Knowing the story behind Jen’s divorce … discovering her husband was a serious gambler and a pathological liar … it should come as no surprise that he wasn’t going to be someone to rely on after the divorce. There were somethings Jen knew right from the very beginning she was on her own and other things she’s seen slowly slide during the two years they’ve been separated. Here’s Jen:
We have joint custody of the boys, but I have them most of the time. When we first got the divorce, he said,
“The kids mean the world to me, and I’m going to be there for everything and I can’t live without them.”
But gradually he’s just getting more and more distant. He just took a job in L.A., so he’s going to be moving back there. So it’s going to be me and the boys, which I’m totally fine with. They’re thirteen, eleven and four now. I think my kids will be sad because they love their dad. He’s a good dad, I’m not going to say he’s a total a-hole.
He’s always been a very hands-on dad, but I don’t think he’s a very good influence, as far as character goes. He takes care of them and helps them with their homework, but I’ve just seen him slip and slip and slip. I think eventually, he’s just going to get more and more selfish and he won’t mind being away from them as much as he’s going to be.
I don’t love the idea of the boys going to spend a week with him in L.A. but I’d be okay with it. I know he would never do anything to harm them. I know he would never do anything to see them get hurt.
When we went to mediation, the mediator said,
“Do you want alimony?”
I almost laughed,
“Yeah, like I’m going to get that!”
Then he would pull us into separate rooms because he felt like every once in a while people wouldn’t be honest if they had to sit in front of the other person, so he would separate us and ask us so he could get a truthful answer. He had just been with my ex and he walked back into the room and said,
I get the feeling, just from my interactions with him that he is not going to be someone you can count on. I think if you really want to have success in your life and move on and be better, don’t count on your child support. The moms I see that can’t get by without their child support, they’re the ones I see struggling and freaking out when their husband doesn’t come through.”
Basically he told me to be sufficient on my own and anytime I got anything from him, to look at it as a bonus.
“Holy cow, I got something!”
He’s right. My ex will do random construction jobs for a buddy, but nothing on a regular basis. I know, people go “there’s places you can call that will force him to pay you” and I’m like “with what? Really? With what?”
The Divorce Coach Says
Jen’s mediator is a realist – he gave her good advice about telling their children and not relying on her ex is also good advice. I’m guessing that his inability to hold down a steady job is related to his compulsive gambling and it’s pretty safe to assume that the gambling is going to win over child support any day.
Whether or not you can rely on ex for alimony or child support, I’ll always maintain it’s vitally important to develop a plan to be financially self-sufficient. And if you’ve been a stay-at-home mom for some time or like Jen, you don’t have a college degree, it may take some time to get there but having a plan will help you stay on track. Step-by-step you’ll see the progress you’re making.
I know there is a moral principal about parents being responsible for their child and being accountable but in my opinion there’s no good answer when the person simply doesn’t have the wherewithal to be an active parent. I’ve learned there are ‘deadbeat dads’ and there are ‘turnips’. The deadbeats are people who have the financial resources to pay all or some of their obligation but won’t. The turnips are those that don’t have the resources. Sounds like Jen’s ex is a turnip.
This is a situation with which April at It’s All About Balance contends. As frustrating as it is, there comes a point when accepting it for it is really is the best option. April blogs about the challenges of raising two children single-handed, with no financial support and a turnip ex.