Swati was in her early thirties when she got divorced about seven years ago. After accepting her husband’s infidelity, she filed for divorce, at which point he started to harass her. The only way she could put an end to the harassment was to move out taking her young child with her. She knew her husband was a fighter, she knew she wanted full custody and she knew that negotiating their divorce was not going to be easy. However, as a successful Human Resource management consultant, Swati had the means to support herself and her child, and that made a difference in the negotiations. Here’s Swati:
In Illinois, you have to see a mediator to set your child’s schedule and a couple of times our mediator said,
“I’m going to end this meeting early.”
Then he pulled me aside to tell me he didn’t think my ex was ready and I would have to explain all the actions my ex had already taken. I found it really annoying and I wasn’t going to stand here and feel sorry for him. There was no reason for our divorce to take a long time.
I told my ex that if I got full custody of our daughter, then he could keep his business that I had started and all of our savings account and all of our assets except the house. I couldn’t let him take the house because I wouldn’t be able to buy another house.
I just wanted custody of our daughter. I didn’t want child support. Nothing. That’s what ended up happening in the end.
I’m very fortunate. I’m well-educated, I do well earning my own money, I haven’t had that concern that I know a lot of single moms and dads have to struggle with. I knew I could make it again on my own, I knew I didn’t want to live in the house, I knew I didn’t want any of the stuff in the house, so it wasn’t as if I felt like “I can’t believe I don’t have our china” or something like that.
I’m a very sentimental person, so I would look at the couch and think “remember when we bought that?” And once I figured out he was having an affair with this girl we had hired to do filing in his office, I also figured out we weren’t actually a good fit together anyway. I realized he told me all the things he was looking for in a wife so I thought we were a good fit but what he really wanted was somebody who had no ambition, who would do everything he wanted. We had hired her when she was like 15 ½, and I don’t actually know how old she was when the affair started. Even more ridiculous, she was the daughter of one his patients.
After paying all the legal fees, I ended up with $87 in my bank account, and that’s finally when I asked my parents if I could borrow some money. They said,
“Why did you wait so long to ask us?”
I don’t know why I waited so long. I just felt that at thirty-three I should have been able to support myself. They got me a car, they helped me out and several years later I was able to pay them back but I do remember that feeling of,
“Oh my God, I have $87 in my bank account.”
The Divorce Coach Says
I do believe that both parents are financially responsible for a child and it’s a moral responsibility. In my idealized view, parents would fulfill that responsibility regardless of child support laws. In my idealized view, parents would fulfill that responsibility because they wanted to, because it’s the right thing to do for their child. It angers me when I hear of parents who have the financial wherewithal who shirk on this responsibility.
But, I know this is not the reality and I know that if you have very little influence over your ex. In Swati’s case, she already knew she could be financially self-sufficient even if she needed some initial support from her parents. That gave a her a huge emotional advantage – she didn’t need to fight her husband over assets. She didn’t need to rely on child support to make ends meet. She could just detach herself and walk away. Walking away meant ending the divorce negotiations much sooner than would otherwise be possible. I’m guessing too that walking away meant avoiding a costly and lengthy court-battle.
This is about looking at the big picture, seeing what matters most and cutting through the debris to get there. It’s about knowing what is important for you and not allowing yourself to get sucked into the “tit-for-tat” of divorce settlements. On paper, it might seem like a very uneven settlement but doesn’t getting what you most want, make it a great settlement?
BTW … Swati’s ex does have parenting time with their daughter. More on that to come.
Photo Credit: cwangdom