Divorce means the romantic, intimate relationship between you and your spouse is over but if you have children, then you will continue to have a relationship for many years. That means figuring out how to make that relationship work is beneficial to all, and especially to your children.
My current guest, Kyle Bradford has been divorced now for nine years and has worked through numerous parenting challenges with his ex. What has helped him is seeing the relationship with his ex as a business relationship. Here’s Kyle.
A marriage is an emotional affair, we all know that. It’s impossible to believe that a divorce is not going to be emotional as well. As a result of that, a divorce should be viewed for what it truly is.
It has to be managed like a business arrangement. Let’s just pull away all the emotional aspects for the moment and look at divorce for what it really is. It’s an agreement between you and someone that you’re married to that you are going to co-parent children in this dynamic.
Quite frankly when you take a look at child support, I’m paying to be with my kids. I’ve looked at my divorce through the years in that very sterile, calculated way, because I needed to do that, otherwise I would let my emotions run away with me through frustration, through anger. It was necessary to do that.
I think that’s helped as we transition through these different change schedules over the years, because if I don’t get something my way, it’s that kind of business—I’ve acclimated myself to being in a business relationship with her. I pay her money, I get my kids. We work together as much as we can.
It’s gotten much better in nine years. We’ve made it very amicable and it’s easy on our kids and they love it and I love it. It’s fine the way it is. And yes, it’s gotten much easier over time and as kids get older, it just gets easier altogether.
Much of the divorce dynamic, that co-parenting relationship, it’s a jockeying for control. So much of the frustration that ex-husbands and ex-wives feel towards each other is merely because one of them feels that they’re out of control or one of them feels that they have lost control of the situation.
“She can’t do what I want her to do now. I can’t make him do what I want him to do now,” and instead of realizing that their relationship dynamic has changed and working within the confines of that, they end up getting frustrated and what they invariably do is they do their best to take it out on the person that they’re frustrated with and the kids unfortunately get the shrapnel when things blow up.
The Divorce Coach Says
I agree with Kyle that your divorce itself and your post-divorce relationship with your ex will likely be better if you can approach this as a business arrangement.
Child support is often a contentious issue. If you and your STBX cannot come to an arrangement that works for you, (sometimes no child support is a relief) that’s when the legal system comes in and like most other aspects of divorce, if you’re going to leave it to a third party to decide, even if that third party is judge, then the likelihood of you being dissatisfied with the outcome greatly increases.
In many states, the number of overnights a child spends with each parent figures into the calculation for child support. The assumption here is that a parent incurs more child-related expenses when a child is staying with them and overnights is a simplified way of measuring this. This alone creates a financial incentive to seek more overnights.
Another element in the calculation is income. A disparity in income between parents can be a source of discontent. Even if parents are sharing time equally, the parent with the higher income could still be paying child support to other.
Put these two together and it’s easy to understand how this might become a major irritant: the higher income parent has less parenting time, not through their choice but perhaps because of the age of the child and so the amount of child support increases.
And for regular child support payments there is no accountability – neither party is required to demonstrate that what is being received in child support is being used for child-related expenses. You likely will have additional expenses that are not included in regular child support such as un-reimbursed medical expenses or fees of extra curricular activities. These are handled separately and while your legal agreement will likely cover how these are to be shared between you, you are able to ask to see receipts for these so there is more accountability.
I do agree with Kyle that treating this as a business arrangement will make it easier for you. However rather than seeing child support as the price you have to pay for seeing your children, I see it as part of your parental responsibility regardless. While the overnight factor muddies the waters, philosophically, the dollar amount of child support should not equate to time spent with your child. A lack of financial wherewithal does not make someone a bad parent and their parenting time should not be restricted for this reason alone.
I have three tips to help you see this as a business arrangement. First make sure you understand how child support is calculated in your state. This includes understanding the variables such as combined income level, number of children and number of overnights. This will help you stay objective about changes in the amounts payable and to make sure you’re not being manipulated through child support.
Then be sure to have a good understanding of your divorce agreement – what expenses are included in regular child support and what expenses are considered extra, how they get approved and how they are to be shared. This will help ensure that you are paying what you’ve agreed to and also that you don’t incur expenses for which you expect to be reimbursed but which your ex declines because you didn’t follow the process.
Third tip is that if you are paying spousal support, separate this from child support. The purpose of these two payments is very different and the specifics are likely very different. If you’re upset about paying spousal support and you lump that in with child support, it’s going to make it harder for you to keep your frustration away from your children.
Do you have other tips for seeing your parenting relationship with your ex as a business relationship?
Kyle Bradford is a divorced father and founder of the website ChopperPapa, ‘High octane observations on manhood, divorce, relationships, fatherhood, and other intellectual roadkill’. He also hosts a monthly podcast, FatherhoodWideOpen, ‘Intelligent conversation on issues facing fatherhood and masculinity with the people who think and write on them.’ He lives, writes, and works in Atlanta, Georgia.
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