After our little Thanksgiving break, I’d like to pick up Julia’s story again. You’ll recall that Julia had been married for seven years when her husband said he wanted a divorce. He changed his mind a few months later but by then Julia had come to realize that life as a single parent would be better than the emotionally abusive marriage.
A divorce may mean the end of the marriage but when there’s children involved it’s the beginning of a whole other relationship with your ex. I am very thankful for the civil relationship I have with mine but I know that isn’t always the case. In Julia’s case, they handled their own divorce but she then faced a difficult custody battle and is gearing up to go back to court again. Here’s Julia:
Because our kids were so young when we got divorced, they spent most of their time with me but we had agreed that parenting time was always going to be 50-50 by the time the kids were four or five. So at that time he did file for more custody but I didn’t want him to have more time.
He can be very angry and explosive and abusive and the pediatrician had reported him to social services. He thought I had coordinated that which I hadn’t. He was trying to pay less child support which he told me. He wanted them 50 percent even though at the time he was traveling more than 50 percent of the time. He was gone from his house close to 60-65 percent of the time. It destroyed me when he said,
“I’d rather have them with a babysitter than have to pay you money.”
Then his lawyer said things like I was selectively unemployed in the summer and that they had to take my pay and figure out what I could make over the summer and then attribute that to my income. It was just ridiculous. But we ended up coming out on the other side of it and right now the children are with me nine days out of fourteen.
I’m getting ready to try to take away more time from him.
His behavior has always affected the kids. They always cry. They’ll sneak into my classroom and say,
“Don’t make us go! Why do we have to go?”
They’re always a mess. Recently my daughter started hurting myself. When he yells at her, she pinches herself really hard. She makes marks all over her arms. A couple of years ago, when she was in fourth grade she had some writing homework and had to write to the prompt, “what is one thing you would like to change?”
She wrote all about her parents being divorced and said,
I really hope my mom gets a new husband who is nice to her and nice to us and I also hope that my real dad will come and get me. He’s out there somewhere and he’s going to come find me and he’s going to be really nice to me and my mom and my brother.
I saved it and it just breaks my heart. Last summer she started googling ‘how to make yourself stop being depressed’ and also at what age you could decide you didn’t want to go with a parent anymore. She came and showed me it,
“There’s no age, mom. I can’t just choose. It’s just not fair. I don’t want to ever go.”
She doesn’t want to go but when they talk to him on the phone, it’s
“Yes, Daddy, I love you, Daddy, OK Daddy.”
There’s so much stress going on in their little lives and I feel I have to do something, but it scares me a lot because I know it’s going to be really awful.
The Divorce Coach Says
Julia is in Colorado and here the amount of time a child spends with each parent is factored into the formula for child support. I can’t say I fully understand it because my ex and have a different financial agreement for child support but it doesn’t take much to see that the formula creates a monetary incentive for a parent to seek more parenting time which is the completely wrong incentive.
How does what is in the child’s best interest figure into this? Do all states work like this? Is there a better system? Would love to hear how some of you have handled custody issues ….
In the next post, Julia shares more about why she is scared about seeking more custodial time.