Zen kids after the divorce

Men and Divorce with Children: My 9-year Retrospective

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Today I was reminded of how bad the child support/custody laws are in my great state of Texas. Though I wanted a 50/50 divorce and negotiated a cooperative divorce with my then-wife, I was handed the standard divorced dad package. She was given the custodial parent role, even though our decree said we were joint custodians. She got the $1,350 a month in tax-free child support. (I pay the taxes before the money goes to her.) And she got the house, though she offset some of our equity with retirement dollars. (Note: you are taxed at 10% on any money you take as an early withdrawal, so don’t really count that into your living expenses or basic needs.) She got what she wanted in the divorce. That’s the way the laws were written in 2010 and that’s what she got.

I opened a letter today, from an online bank that turned down my application to deposit money in their bank. And why? Well, 7-years-ago, my newly divorced ex-wife also deemed it necessary to turn our financial affairs over to the care of the Attorney General’s office for “collections” when I was a week late on my child support payment. I told her I was going to be late. I asked for a bit of patience as my employer tried to replace an anchor client. She filed anyway. “In the best interest of the children” echoing in her ears. She was doing it to protect their money, she claimed. Really?

I cannot get my credit rating above and F on both Experian and Equifax no matter what I do. In all but my child support history, I have a clean history of paying my bills on time. But the way the AG works in Texas, they leverage your credit against you when you get behind on your child support.

Now, it’s my understanding that this process was put in place for deadbeat dads who are trying to avoid paying their child support. At least, when I visit the austere Office of the Attorney General, Child Enforcement Division, I get the impression that most of the moms there have not seen or heard from the dads in quite some time. In these cases, perhaps more common than I know, the AG’s office provides a critical and necessary service.

For white upper-middle-class women, filing on your ex-husband is the equivalent of firing buckshot into their asses as they are trying to pick themselves back up off the floor. I’ll be clear, the divorce was very hard for me. I suffer from depression, and the divorce triggered the largest slump in my personal history. And yet I was maintaining my payments and my relationship to my kids, as best I could. And since there is no way to discharge a child support debt, there was zero chance of my ex-wife not collecting the money. But there was something she could do to put the hurt on me for good, for the duration of our children’s youth.

By filing against me with the Attorney General’s office my wife was essentially reporting me as a deadbeat dad, and beginning a process that has damaged all of us, my kids included. She knew what she was doing. She rationalized, justified, and told me it was what all the women she knew did with their divorces. She tried to tell me it made it easier for all of us.

Today, as I was reading my first rejection of a deposit request, I was once again frustrated by the nonsensical actions of my ex-wife. And even when she is paid off, she continues to have the AG’s office sit on me for the monthly payments. And guess what, even though I have cleared all my debt with my ex-wife the record of me getting behind will stay with my credit report for the next 8 years. My youngest will be 23-years-old when the AG’s punitive report is lifted from my credit score.

There’s nothing I can do. I have asked my ex-wife to consider removing the AG’s overwatch. She responds with a question, “Why would this benefit the children?”

I suppose a pound of flesh is tasty when it is grilled over a flame of resentment and anger. She is acting out of spite and vitriol at this point. Again, she got what she wanted and she still came after me with the AG’s office. And today, she still keeps their “collections division” on me and leaning on my credit report. Why? Because it does her no good to do anything different. Perhaps she’s getting some satisfaction at being mean to me. Well, I think the truth of all that she has done is not going to be all that wonderful as it continues to come out.

To that point, my new book Fall of the House of Dad is now available from Amazon.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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