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The Death of the Connected Co-Parent

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I try to be positive. This entire blog is about being positive, about turning negative interactions around and learning from them, transmuting them into something healthy, loving, and beneficial for my kids. Or at least a learning in that area, that I can use in my own parenting, at least use in my future interactions with the mother of my children. Sometimes, this “positive” spin is not possible. Sometimes things are not nice or easy. And some actions cannot be transmutted, over-looked, unicorned into being positive.

What I had imagined was a collaborative co-parenting relationship where we talked openly and frequently about our kids and our aspirations for them.

Today the Attorney General’s office of the great state of Texas shut down my access to both fo my checking accounts. I woke up trying to pay a bill and my card came back declined. This happens from time to time when you fall behind on child support payments. (Please hold up judgment, just for a second, because I know what you’re thinking.) My ex-wife and my kids have gotten 49% of every dollar I have earned since the divorce. The decree states I will pay a certain amount for my kid’s maintenance and wellbeing until they turn 18. And I have never waivered on that obligation. I have, however, gone through brief periods of unemployment.

The system is set up as a support system for the “custodial parent” as a collections agency. As the “non-custodial parent” I have very limited rights, and my recourse for any action taken by the AG’s office is to take it up with the AG’s office. So when the AG’s office shuts down your bank accounts as a way of punishing you for being behind on child support, there is not much you can do. You call the AG’s Office Enforcement Division and ask for the lien to be released. They then ask you about the money in the accounts. And after a few more questions, “Who is your current employer, what’s your current phone number, what’s your current address” they agree to take 50% of the money in any available accounts and release the lien.

That’s great, but the freeze canceled plane reservations. Bounced a car payment, that will cost me approximately $50 to resend. And the banks each charge me $50 for the privilege of having the lien put on the account in the first place. Oh, and this is because I’m behind on my child support and currently looking for work.

The mother of my children filed for the AGs help 6 years ago when I was a few weeks late on giving her the child support check. We were emailing each other about it. I told her my main client had lost a large piece of business and I’d be late, but getting caught up as soon as possible. I never imagined she was going to turn me over to the state’s collection agency.

Note: She knew, I was in the process of refinancing my house, and of course the AG action killed any hope of getting approved that. She had to have known this would have an adverse effect on my ability to maintain a household for our kids. And somewhere, she believed it was in the best interest of the kids to go ahead and file on me, essentially serving me up as a “deadbeat dad.” I was shocked back then. Today, I am not surprised by a lot of the adverse actions she takes against me. Not shocked, but always surprised. And mostly saddened.

What I had imagined was a collaborative co-parenting relationship where we talked openly and frequently about our kids and our aspirations for them. Again, this is not what she wants. I’m still sad about this. I think our kids are affected by her hyper-negative stance around me.

“There must be something you did,” a friend said, “To get her so mad.”

“She’s been mad a long time. And I don’t think I caused it, I know I can’t cure it, and I no longer need to wait around or work to change it. She and I are done. Except for this little matter of our kids. And the child support I owe her.

Today, I went down to the local AGs office to discuss my plans for paying off my child support debt. He gave me several options. What I know is this. My ex-wife is mad. She’s mad about not having all the child support she’s owed, forever, and she’s waiting for me to “pay her the money I owe her.” Every attempt I make to communicate around co-parenting, that’s the response I get. “Pay me first. Then we’ll talk about parenting together.”

I’ll try to wrap it up from here, saying, I don’t blame her for wanting the money. And I’m now working with the AGs office to schedule a meeting to reset the payments and pay all of the past-due debt. But it’s not an instant fix. The officer said it would take 10-14 business days to get the letter from the AGs office telling me how much I owe, and how much I owe in “future payments” so I can pay the child support off in-full.

I’m working, today, to cut the old ties that bind us together. To, hopefully, reset her life compass towards something other than anger at me. And really, to release myself from the burden I have and the heavy tax the AGs takes for managing the money I owe my ex-wife. I know I owe her money. I know I’ve paid her all the money I’ve had since the divorce. And, while she also admits that I have been trying to pay her, she feels it’s in her best interest to keep the AGs office in our affairs.

The silver lining is this: once I have paid the AGs office, and paid even the future child support payments, she will have nothing to be angry at me about. She will still be angry, that’s okay. But I don’t have to carry it around.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

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