February 25

Settling

156/365. Settling A Dispute - The SPARTA Way

Last week we had a settlement conference. Her attorney is about as done with this as I am. Before the lawyers were involved, I had made an offer to her for us to start working out the details, and then we could have had a lawyer draw it up for us to sign. This is when she ran out and hired a lawyer. It has cost me close to $10K, and I suspect that it is costing her close to the same amount. I have described the process of our separation almost three years ago. Yes, this has been going on that long. We each moved out of the marital home, and we each filled up our respective places with stuff from the marital home. We spent a day at the home and moved most of the remaining things into a neighbors house, so the bank wouldn’t auction it off wit the house. There wasn’t really any fighting. There were some things that she was not happy about, and she let me know. I didn’t offer much to her in response, but I felt the same. I figured that this was normal.

I offered her all the things in her possession, and all the things that were stored at the neighbors house, and I would get what was in my possession. I then offered her half the current value of half the shares of my retirement account less half the debt I paid off using the retirement account. We each had cars when it was all said and done as well. Pretty simple. No arguments. She was free to ask for anything specific that she was worried about. There were a couple of family items in her possession that I was worried about and making provisions for in my settlements as well. I was asking for a shared parenting plan with a shared expenses budget as well. I was willing to pay all the kids expenses. She would only be liable for maintaining her home. I had no problem with this, and was able to budget my way through it.

After a whole lot of expensive nothing, I am getting ripped off through child support in addition to kids expenses. She will get the same property settlement that I offered. The lawyers agreed that there was no way to divide property further at this point. Too much time had passed. She asked for one item, and it was already in her possessions by the agreement. She gets half the value of the retirement at the time we separated less the debt paid. This is half the amount I was going to give her in real dollars. She is insisting on a GAL, but I expect nothing to change in our parenting time. So we have very little change from what I would have offered. She gets less money in the end, and I would have agreed to the child support after negotiations because I would not have won that point in court. The court still defaults to CS whenever possible, because there are incentives for doing so.

I am finally a few weeks from having my divorce, and a few months from the battle over the kids coming to an end. I expect things to be better than most men get, because I was willing to be a little stubborn and I was patient. It wears on me. The time has taken its toll. I look older than I would otherwise, and my family is not the better for it. Pretty soon, I can pick up the pieces and help them move forward without the constant watchful eye of the courts in my life. At least until she decides to take me back, because so long as the kids aren’t the age of majority, the case is never truly closed. Its a small victory of sorts.Mostly I didn’t get my ass kicked.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

February 25

Being Non-Custodial

DV Benes

What does it mean to be non-custodial? It can mean a lot of things. The term is used to apply to anyone who pays child support. Lets look at my situation. Its a modern example of how the system is dysfunctional, and that the system isn’t at all about taking care of the children involved, but it is about taking care of the women. There has been a big shift in my state in the last few years. The legislature has recognized that the modern family has two involved parents and they are encouraging judgments that are in favor of shared parenting. This is a 50/50 timeshare of the kids or some approximating this. To get this, the parents need to be intentional when the process starts, because a judge isn’t going to change things much once a pattern has been established. If the mother is trying to hoard the kids time, then the father needs to take action right away to change things, or he will be stuck with what has been established. To go along with this new understanding of family, they have changed the child support calculators to include provisions for shared parenting. I give them credit for this move, but it is not nearly enough, but it does clearly demonstrate the overall problem with the child support calculators in most states. The truth is child support is too high in every case that I have seen. I know that is a small sampling, but I have played with the numbers from more than a few states to see how things could have been different, and they are high everywhere I have checked things out.

How does my state modify things for a parent in shared parenting? Sorry, I am not going to reveal which state I am in, but just understand that other states are doing similar things, and that the concepts are not unique. The new calculators for shared parenting kick in when you have near equal time share with the kids. It does not make it clear what is near enough, so the judge gets to decide. For some courts this is good, and others it is bad for the fathers seeking this arrangement. Its not really different than the old arrangement with liberal visitation. Its been common for a long time that men with liberal visitation has had near equal time with the kids, but the mother has had significant control over whether that is allowed or not. Now basically they apply a 20% discount for the non-custodial parent, and the custodial parent is responsible for direct expenses. No where is direct expenses explained. If the parents agree to each supply clothing, then there is another discount of about 4% applied to the child support. Direct expenses do not include medical, dental, or other health care costs. They do not include extra-curricular activities outside of school, and maybe inside of school. These are listed strangely under special needs expenses which are also not considered direct expenses. Medical expenses are expected to be divided based at the same proportion as the gross income of the parents differ. The non-custodial parent is defined in my states law as the parent who earns more money. That is it. Nothing else is used to determine this.

The end result is I get to pay for things twice. Pretty much everything. My child support didn’t go down, because under the old arrangement men would pay child support, and usually the court wouldn’t require any other payment from him unless there was an extraordinary expense involved. I pay $1000/month in child support for kids. I then pay 64% of health related costs and 50% of sports and extra-curricular costs. She pays the school expenses and the other portions of these costs. Before I was responsible for child support, I paid for all the kids expenses at 100%. Sometimes these reached the $1000 mark, but usually not. Typical expenses in a month are close though. So I pay her $1000 and then pay my proportions, which are about another $500-$600. If you do the rest of the math, this leaves her with about $500-$600 in her pocket even after paying for lunches for the kids, which she could decide to only do for the days they are with her. After paying taxes, child support, retirement loan for marital debt, and health insurance is I have about $3500 dollars a month to pay for my rent utilities and these kids expenses. To put in perspective to her income, she takes home about the same amount from her pay checks, and then gets another $2400 tax free between CS and other government checks.

As I have laid out above, there is an extreme imbalance in the reality of CS and the actual costs of raising the children. I might be able to accept this. We have certainly made some strides in the right direction for men protecting their rights with their children, but there is just one huge problem with this experience. I am under constant threat of court order to pay this amount. It doesn’t matter what my job situation is. I have lost my freedom to decide on these things. The activities that my kids are involved in are somewhat locked into place. I can’t decide that I can no longer afford them. I have can be sent to jail for having a budget change. I can lose my drivers license or have money removed directly from my checking and savings accounts. I am in fact indentured to my ex-wife through my children. I am her servant. I am required to work to ensure she is paid. I have less freedom than I had when married to her for the next decade, and she has greater freedom. She can continue to choose to work at a job that for all practical purposes is a part time job. There is no pressure on her to improve her financial condition. If I choose to improve mine, then I am then obligated to improve hes. This is a major disincentive to move up in my career. The only thing that is a driver to do better in my career right now, is that I need to make some moves or I will be the guy who gets overlooked forever.

As a father, I live with the constant threat of the court over my head. I live with the fear that she may win the battle for more time, and take even more of my paycheck. The slippery slope that will lead to me not being able to maintain a home large enough for them to visit me, and thus give her more ammunition to further reduce my time, and further tap my paycheck. I have to continue the fight for my kids. A fight that no father should have to fight. I have to pretend with my kids that everything is okay. That me and their mom don’t have problems. I can’t tell them how she has treated me, because that would be alienation of affection. I can’t do a lot of things. When people look at divorce and wonder why men are bitter, they need to understand that men are effectively slaves to their ex-wives for the time their children are growing up. This is why men are bitter. Ask a black man what the legacy of slavery has done to his life, and then understand that in the modern world, all men are subject to slavery through their children to the mothers of their children. This is why men are so bitter. This is why men can’t get over their divorce. It isn’t because women are emotionally stronger and more capable of dealing with the loss of divorce. Its because for the men it is never ending until their children are 18 years old.

Being non-custodial means being a second class citizen. Your children and their mother are superior to you under the law. People can argue this case otherwise, but the fact is proven in the number of men that are subject to this system. I will recommend to my sons that they don’t have children. That they don’t subject themselves to this burden of slavery that we call fatherhood. I love my children very much, and I would not like to imagine a life without them, but I would be free to make my own decisions if I had never had them. I would not turn back time, but I would protect those I love from this fate. I hope to change things before that time comes for them, but if things do not change, then I will recommend they choose freedom from slavery over this. I am not as good of a father as I might be without this burden.

Ten-Foured,

JeD