How do you support or damage your co-parent?
I know it’s a weird question, but it keeps coming up for me. Let me explain.
Protecting Your Kids
Do you know how your credit report works in today’s financial world? Rent, car payments, credit card rates, and some banks will use your credit rating to deny you services or charge you higher (in some cases 3X and 4X) rates. So, when my ex-wife decided, one year after our divorce was finalized, to turn her grievance (I was one week late on a child support check) over to the Attorney General’s office of the state of Texas, I begged her not to do it. I told her my plans for getting caught up. I was one week behind.
She claimed she was doing it to protect our kid’s assets. But that can’t be true. There is no single loophole that will get a father out of paying 100% of his child support obligation. None. Not bankruptcy. Not a lawsuit. Only death ends the pursuit of remuneration. So why did my ex-wife file against me? Why did she think it was a good idea to set me up with the state of Texas as a deadbeat dad? Didn’t she know that hurting me and my credit was going to also hurt our kids?
Was I hiding money from her? No. Was I refusing to pay my share? No. Was she at risk of losing the house? No. She was not in financial danger, she wasn’t even at risk. She admitted, a few days before she filed, that she did not think I was hiding money. So what was the reason? Why would a loving parent try to harm the earning power and financial abilities of her co-parent? Anger? Rage? Unresolved resentment for the divorce she demanded?
Transparency Even After Divorce
I was working for a small marketing firm and we just lost our biggest client. I was caught up on my payments ($1,350 per month) but I knew that the next few months might get a bit tight. The firm had to replace the income to keep the cash flow going to all us employees. I told my ex-wife, “I’m probably going to get late on a few payments, but I will get caught up. This is a temporary setback. We are scrambling to replace the client.”
I was one week late on the payment when she sent me an email.
“I’m sorry. I know this is bad timing. But I turned the accounts over to the AG’s office today.”
The bad timing she was referring to was my attempt to work with Wells Fargo to reset my mortgage rate. Her actions killed all of my opportunities to renegotiate with the bank. I was forced to sell my house under duress three months later. Again, I ask, what was going through her mind that made the AG’s office seem like a good idea? What threat was in her mind? What good would it do for her or our kids to see me lose my house, my ability to house our kids on my weekends? Was she pressing to get full custody? Did she want to destroy me completely?
It is possible my ex-wife was just stark-raving mad at me. Was her action punitive? Vindictive? For agreeing to the divorce? Did she hate to see me and the kids enjoying our weekends together? Did she fume when my son said to her, “Can we do school mornings more like dad does it? He gets up before us and gets stuff ready so we’re not always in a rush. We’re never late when we’re at dad’s house.” [This is a paraphrase of a conversation with my son at breakfast before school.]
The Rage Inside My Ex-wife
As we continue to move along our co-parenting journey she continues to think the AG’s office is her savior. I have tried to reason with her. I’ve stayed current on my child support. I’ve suggested a few options to get the “deadbeat dad” account with the AG’s office closed. She responds, “I don’t see what the benefit to me is.” It’s the same knee-jerk reaction. “Tell me why it would be good for me or the kids?”
She’s not interested in helping me at all, for any reason. And my credit problems as a result of the AG’s historical lean on my finances are also not her problem. But the effect of her continued enforcement with the AG’s office is that my “deadbeat dad” credit won’t allow me to buy even a vacuum cleaner on credit. She’s still got the screws in me. Did she get 100% of the money she was owed? Yes.
There must be some reason she’s still so mad at me. Maybe something inside of her, actually. I don’t understand her initial strike at hurting me, because I can’t imagine doing anything remotely similar to her. I also can’t understand her current rage when she’s gotten the money and she’s now married to a man who has plenty of money. What’s the point of keeping a sharp blade at your ex-husband’s neck?
My Joy Is the Offense
A friend asked, “Well, there must be something you’re doing. What’s your part in this?”
I keep asking myself this question. What’s my part in this fury?
The only answer I can come up with is she’s furious about this blog. She always has been. She demanded that I not write it. She demanded that I never write about her or the kids. And, I can see how this writing is a bit of a smoldering record of our struggles. Again, my intention here is not to make it about her. My life and goals are focused on my kids and my own recovery from the divorce. She is on her own. But the AG’s involvement gives her a huge amount of power in my financial life.
Several years ago, when I was applying for a job at a credit union, I had to ask my ex-wife to write a letter to my potential employer about my “deadbeat dad” account with the AG’s office. It was humiliating. I’m imagining she and her new husband got a chuckle at my expense.
How Do We Move On After Divorce?
Moving forward, my oldest son is about to be 18. This will reduce my monthly payment to $950. Still, a sizable chunk of change, especially when I pay the additional taxes on the money before she gets it. She is getting her money. My daughter has two more years to go before this abusive use of the AG’s office ends. She told me once, trying to justify the continued involvement of the state’s enforcement group, “This is very common. It simplifies the payments and accounting.” Bullshit. It’s not common. And it should be used for real deadbeat dads, the ones who are trying to get out of paying, get out of their responsibilities and obligations to their kids. I am not a deadbeat dad. Ah, but I protest too much.
I am doing my best to let go of the anger about this situation. But every time a bank turns me down, even from starting a savings account, there is always one reason given. The deadbeat dad account with the AG’s office. Even when I’ve paid it off.
And bad marks problems stay on your credit report for up to 8 years. Ten years from now, after my daughter’s child support is paid off, and I’ve been clear for 8 years, I’ll be free of my ex-wife’s devastating financial attack. She didn’t have an urgent need for the money then. She doesn’t have an urgent need for the money now. She’s just keeping the AG’s whip on my ass because she’s mad.
I Wish You Well
And with that, I hope that she stays healthy and well. I wish her only the best. I just wish she’d understand how keeping the AG’s office on the attack against her ex-husband is actually bad for her as well.
What hurts your children will always hurt you. Don’t use the child support system to attack or destroy a good father. Your anger issues need to be worked out in some other fashion. I am no longer the cause of your unhappy life. And my joyful time with the kids should also not be a source of rage for you. Get on with your own happy life and let me have mine.
UPDATE 2021: Today, I am still limited by my “deadbeat dad” credit report. The marks will stay on my account until my kids are 28 and 30. That’s the bullshit that my ex-wife gifted me with for being one week late with a child support payment. Yes, I guess it’s no wonder she is mad that I am documenting her narcissistic actions.
My motto for dealing with my ex-wife and her anger:
Focus on your children. Love your children.
John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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*this post was originally written in 2018.
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