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It’s a Beautiful Day, and I’m Broke and a Working Deadbeat Dad

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She is motivated by money. She divorced me when my earning power seemed unable to support her stay-at-home mom fantasy.

I’ve paid my wife. I’ve paid her over 50% of everything I’ve earned since the divorce. (The percentage got higher when I went through a short period of unemployment and the AG’s office started tacking on “late fees” and “interest.”) And then there’s this problem: Your credit will be shot once the AG’s office starts crawling up your shorts. One late fee and the world sees you as a deadbeat dad. I’m sure, in some ways, even my ex-wife considers me a deadbeat dad. Her money was never at risk. The timing, on the other hand, was not to her liking.

I paid her off a few weeks ago. And yet the credit hassles will continue for me for a long time to come. I can’t open a credit card. In May had to pay three months in advance on my rental property. I don’t have any idea when I’ll be able to apply for a mortgage again. And why? Because in some fit of rage, my ex-wife threw our “cooperative divorce” to the attorney general’s office for “collections.” And now I deal with the “enforcement division” of the AG’s office. Um, yeah, thanks.

Six years ago, I told her the company I worked for had lost a major client and I was going to be late for a few months. “Late.” Not, “I’m not paying you.” And on the weekend, after the first month’s check was late, she filed her grievance with the state of Texas. And the fun has never stopped since then.

It’s kind of like filing a restraining order on your ex-partner so they can’t come by the house to retrieve their things. “Their things,” have suddenly become her things. In divorce, when you move out, if you don’t know to ask for something, it’s gone. There is no fair divide for the party that is not allowed in the house. There’s only, “Um, can I have my toolbox back?” “No,” she said. “It’s my toolbox now.” She was right.

Along this journey, I’ve tried to be positive about this situation. Today, getting turned down by yet another credit card company, because of my delinquency, I can’t imagine taking the same action against my ex-wife for any reason. Why would she file a week before I was applying for a home loan modification so I could keep my house? The house that provided shelter for her kids two weekends a month. Why would anyone strike out at the other parent in ways that hurt everyone?

And as a good dad, I had to smile and grin to the kids. Pretend everything was all right. Even as she was destroying my livelihood. Perhaps that was part of the punishment. Punishment for failing her in the marriage. Of course, it was her idea. Her need that divided our house into two unequal and unbalanced houses. It was her selfishness that turned away from the marriage and into a lawyer’s office to see what she could get.

I do understand about security. I do believe she was acting out of fear and self-preservation. I think deciding you are going to ask for a divorce, must be a terrifying moment. (I’ve never experienced taking that action.) And in this moment of terror and anger, she struck a cold bargain within herself. Her needs would supersede those of her children or her husband. (That’s how self-preservation goes, I get it.) But, we were in couple’s therapy at the time. Couldn’t she have turned back into the marriage, back into the therapy, and ask for what she needed to rekindle her own desire? Those were my questions. Those were the questions of the therapist when she revealed she’d been to see an attorney.

At that moment, it’s as if she drew her sword and said, “The house is divided, and this part is mine.”

She’s entitled to the money. It’s what the law of Texas provides for the divorcing mom. It’s what I was told would be my deal should I spend the $30,000 or so to fight it. I’d still get the SPO and every-other-weekend with the kids. Mom is getting the house. Mom is getting the custodial parent role. And mom is getting the AG’s office as her collections agency should she need to bring in the enforcement clause of the divorce decree.

My ex-wife brought in the AG’s office to protect her assets. No, that’s not it. She brought in the AG’s office because she had bills to pay. Yes, sort of. But so did I. She brought in the AG’s office to punish me, to prevent me from staying a homeowner. And today, she’s still got the AG’s enforcement arm on my case. She could call them off with a phone call. She could take the dinosaur out of our divorce, but she’s not inclined to do it. What good would it do for her?

She is motivated by money. She divorced me when my earning power seemed unable to support her stay-at-home mom fantasy. She was a 10 – 20 hour a week worker. But she wanted me to return to the corporate machine, and I wanted to negotiate an alternate route. It was unacceptable. And one year later she was asking for a divorce.

Today, she doesn’t seem all that happy. I’m curious why she’s keeping the AG’s office on our case. I think it’s still a bit of vitriol that she can control my access to credit. My daughter is about to turn 16. That’s about $20,000 more I’m going to owe her over the course of the next 2.5 years. And, I suppose, that’s the reason she feels the enforcement arm of the state of Texas gives her some confidence. Not in being paid. But in being paid in regular and steady payments. Like a second paycheck, that I happen to pay the taxes on.

Am I angry? Okay, yes. It seems unfair. Do I bring that anger into the relationship with my kids? No. They know nothing about the money struggles between their mom and me. And I can say, for certain, they’ve never suffered from lack of funds on any issue or opportunity.

I work to stay positive some days. Like today when I was denied credit even after I’ve paid all my debts to my ex-wife.

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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