About a year ago, my now ex-husband and I signed a settlement agreement that included a provision for him to pay me $10K alimony all at once for this past year, and then starting in July, $600/month for three years. It’s a very long story, but the only way he would settle out of court was if I agreed to let him have primary physical custody of our three girls. He makes a six-figure income, I was a SAHM who homeschooled our kids. Married 10 years. He wanted me to stay home and teach the girls, and didn’t want me to work. The separation was mutual, we were miserably unhappy for years, and counseling was a bust because he was always working and didn’t want to go, would forget appointments, or claim it was a waste of money. With him working 70 hour weeks, I assumed he wouldn’t want primary custody, and it never dawned on me to take steps to protect myself financially so I could either afford a legal battle, or to keep the girls with me if he refused to pay adequate support. I tried offering a settlement day one, drafted by an atty. as a preliminary offer, he ignored it for two months and didn’t pay any support while I had to keep paying the expenses.
Meanwhile, he took the girls 50% of the time to his apartment, but would rely on me for their before and after school care, to do their laundry, buy their clothing, etc…I had to take him to court to get him to even RESPOND to my demands for child support and spousal support, and he countered claiming I was having an affair (which I was not). He did everything he possibly could for the next 9 months to stall, file new motions, stonewall and push me to spend money out of the home equity line just to cover the bills. Even after the judge ordered him to pay a monthly amt, he prorated it for 12 mos and paid that amount, and instead of on the first, he’d pay it when felt like it. Again, the man makes six figures. This made it hard for me to pay bills on time, and shorted me cash each month. My atty. told me the judge hadn’t been clear in the order about HOW it should be paid, just ordered a “monthly” amt. so he took advantage of this to create instability for me.
This went on until I was $30K in debt. Between paying my lawyer, and the extra amt. to cover household expenses (the amt. the judge ordered was $2K short of our monthly expenses for that house, but the judge ordered me to pay the mortgage and keep the girls in the house, and the house was in his name and he refused to let me sell it either), I was digging a huge hole. By that point, we were no closer to a settlement and he said he’d keep fighting. My atty. at the time predicted $20K more in legal fees alone to keep fighting for custody, or more alimony than my ex was willing to pay, and the best I could hope for was 50% custody anyway b/c the father has a “right” to that much by default. I might have agreed to 50%, but he wanted it split up within the week–two nights here, two nights there, etc…I couldn’t afford to live that close to their existing school, and he wouldn’t agree to my moving to a different school. You name it, whatever step I might take to be better able to afford my life, or even to look for work, he made as hard as possible. By not paying for his own childcare, and saying “What would you rather, I just leave the girls at school b/c I can’t go get them?” he made me feel negligent if I didn’t go pick them up. I know this sounds crazy, but you kinda had to be there. He was supposed to have them for dinners, he’d keep them overnight. There was no court-order about visitation, so I had no way to make him bring them home. Then he would drop them at the house on his way to work b/c it was 2 hours before their school started, what was I going to do? Lock them out? Then he would just leave them there after school, and let me know I needed to pick them up, again, what was I going to do? Plus, I had the 4 year old with me all the time! What would I tell her? NO, we can’t get your sisters at school? Or “No, I won’t take care of you today b/c it’s Daddy’s responsibility?” No one would help me enforce his obligations either, lawyer said she couldn’t do anything, the judge wouldn’t order it, so it was left to me to either fight about or tolerate. With all of this, it was hard for me to get a job, or even interview for jobs. I was backed into a financial corner.
His final offer to avoid further litigation was the money I brought into the marriage which was tied up in the house (which NC doesn’t see as mine anymore) back to me, he would refinance the house, keep the girls, and pay me that alimony. I could go find work in the meantime and not pay child support for one year at least while I got settled. And that money from the house would pay my debts and help me get an apt. etc…It was to be a two year agreement for custody–in 2015 I could try again to get more custody–and the alimony for 3 years.
Well here we are, and he’s telling me straight out he has no intention of paying the alimony, and I’ll have to sue him for breach of contract to get it, BUT if I do, he will demand child support. I have started a little business for myself, an LLC as a Virtual Assistant, because I had trouble finding a FT job. I have no health insurance, and am not yet making enough to cover my monthly expenses. I’m still living off the alimony he paid in lump sum from last year. I pay out of pocket (using other settlement money) to visit my girls, care for them when I have them, and to get my business going. I barely make $1500/month, he makes $150K a year minimum. So he says if I sue him, he will take me to court for child support, and what’s more, he will “defend” himself by saying he “suspects” I’m living with my new boyfriend (I am not). I have my own little house, in the same town as my bf, but I pay my own rent and all utilities. My business is registered at that address, and I’m there every day, and at least half the nights of each week. We most certainly do NOT live together. But my ex says he will claim we do, and demand that I prove otherwise, or whatever it will take to slow things down and avoid paying me alimony while he presses his case for child support. He claims he can’t afford my alimony now without it.
He has done all this over the phone, careful not to leave written records of it. Today he called and said he is offering the following:
Amend the agreement to show that I will “pay” him child support in the amt. of $375 monthly, which he would like to deduct from his alimony check for “administrative efficiency,” while still claiming $600 alimony on his taxes.
He wants this amendment to cover the same three year period he contracted to pay alimony.
In exchange, he’s offering to remove the restriction on cohabitation, he claims so I can “save money” by legally moving in with my bf (which I’m not even sure I want to do)
The amendment would stipulate that he could not seek additional child support for that same period.
The amendment would stipulate that I not seek any changes to the custody agreement for the same three year period.
I’m failing to see how this is of any benefit to me? The last one is a non-starter. I see no reason to agree to that whatsoever. I’ve already given up too much for money, and I won’t do it again. I was distraught, scared, in debt, and even my atty. advised me to settle last summer. But this? Makes no sense. If I were sure I wanted to move in with my bf, and that we would be together for 11 mos. I guess one could say I’d “make it back” on the savings from not having to pay rent and such, but that’s a lot of ifs, and it offends me on principle. If the goal really were to save money for him, he would have agreed to my demand for more summer visitation! I work from home now! I make my own hours, I could have the girls more of the summer and he would save THOUSANDS per year on childcare! Easily more than my alimony just the first month! But he refuses. He would rather pay nannies and sitters (he won’t put them in summer camp) than let me have more time with them, and then claims poverty requires that he take $375 from my alimony which is already low considering our disparate incomes and what I gave to the marriage!
But I can ill afford a lawyer to advise me! I could move in with my boyfriend, and then he could use that against me in some way, I’m sure of it! If it’s possible, guaranteed he’ll do it! And what if my bf and I were to break up? Also, I know that there’s no way a court would order me to pay him that much child support. I also know he knew childcare was expensive when he demanded custody, so he set it up this way. I offered in writing then, and repeatedly over the past year to change things around so I’d have more custody and he’d have lower costs, but he’s said NO NO NO. So here we are.
But if I have to sue him? It will cost me thousands to win, and he knows it. He has the thousands to lose, I don’t. Once again, it’s a game of litigation chicken, and I don’t know what to do, and once again I feel backed into a corner.
Please help! I can’t just cave again, I can’t. But I can’t see a way to afford NOT to?