When my current guest, Donna told me she’d decided to file for divorce without an attorney she explained that initially her attorney had drawn up their parenting agreement and her STBX had agreed his attorney would handle the divorce agreement. Then her ex wouldn’t sign the parenting agreement and wouldn’t proceed with the separation agreement. I asked Donna to talk about why she thought he was stalling and how she felt being in a state of limbo. Here’s Donna:
I think he’s using it has a tool to manipulate me.
A few months ago he was anxious to go ahead and get the divorce papers signed. My attorney drew up our separation agreement so he was going to have his attorney do the papers to file for divorce. And now he won’t do that because he’s wanting me to agree to him paying less child support than what he is.
I’m not going to do that because we had already negotiated on it once. He went one month without paying any child support. And he left me with the house and mortgage payment. Then he contacted his attorney and his attorney told him some minimum amount to pay. I don’t even know where she got that figure.
In North Carolina there’s a worksheet that you plug in your salaries, who’s carrying your health insurance and child care costs and when we plugged all that in we came up with a number and he was paying me $800 less than that.
I did agree to about $300 less than what he was officially supposed to pay me and he started paying me that amount and he’s still doing it now. When I agreed to less child support it was a financial decision. I was stuck with the mortgage and paying for my son’s after-school and before-school care and money was tight for me.
But he wants me to now to agree to an even lesser amount and he’s just using the divorce papers as a means to control me. In the beginning when he was just paying me this minimal amount, it was all about controlling me to make me agree to something I probably shouldn’t have.
For whatever reasons, my attorneys were discouraging me from going through the North Carolina child support enforcement office, and I don’t know why they were doing that. But now I’ve decided to go ahead and fill out the paperwork and to send that in to the child support office so that if my ex does decide to quit paying me I at least have the papers filed with the child support office. Eventually it would just come out of his paycheck.
It’s extremely frustrating. It was a controlling, abusive relationship and for him to continue to try to manipulate me with the child support payments is disheartening. It makes me angry.
That’s why I finally just quit putting off filing with the child support enforcement office. I wanted to take that out of the equation so that he can’t manipulate me with that anymore.
It has been very frustrating. It made me feel somewhat helpless not being able to do what I needed to do to have closure of the divorce. Then also of just being under his constant control which really bugs me. It certainly helps that he’s in another state. Most of the time I live my life like I’m divorced. I don’t think about it. But I’m closing on my new house soon and if we’re not divorced it worries that he could try to claim part of it so it’s starting to become more of an issue for me.
When I finally made the decision and I finally got up enough courage, that I could actually do these divorce papers myself it gave me a sense of relief: there is something I can do. I don’t have to sit here and wait on him, be at his mercy. That made me feel empowered.
The Divorce Coach Says
Sadly, I’ve heard of many situations where child support is used to manipulate or coerce a parent. The most common one is where one parent seeks more overnight stays not because of a genuine desire for more parenting time but rather because it would mean having to pay less in child support.
In that sense Donna’s situation was easier to deal with – her STBX wasn’t seeking more parenting time and we can only guess at his real motivations for stalling. Donna did the smart thing. She looked to see what she could do to move the divorce forward and she took action.
There is real danger in doing nothing since it gives both parties the opportunity to hide financial assets and to make other changes that might be detrimental to the other party once divorce is filed. In most states, filing for divorce triggers some automatic restraining orders restricting the sale of assets and changes to health insurance for example. This is another reason why it’s important for both parties to seek legal advice early on in the process.
Sometimes people are reluctant to take action because they are afraid of the future. The unknown can be immobilizing but as Donna found, knowledge is empowering. So start by asking yourself what are you afraid of? Then ask what could change that? What needs to happen to bring about that change? Is that change something you can do? If not, why not? And if you get stuck in your thinking ask a trusted friend to help you think it through.
Donna blogs about her journey at Elf Lady’s Chronicles including this fabulous post about facing your fears. The exercise that Donna went through here is an excellent one you can do yourself if you’re contemplating divorce but are afraid.
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