I Have to Pay Him WHAT????

I may have to pay my rich ex-husband child support. This is what my lawyer told me Wednesday afternoon. I spent the rest of the day trying to lasso my blood pressure and pull it down off the ceiling.

Let me be clear: I don’t believe child support should be a free ride. I don’t believe those monthly payments should end up in the pockets of cosmetic surgeons or Mercedes dealers.

And I don’t believe that the only people who should pay child support are men. I believe that the richer person should pay the poorer person child support. The issue isn’t about gender per se–although women still make only 75% of what men do, which is why they normally are awarded child support. When you factor in that many married women choose to leave careers to stay home with their children, then find it difficult to re-enter a post-divorce job market with dusty resumes, bygone skill sets, and networking contacts that have drifted away, the notion of income parity starts to resemble a Disney movie.

If I had Prince’s pots of gold at my disposal, and Prince were in my position, realistically able to earn just $50,000 a year, I would pay for all my kids’ expenses. I would not attempt to sue him to make him pay for private school “extras”–I have said repeatedly that I could not afford private school and if he wanted to send the kids it would have to be on his dime–such as MacBook Pros and field trips to other continents. I would not send him nasty texts insisting that he pony up bucks for a $2000-a-week summer camp for both kids. I would not arbitrarily stop paying $300 in court-ordered monthly childcare expenses simply because I felt like it. I would not dock money from child support when I felt he needed to be taught a lesson. I would not attempt to extract blood from a stone.

You may be thinking that I have illusions of largesse. I’ve never been rich (except by proxy, when I was married to Prince), so how can I speak with any certainty of what I would do if I were?Perhaps I should put myself in his position: how would I feel giving money to an ex that I want to smush beneath my shoe like a dying ember? What if I were convinced he were spending child support on luxuries for himself instead of school books and gym shoes? Perhaps I would feel, to borrow Prince’s verbal finesse, that he should follow whatever cockamamie order I hurl at him because “that’s what I pay you for!” 

I could say that I wouldn’t feel this way because I’m a decent person, because I don’t like to play games, and because I believe in honoring my financial commitments. But that’s not really the point. The point is, in the case of co-parenting, money solves problems. When money flows like a chocolate fountain, children need not and should not be deprived. Being bucks-up takes away the need for heated conversations about splitting everything 50-50. When parents don’t hemorrhage psychic energy via ongoing conflict, they can focus on the prize: raising children in an amicable environment. Who is really being punished by yanking summer camp? Not me.

By now you may be wondering, if Prince is so rich, and Pauline is clinging to her toehold on the middle-class, why does she have to pay him child support?

Because Prince doesn’t work, that’s why. He has an office where he makes lots of phone calls and sets up deals that don’t come to fruition. He takes “business trips” to the French Riviera and Aspen. But he doesn’t actually make money. Until recently, he lived off a five-figure-a-month family trust allocation, plus rental income on two properties. Extras, such as lavish vacations, home improvements, and season’s tickets to basketball games, were gifted by his parents.

Then last year Prince decided to sue me for full custody of our son and modify child support. At that point, the monthly trust disbursement mysteriously evaporated, the renter of one of his homes moved out, and Prince said he could not find a new renter. He reported that his actual income from work the year before was $3000. Quite a creative sleight of hand for someone who spends his time remodeling homes and taking vacations. And, might I add, for someone whose father owns a multi-million dollar company and writes books on how to get jobs and be successful.

I’m not kidding.

So I made Prince take a vocational exam to determine how much money he could make, should he choose to work. He was imputed with the same income that I made at my last full-time job (which I left because my days were 12 hours door-to-door, I barely saw my kids, and one-third of my income went to childcare, so now I work part-time): roughly $50,000.

Now that Luca is living with Prince 100% of the time–and it is unlikely he will return to live with me in the foreseeable future–and Francesca may end up living with Prince 50% of the time, child support should be modified to reflect those changes. That’s fair. It’s also reasonable that I continue paying half of the children’s unreimbursed medical expenses. And to pay for things for the children that I’m able to afford, but that Prince doesn’t want to split: for instance, a one-week, $200 art camp for Francesca. If I can swing it, I foot the bill for child-related expenses rather than ask Prince to split them. I don’t need the hassle and I enjoy being able to provide for my children, even if I can only provide in small ways.

But to force me to subsidize the income of a rich person who is so miserly that he pays his legal fees out of our son’s checking account (yup, that came out in the deposition)–well, that’s just plain wrong. Not merely wrong, but upside-down, Alice-through-the-looking-glass, Orwellian-parallel-universe crazy.

It’s the same kind of crazy that has turned America from an all-men-are-created-equal enterprise into a highly stratified socioeconomic Armageddon that is eroding the quality of life for the majority of its citizens. It’s the same kind of crazy that allows banks and corporations, post-banking crisis, to bestow obscene bonuses on privileged executives while firing the middle-class workers who keep those corporations running. It’s the same kind of crazy that blinded the SEC from Madoff’s trickery that wiped out the savings of thousands of trusting investors. It’s the same kind of crazy that is making a college education out of reach for so many of our young people, and killing off desperately sick individuals who cannot afford health insurance. It’s the same kind of crazy that has created a 16% unemployment rate for African-American males, who then are scorned for resorting to criminal activities to survive.

In the case of rich vs. poor ex-spouses, the notion of a 50-50 split is unjust. And in my reverse-Robin Hood scenario, the very real possibility that I will end up subsidizing Prince Midas is a sick joke. My hope is that my lawyer will be able to make a case that Prince’s lifestyle demonstrates he lives far in excess of $50,000 a year and that there is no basis for my paying him child support. I can accept receiving zero child support. Perhaps getting nothing from him will tamp down some of his rage. But gouging my already meager income to pad the pockets of the man who just put a tiled pool and hot tub in his backyard? Hello?

Does anyone else think the Family Law gods have been drinking too much nectar? Or is it reasonable for me to pay my rich ex-husband child support based on a modest figure I no longer earn? Moms, dads, bloggers, divorced people, please weigh in. I would love to know your thoughts.


About perilsofdivorcedpauline

I am a survivor of a world-class gnarly divorce. My dastardly ex-husband is suing me for full custody of my son, and more time with my daughter. He’s super-rich and I’m super-not. You get the picture.
This entry was posted in Divorce, Custody, and Parental Alienation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to I Have to Pay Him WHAT????

  1. Sophia says:

    I hear you loud and clear.

    I was a single mom with my 3 children for over 2 years, and since my ex had been fired from his job (for the same reason I made him leave our marriage) I could not and did not ask for child support from him. I had to start working again after being a stay at home mom so that our kids could have health insurance, food and a roof over their heads.

    Flash forward 2 years and my ex husband met a rather wealthy woman. At first, I was thrilled to finally split half the responsibility of the kids and they lived with them in their beautiful new suburban home in a very nice neighborhood weekdays, and me on the weekends in my little apartment.

    Girlfriend hired a lawyer in my ex’s name and long story short, (I couldn’t afford an attorney) I was reduced to the “non custodial” parent, (weekends, holidays, one overnight per week) and had to pay him child support.

    Since my ex is still only working part time and makes around $19 an hour, he recently took me back to court, again on his now wife’s dime, and I am paying him even more.
    If the money were simply to take care of my children, that would be one thing. Now our 2 households are quite skewed in terms of lifestyle… he has big screen TV’s in almost every room, a master bedroom as big as my first floor, and his new wife’s wedding ring reminds me of a coffee table.

    I am angry and frustrated a lot. What helps me the most is that I try not to think of child support (over half my take home pay each month) as something I “give” to my ex husband,

    I think of it as a small price to pay to never have to sleep with him again.
    Somehow, that makes it better.

  2. Joanne says:

    You had me until you blamed African American crime on poverty. And what of the vast majority of African Americans (and all races) who are poor and who do not commit crimes? I think you sell poor people short, way short. But other than that, your post was horrifyingly sad and so thought-provoking. Not fair and not right and not good.

    • You are correct, being poor doesn’t mean you’re going to commit a crime and I in no way meant to suggest that being poor entitled anyone to commit crimes. However, I poverty does make people desperate, and desperate people do commit crimes. I apologize if I sold poor people short, because that was not at all my intention.

  3. cassee01 says:

    Surely any judge with a brain in his head will see through this sham???? If this happens I am going to lose all faith in everything.

  4. I’m beyond shocked. I’m sick. My head is throbbing as I try to make sense of this. How can logic be so absent and common sense be so invisible? And with what are you supposed to pay him? The money that just went to legal fees because of his unending quest to annihilate you? Does that get counted?

    My God. I’m hoping for your nightmare to end soon.

  5. Jenny Heitz says:

    As I’ve said before: fair and equal are not the same. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t always see it that way. He’s obviously hiding income, and his lifestyle alone should bear this out, if your lawyer does his/her due diligence. It’s one thing to not give you child support anymore, but it’s quite another for you to pay him when his resources are enormous and yours aren’t. My much, much wealthier ex thinks I should pay for half of everything, from fancy camps to private schools, when that would bleed me of money I need for things like basically keeping a roof over our heads. But hey, to him it’s “fair.” Sorry to read this. Hopefully, you won’t have to pay him anything.

  6. This makes me sick to my stomach! It also pisses me off!!! I can’t believe you’re going through this nightmare. Tiled pool? Hot tub? Grrrrrrrrrrr!

    I pray the judge sees through his bullshit. You can only hide the money for so long… I especially feel for you because I believe my ex is purposely staying unemployed so he can ask for spousal maintenance. If things go his way in our next child custody hearing, I may have to pay him child support as well.

    Double Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

    Hang in there, hon, and keep fighting the good fight! We’re in your corner!

  7. The legal system has a sad, scary obsession with the concept of “equality.” But sadly, this obsession tends to make practically everything anything but equal. And ironically, the person with the greater resources has more power to force the issues, thus relegating the other party to the role of victim in the whole sad, scary mess.

    I had a similar experience, sans rich ex. But the “rich” part of my experience was when my hubby left me for another woman … and then informed me I’d owe him child support, in order to “equalize” the quality of life between our homes. Bottom line, I made more money than he did. BECAUSE I HAD A MASTER’S DEGREE AND WAS AMBITIOUS!


    I’m so sorry you’re going through this. May you have a strong will, an even stronger lawyer and a stronger yet drink at the end of the day. Sounds like you’ll need it — all. 😦

  8. Salmart says:

    Yep. That sure sucks big time. In order to ‘work’ the system here, down under, the victim usually gives up work too, because if they too are not earning anything they don’t owe anything. A very sad state of affairs!! Especially for the kids as they then have 2 unemployed parents on welfate. (Well, 1 unemployed & one conman.) I hope you get the better of this schemer. You appear very smart so I’m hoping your intelligence & drive will get him in the end!! Hang in there!!

  9. People don’t believe these things happen. But some of us know better. That alternate-parallel-scrambled-fucked-up universe that is all too real.

  10. Where’s the *Like* button? Big *Like* for BigLittleWolf’s comments.

  11. Aelfric says:

    It’s a sad fact of “Family” Court that it’s a winner-take-all endeavor. Whoever gets more than 50% of the child’s time, also gets Child Support from the other. This (CS) is based on the parent’s income, and the law considers it to be the *child’s* right (despite the facts that it is paid to opposing party, and that there is no mechanism or recourse whatsoever to ensure that even a single penny of it is ever used for the child’s benefit). Need (that is, an inability for a custodial parent to cover normal childrearing expenses without support from the noncustodial parent) is simply NOT a factor to be considered in the formula. If the other party has primary custody, they get CS from you based on your income, regardless of how rich or poor they are.

    Which is to say, regardless of how much income your attorney can show your ex really lives on, it has no legal bearing whatsoever on your responsibility to pay him CS. (Further, there is no quid pro quo; you cannot avoid owing the ordered CS even when opposing party violates the Custody Order and prevents you from having contact with your child.)

    If you think this system is designed to incentivize Custody and CS litigation, you are correct. The states are rewarded by the Federal government for CS collected; it is in the states’ financial interest to NOT award joint custody, but instead to ensure CS is awardable and collected. (It also ensures continuous employment for “Family” Law attorneys.)

  12. batticus says:

    Aelfric is correct, CS has nothing to do with rich, poor, male, or female. Your ex deserves child support according to the law just like all the women out there deserve it. It was not necessary for him to reduce his apparent income. A man in your situation just has to suck it up and pay without anyone batting an eye; that said, it isn’t clear to me how you could fix the law without creating an economic incentive for both sides to destructively reduce their income (by forcing both parties to contribute to child support for the resident parent proportional to their incomes, each would self-interestedly try to reduce their % portion to “stick it” to their ex). So, in the end, the legal model needs to be simple enough to apply to most situations and by design, create the incentive to improve life for the kids (the higher income earner keeps more than 50% of their next marginal dollar they earn but adds to child support with higher income, the lower income earner has an incentive to earn without affecting their child support).

    Hopefully in your jurisdiction, the judge can override the default legal model to arrive at a more just solution.

  13. Aelfric says:

    For the record, I didn’t say anything about whether anyone *deserves* the CS awarded. I only state that the primary custodian is legally entitled to collect CS from the non-custodial parent.

    My personal opinion is that, if a parent cannot afford the expenses of having the child with them most of the time, then the child should be with the parent who *can* afford it. Obviously, that is not the law.

    As a payor of CS, I have no net incentive to seek an increase in my income. The expense and hassle of litigation are so high, that I would rather freeze my income for years, instead of giving Opposing Party a basis for more litigation. A $10,000 increase of income would go roughly $2500 to taxes, $1000 to Opposing Party, and anywhere from $5000-$10,000 in litigation costs. I have no expectation of keeping more than $0.50 of the next marginal dollar I earn – I have no expectation of keeping ANY of the next marginal dollar I earn. It’s just not worth it. OP would probably get more of that dollar than I would.

    There does not appear to be any limit on how often OP can file litigation to drag me into court 150 miles away, just to demonstrate how much she can jerk me around.

    I honestly believe that the system was specifically designed by “Family” law attorneys to ratchet up the conflict to the maximum possible level, to ensure they have a constant stream of work. I don’t believe that anyone honest works in “Family” law, anywhere.

    My best advice is: the only protection your child has remaining now is from a Judge (not some “Case Officer”) looking at the case, closely and frequently. Keep up the custody litigation; if you give up on that, you will end up not even having contact with your child. It’s a rotten system, but it’s the one we’re stuck with. (It’s a sad fact that the best situation – the only possible way to have a GOOD outcome for the child – is to keep things entirely out of court, but once the case IS in court, the only option becomes continuous litigation unto death.)

    • Batticus,
      I have felt this way as well. I have yet to meet a FLA that I believe is ethical and really “cared” about the situation. They way they conduct their billing is disgusting…charging for things that other businesses consider the “cost of doing business” – like copies, stamps, etc. Really?! I think that even those who intend to be ethical FLAs end up having to disconnect from the humanity involved in order to do their jobs. I mean, think of the things they hear about? The accusations, the blame, the vindictive legal maneuvering, the abuse allegations, etc.? They likely feel there is no way of getting to the “truth” between the two parties in a suit, so they just decide to focus on the law and what can/can’t be done according to the law.

      This is what makes it a sick, sad world. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you had to make all these arrangements prior to the birth of a child? What if Family Law was a pre-birth contract and everything was set up when the parties were (at least in most situations) at their most amicable? I think things would look a lot differently and we could do away with some of this other nonsense and torture!

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