How much is enough?

Some of you may recall that I’m a father of two. Separated for near two years and nearing divorce, finally. The kids live with their mom but I see them every other day and under the circumstances can’t complain about my access to them. But, combine that with being out of work for an extended period of time, it hasn’t been an easy couple of years.

I’ve provide child support payments from day one without legal action or argument. To determine the amount I used the calculation provided by the local child support guideline. The same one the courts use. I provided this support even while I was out of work until I simply ran out of money. I mean completely drained. I was barely able to make my rent, utilities and food for the four months I was unable to pay child support. Never the less, I agreed to re-pay that obligation once I returned to work. Which I have and I am.

In the mean time, my ex has made her usual and classic poor financial decisions which have put her under significant financial strain as well. Despite the fact that her live in boyfriend pays for her rent and clearly many other expenses including vacations. Now I don’t know what their financial arrangements are, nor do I want to know. I do not ask. None of my business.

But on an all too regular basis I get accused of not supporting “the children” to the full extent of my capability. Her argument seems to be consistant and unchanging:
a) I will always make more money than she will.
b) My financial obligation should be greater than that recommended by the child services model because the kids need it
c) She’s graciously never asked me for spousal support. (Generous of her seeing as she’s the one who had the affair and ended the marriage.)

Still, knowing that the children are my highest priority and my weakest spot, she never misses an opportunity to tell me that I’m not giving her enough money for their support. Of course, my attorney is consistantly saying that I’m already paying more than the courts would award (I guess there is wiggle room in the calculation) and her attorney is not demanding more.

In truth, I could tighten my belt and give more. I’m just not sure that it would all go towards the children and their welfare. I prefer to spend money above and beyond what I give every month on them directly. That is, I buy them shoes and clothes and toys, etc. I pay for birthday parties and half of all afterschool activities. Plus share in medical expenses, etc… etc… etc…

Seems that’s not enough for my ex. I’m still a bad father in her books.

Now this may be more of a whinge than a question, but am I right to stick to my approach or should I consider giving her more because I can afford to give more?

Rather than offeering more money, how about offering to spend more time with the kids, if possible? Maybe even offer to take custody for a few months out of the year, if she’s amicable to the idea. Then you can spend what money you do have intelligently. You know, food and stuff.

I spend what time my work and their school schedules permits. They are quite young (9 and 6) and it’s best they don’t have erratic schedules.

My ex works only part time and has the ability to be the obvious custodial parent in views of the court. There is also the fact that she’s the mother. A bias in the courts that is tough to overcome. Besides, I’m not interested in turning this into a custody fight. I think that as they get older they will decide to come and live with me on their own. I’m be thrilled if/when they do. I don’t want them to view me as the person who took them from their mother.

Money for food is no longer the issue. It’s more like money that will go in helping her relieve her debt.

Based on what you just said are you seriously expecting to hear anyone disagree with your approach?

Expect a flurry of profanity directed at your ex. :rolleyes:

First of all, if you KNOW that the extra money she’s asking you to give isn’t going to go to the kids so much as her debt (which is her own fault, and has nothing to do with the children other than making it so she has to spend money meant for them on her problems), then I’d suggest not giving more. Rather, make up for what she may deprive them of in support of her own problems by buying them clothes, toys, educational supplies, etc., when they’re with you. Don’t give her the opportunity to use you as a convenient source of debt-relief income. She’s got her own boyfriend for that, apparently.

As a single mom who has been screwed out of child support for 7 years - let me be the first to say your ex is a bint who gives those of us with legitimate complaints a bad name.

You’re doing exact the right thing: give her the amount required by law (always in a check, so you have a receipt). Anything extra should come in one of two forms: physical stuff for the kids or investments in their names, Physical stuff sould be given directly to the kids. Tell the kids to take the tags off as soon as they determine it fits. If they don’t like it, you be the one to take them back to the store and exchange it. (I’ve known some horrid parents who would take all gifts back for the money.) You might also consider opening an educational savings or investment account for each of them, and put any extra money you have in there. She can’t touch that, and you’ll know they’re being provided for in the long term. You can, if you choose, take them shopping for clothes, school supplies, athletic equipment, etc. You don’t have to, but those would be the sort of expenses that might hit her hard when she’s mismanaging money, and would truly hurt the chldren to go without.

Unless you have evidence that she actually starving them, these are the children’s economic needs. Especially if her boyfriend is paying rent. Aside from food and rent, you can meet their needs without handing her stacks of extra cash.

Can I just say you seem like a great dad, and don’t doubt yourself? You have your kids’ best interest at heart, and the world could use a lot more non-custodial parents like you.

Thanks all.

I got out for a little while and aired out my brain. I really don’t think I’m doing anything wrong. It’s just hard not to question yourself when a person you’ve known for 15 years begins to repeatedly accuse you of doing something so fundamentally wrong. I think one just has to stop and take a checkpoint. No?

Well, here’s your reality check. It sounds like what she’s really upset about is the fact that she did something stupid that will affect her ability to take care of her family and wants YOU to take responsibility for it instead of doing it herself. You’d think her one mouth would be busy already sucking on her boyfriend’s financial teat without trying to latch on to yours as well…

And I apologize profusely for making that imagery public. I’ll supply the brain bleach if necessary.

**QuickSilver **, you sound like a good dad. Stick to your guns (metaphorically speaking) until the courts tell you otherwise. Best of luck.


It’s funny you should say that. We’ve had any number of … ummm… conversations… where she complains about her financial situation being very difficult and my response is: What did you expect would happen given the choices you made?

Enough time and emotion has passed that I can accept that I wasn’t making her happy or giving her what she felt she needed. The same can be said on my behalf. Perhaps we simply grew apart. But for a grown woman to continue to demand financial support and sometimes even a familiar and kind ear when she clearly refuses to take any responsibility for her situation is just becoming irritating.

Oh, and add on the fact that she’s basically using the children as emotional blackmail to get you to take that responsibility in her place and you get someone that I don’t think I’d like very much if I knew her in person.

I remember a conversation we had shortly before the break up where I accused her of her infidelity which she vehemently denied despite ample proof to the contrary. She loudly declared, “I’m never going to depend on a man again!”

Funny in that she’s now dependant on two. :rolleyes:

Perhaps you should go to court and get an amount written in stone, so to speak? That way she can no longer black mail you into giving her extra $$.

We’re about to sign a separation agreement. It’s all spelled out in there. She’s just getting her last shots in, I suppose. I expect she’ll come up with something else to torture me with in due time.

Er, what? She actually said this? With a straight face? That’s about the stupidest thing I’ve heard.

Negotiating financial matters with your ex is one of hte most difficult things you’ll have to do. It’s like a cross between accounting and knife-fighting.
All I can suggest is not to let your emotions in to those negotiations. And when you do that, post instructions on how to do it here, so I can use them. Thanks.

Yeah, well, I’ve learned to lower the bar on my expectations.

I agree with this. Next time she complains, ask her what specifically the kids need, and offer to buy the specific thing for them. That way you know exactly where the money’s going.

Good luck to you.

And when she does, come back and re-read this thread to remind yourself that you’re doing the right thing by your kids and by her, and that’s what’s important.

I’ve tried that. What she quickly learned is that she can take the monthly child support and not pay for school supplies, medical checkups, clothes and sundry things these payments are intended to cover. Then I’ll get a call saying, “You know it’s almost time for the kids’ dental cleaning. When can you take them?” Meaning, she expects me to pay for the visit.

When I wanted to drive the point home about the purpose of the support payments and what ordinary expenses included by law, we went three rounds over a stupid 5 dollar school binder. For a time, my daughter thought I’d refused to get it for her based on what her mother obviously said about it. :frowning: :mad: