a short time coming, either. It was, IN FACT, a problem that had been escalating for over a year. (A problem they had with him showing inadequate respect to them and some pretty significant trust issues in both directions, to put it as succinctly as possible.)
So, in February, when the wheels came off the bus, I called him. I reminded him how many times, in the past year, that I had suggested to him to work on his relationship with his children and to seek some counseling for his temper issues. I reminded him how many times, in the past year, that I had talked to the girls about giving him 'another' chance and allowing him time to figure out how to be their father. And I told him that I wasn't going to do it any more, certainly not at the expense of their mental health.
During that same year, what I had received from him in return for my help was spite and hurtful behavior that I'd neither earned, nor deserved. And I was no longer willing to damage MY relationship with my children by not taking their concerns more seriously.
It was then that I asked him to seriously consider making some changes to the custody schedule. You would have thought I’d asked him to poke out his own eye. I was advised, in CLEARLY uncooperative tones, that there was "no way" he would "roll over" on this issue and that he'd take it as far as he had to and fight it as long and as hard as he had to, to keep me from making any changes. HE deserved to spend time with them as much as I did. You may note that there is a significant lack of concern about THEM in there.
I sighed, asked him to reconsider, to think about what THEY needed and to try to do whatever he could to salvage his relationship with them, and to think about what further damage he would do if he pursued it in the manner he suggested. To all of us. He made it abundantly clear that this would be a fight to the death.
And so, it began.
I contacted my lawyer soon after and we set a course. For two months, while various motions were flying back and forth, I suggested sitting down and talking about it and taking the (VERY expensive) lawyers out of the equation. He refused to acknowledge a problem at all, and reiterated that the problem was MY making, because I allowed the children to escape from the non-problems at his house to me.
The judge ordered us to mediation, which was yet ANOTHER unnecessary expense on the ever-mounting list. The mediation did no good, as he refused to consider what the children wanted and had expressed that they needed. And so, the mediator suggested that maybe we should sit down, with our children, and discuss the issue.
Wow. Only two months after we'd started. And only after numerous failed attempts by me to persuade him to do the very same thing. I guess finally having a paid professional suggest it made it somehow more valid. Maybe it was more that he didn’t want to appear uncooperative in front of them. I don’t know.
It was the most grueling conversation I've ever borne witness to in my life. Bar none. My children, clearly emotional, demanding that their father respect their wishes in this. Making it clear how hurt they were that he refused to. Crying. Yelling. Begging. It was difficult to witness. Very difficult.
Saddest of all is that it was entirely similar (though on a lesser emotional scale) to the many conversations they’d had with me over the previous year. Again, this was a long time in the making. And I’d offered NUMEROUS suggestions to help all of them…specifically him. Mostly, I was told that there wasn’t a problem and it was none of my business. Denial is such a dangerous thing.
He was angry. And hurt. And likely more than a little jealous (at least that’s what his current girlfriend supposed to me some time back, but I can believe it, based on his actions). He refused to listen to me.
And so my oldest daughters began therapy. Sitting in on several sessions (at their invitation) and talking to their therapist made it ABUNDANTLY clear what the issues were. They felt their father didn’t respect them, didn’t understand them, and didn’t trust them. And they didn’t feel they could trust him. He was simply too volatile and insensitive. It was a mess. But every two weeks, two kids went and the copays mounted and mounted…right alongside the lawyer bills.
He, of course, felt that the problems they were having were related to me and Highlander. Though, to my knowledge, he never discussed that with the girls or their therapist. Had he made the effort to learn what the problems were, he’d have learned what I learned by taking that route. Not ONE TIME had the girls ever expressed a problem with me or Highlander. Not One. Ninety percent of what they were discussing with the therapist was issues with him. The therapist was helping them learn to stand up to him more, learn to deal with his temper flare-ups, learn to deal with the feelings of inadequacy and mistrust he gave them.
Had to do it his way. Couldn’t sit down and talk it out with me and his girls. Insisted on putting us all through it. Not me that made that choice. HIM. All him.
After the girls had made it clear to him what the problems were, it wasn’t long before he acquiesced. I was told that he expressed that it had been difficult to sit through, but that he had been talked into making the changes to the schedule based on a conversation with his girlfriend. I don’t know what finally did it. I was just happy that they were getting the relief that they so badly, and so clearly, needed.
So, as of the first of April, they came to be with me three weeks of the month and a week with him. This instead of the previous two weeks on and two weeks off we’d originally set up. He never once offered me an extra nickel to support his children.
Ironic, I suppose, since I’d taken so much less than was rightfully mine in the divorce, and had allowed the original order to be set up with no child support. I guess he felt he could continue to take advantage of my good and generous nature while continuing to spit in my face. But I’d had about as much of that as I intended to take.
In May, I talked to the girls and explained the situation to them. Told them that I wasn’t sure where things would go, but that I couldn’t financially continue to allow him to take this type of advantage of me. And, knowing that he was continuing to treat me so rudely, they completely understood. I told them that it may put a strain on their father and wanted them to understand that before I started this. That if any of that was a problem, I wanted to know. What I was told by them was that it wasn’t fair what he had done to me, and that if it made things difficult on him, he had brought it on himself. He should be made to treat me fairly.
That behind me, and with still nothing from him, I set about filing for child support. In June, he and I had a conversation in which he asked me why I hadn’t come to him to
But, still he offered nothing in excess of the amount of the (now) outdated order.
As slow as the court system moves here, we weren’t to get a court date until September. He sent me nothing extra in July, nothing extra in August. In fact, still he has not given me one extra nickel in six months on the new schedule. Not one. Not a bag of groceries. Hell, not even so much as an apple. Wanna know where I’ve gotten the extra money I’ve needed to raise his kids? Mostly from the man he most takes pleasure in mocking.
That’s right. The butt of his jokes has been the one to step up and support my ex’s children when he wouldn’t. Of course, it’s not Highlander’s responsibility to raise these kids. He’s never ONCE indicated it was a burden or that he didn’t do it willingly or lovingly. Not once. He loves the children and would never want to see them do without. Unlike their father, he realized that they’d need things during the extra time they were with us. And those things weren’t generally free.
In the meantime, the advent of the monthly lawyer fees and therapist bills had put a rather substantial hardship on me. But, still, once again, at the end of August, I had my lawyer propose a settlement that might allow us to avoid going to court and do something to stop the legal fee blood-letting we were drowning in. Him fighting the child support at all was insulting enough, but the initial settlement offer that my ex proposed was about $150/month LESS than what he was shooting for. Rather than starting at both of our optimum numbers and working toward the middle, he started on the other side of his low number.
I made a couple of VERY REASONABLE counter offers (that were turned down, btw), in an attempt to try to be fair. He’d put me in a very bad place financially by choosing this path, but it was never about hurting him. I suppose he was either insisting that he had to wait it out for some reason I do not understand, or was getting some bad advice. Whatever the case, he never made any attempts to adequately provide for his children during that time.
The standard calculations are based on the non-custodial parent having the children five days a month. He has them eight. And he didn’t think that the $160/Month I was offering him was enough to buy groceries for those three days. Well, he did, because he agreed to the number, he just felt that I needed to make MORE concessions. I needed to give up the tax deductions, too.
You see, taking a hit on the divorce, taking a hit on the child support since the split (two years ago now, btw), AND taking a hit on the new order, despite having run up a good deal of debt because he had to have things done HIS way, wasn’t enough for him. I wasn’t giving HIM enough. There's never too much for me to give, I guess.
Sooooo, when the judge dismissed his claims of financial hardship in providing for three extra days of groceries for his kids, and handed down the amount I should have been getting since the first of April (nearly three times what I’d been getting), he responded by sitting my kids down and explaining to them how I’d done all of this really bad stuff to him. The way it was expressed to me is that he made it seem I was “stealing” from him, and that I was somehow bad for not ALLOWING him to pay less than the court-ordered amount. That I was putting him in some financial peril.
What a guy! I’m sure he’s been staying up nights worrying about what he’s done to my finances while I’ve been (with Highlander’s help, of course) supporting his kids. Of course, it comes as no surprise (much as I wish I could say it did) to me that he would try to lay that malarkey on his savvy daughters.
That he would try to turn my kids against me with this nonsense sickens me. My kids have seen how he’s treated me for the past two years. My kids love their father, but they are not misled by his deceptions. And so, when he weaved his web, they listened and had little or no response. While the reality is that this judgment may, indeed, hurt him badly financially, they’ve seen how much advantage he’s taken of me not ONLY since the divorce, but for most of their lives. Seeing me stand up for what is rightfully OURS is not something they have a problem with.
And as I’ve noted repeatedly, it’s not like I haven’t given him many opportunities to make this easier on himself. Had he done what I suggested in February, the kids wouldn’t have needed therapy…the lawyer bills would have been quite minimal…and we could have easily worked out an equitable support schedule. He just adamantly refuses to listen to me when I TRY to help him. Having chosen every step on the current path, he now has the audacity to play the victim.
I did not pick the figure that the court ordered him to pay. There are standard calculations that apply based on various documentation (tax records, costs of health care premiums, etc…numbers that cannot be misconstrued) that were used to determine the amount of the support. And, in fact, I offered to take substantially less than that figure. He declined.
Once again, His. Choice.
Until he realizes that this is about ALL OF US, not just him, I don’t know that it can get better. As it is, he's asking me NOW to make concessions on what the court has ordered. Something tells me that if it had gone in his favor, and I'd asked him to do better, he'd still be doubled over laughing at me. ::sigh::
Oh, well. I’ll keep hoping things improve. It’s about all I can do. I understand he's quit reading my (and Highlander's) blogs. A step in the right direction, but, sadly, others are keeping that wound open and salted for him by reporting anything they feel needs reporting, thus keeping the agitation at maximum capacity. Not much I can do about that, though. Some people thrive on the drama, I guess.
Overall, the girls are doing much better since the new schedule has been put in place. There have been far fewer incidents with their dad and they are dealing with them much better when the (unfortunate) need arises. So, I know it was the right thing to do. And so do they. Raising them happy and healthy, dear readers, is the most important part of all of this. The rest is simply aggravating horseshit. You try to ignore it as much as you can and when you do step in it, you try to scrape it off as quickly as you can.
Now, I can start to recover financially. And that feeling is even better than I’d expected.
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend. This one is my parents’ big soiree’, so we’ll be quite busy.
One tiny final note...Highlander, the girls and I have all deeply appreciated everything you've done for us, not only in the past six months, but always. Thanks for being there for us. I wish I wasn't repaying you by dragging you around this weekend. I'll try to think up something else to pay you back...;)
Labels: Flashback Friday
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