Would this (problems with your ex) frustrate you?

A little background.

My ex-wife and I have a son, who is in high school. We divorced when he was 6. We have joint custody (50/50). I pay 100% for my son’s financial needs. My ex does not work and hasn’t since before our son was born. She remarried about 2 years after the divorce. We don’t have the best of relationships and most of our tension comes from her trying to dictate parenting rules or over money.

The state we live in uses a formula to calculate child support based upon income of the parents and the amount custody time between the parents. At the time of the divorce, I agreed to an amount of child support equal to double the amount required by the state. I did this as I was feeling altruistic and wanted no one to ever feel like I wasn’t doing what was right by my son. At the time, my attorney advised me that I should just agree to the amount stipulated by the state, but I agreed to pay double. Under the terms of our custody arrangements, all expenses for our son were to be split evenly 50/50.

Fast forward several years, and I discovered that my ex was not paying for her share of my son’s private school tuition (8 months behind). I called her and asked her why she hadn’t been making tuition payments and she threw out that she had been having medical problems, her husband’s mother was also having medical problems, that they had made some stupid financial decisions, and didn’t have the money. I told her that I sympathized with her, but the money she received from me in the form of child support was to be used for the expenses of our son, not on these other items. The resulted in all kinds of cursing and yelling. Long story short, I took her back to court and successfully had the child support reduced to the statutory amount.

The following year, she advised me that she could not afford to pay her share of our son’s tuition, and that he may need to go to public school. I offered to pay the full tuition. I would rather do it this way than give her the money and it not end up being spent on what it was intended for.

So this brings me to my current issue, which really pales in comparison to the preceeding paragraphs. In the past year I purchased a laptop for my son to use for school and personal use. He normally keeps it at my house. Doesn’t normally take it to school, but has permission to take it to school and to his mom’s house if he’s working on a paper for school or something like that.

So recently, on a Saturday morning, he is being picked up by his mom, and he comes back inside telling me that he forgot something. He heads toward the front door carrying his laptop. I ask him what he needed it for, as he had finished all of his homework the night before. He reluctantly tells me that his mom reminded him that she needs it so that she and her husband can finish filing their taxes. I don’t say anything then, but I am pissed. Their current computer is fried due to multiple viruses on it. If something were to happen to his computer while they were using it they would not take responsibility for it.

So would this frustrate you or do you think I’m overreacting?

When I buy him a car in a year or so, I have visions of them constantly asking to borrow it because their piece of shit beaters are broken down. I do feel sorry for them, but financially they have put themselves into huge mess. When my son turns 18 in 3 years, and the child support spicket is turned off, they are going to see about 30% - 40% decrease in their household income.

Yes, that would piss me off. When something like that happens, I don’t feel badly coming to the kid later and explaining why I can’t allow it to happen again.

I think he should leave his car at your house too.

Based on what you’ve said here, it doesn’t sound like you’re overreacting - you’ve given a lot of money that is supposed to be for your son’s education, etc, and it sounds like his mother & stepfather are taking advantage of it.

I don’t have any advice for you, since I’ve never been in this situation, but I understand your frustration and hope you figure out a way to work it out.

I don’t think you’re overreacting, this would piss me the hell off too. Especially since she’s obviously putting your son in the middle of it by asking him to bring his laptop, knowing it would piss you off, ect. That’s a lot of emotional pressure to put on a kid. Just make sure you do everything you can to keep him out of it. :frowning:

Overeacting? Yes and no IMO.
The whole situation sucks donkey balls. The thing that sent you over the edge is something somewhat trivial that would make you look like an ass if there was no back story. With the backstory, its the literal straw that broke the camels back and you are right to be mad.

I think the way to think about this is HOW much benifit are getting from using the computer and whats the real cost to you? If they are using the computer all the time for fun and games and likely to frack it up, then I’d stand my ground. Using it to finish filing taxes? Yeah, a benifit for them, but a pretty minor one.

I can certainly understand your frustration, but I think I’d let this one slide, mainly because its gonna cause YOU more grief than its worth.

Hell yes, that would frustrate me – the larger picture and specifically the laptop. Probably enough for me to set up a password-protected user account on it for your son and ask him not to share the PW, then lock out access to almost everything for other users. I’d do this not only out of frustration but also out of (legitimate, IMHO) fear the mom & stepdad would infect the computer with something incurable.

Echoing lezlers, I’d also go out of my way to NOT badmouth the mom to the kid, or even to express your (natural) frustration with the situation in front of him.

And I’d comfort myself with the thought that I had done right by my kid. Maybe it would help to think of the mom’s behavior as a hazard of parenting, one of the frustrating and potentially expensive things you just have to deal with if your luck is bad, like if your kid has diabetes or something?

Good luck.

Let your son take some of the responsibility too, since it’s his laptop and he’s old enough to be responsible for it.

If he lends it to someone and they screw it up (no matter who that person is), oh well, I guess he shouldn’t have lent it to them. “Want it fixed, Junior? Fine, you go to the person who screwed it up and tell them to get it fixed.”

Lesson learned.

Let him see how his mother really is. You don’t have say anything negative about her – she’ll just screw things up herself. He’s now old enough to learn all about her.

LOL! My kid’s misfortune of having a mom (that does love him) but sucks at a lot of things in life is similar to him getting diabetes.

This incident happened over a month ago. I have subsequently reminded him that he’s only supposed to take the laptop over to his mom’s if he needs to use it for school work.

Separately we have been talking about cars, as he’s like any 15 year old boy and is very eager to start driving. I told him that the car title will be in my name and he will be listed as an insured driver on the car. And that under no circumstances was he allowed to let anybody else drive the car, including friends, his mom or his stepdad, as they would not be insured to drive the car. He says he understands, but I’m sure that if he is pressured by his mom, he would relent. I’m sure that I will have to reinforce this issue.

Hell yes I’d be mad and it’s going to get worse.

Not only do you need to set boundries with your ex you have to help your son learn to as well.

My kids both are working their way through university via loans/grants/scholarships and jobs. They’re living together being way more responsible than I was at their age. However, my ex is still a deadbeat. I think I mentioned once before that he has basically no relationship with my kids now, and I think this is the perfect time to explain why.

About a year ago my daughter came to me for advice. Her father had asked her brother for a loan. Again. I was floored. I had no idea there had even been a first loan, and the notion that a grown man would go to his 20 yr old son for financial aid just about broke my mind. After some investigation it turns out that there had been several loans, no repayments and an additional “loan” that occurred when my son had some dental work done and the insurance reimbursement went to my ex and he spent it without even mentioning it to my son. The total was up to $3000 and he wanted to borrow another $500 to pay the electricity bill. I talked to him about how to deal with it, setting limits and not allowing his father’s bad financial decisions to ruin his finances. He said he was going to give them the money this time but make it clear it was the last time. I’m really not sure if it would have sunk in had their dad and stepmother not helped me out. You see they visited the kids for dinner during a bit of a heat wave we had last year. The kids have AC in their rental house but they don’t use it, relying on fans and open windows in an effort to keep their costs low. The entire time this lovely couple was in their home they complained about the temperature and begged the kids to turn on the AC. The final straw came when their stepmother said “Oh we keep the AC on all the time, it’s only 4 months that it’s needed and we think it’s worth the money” Yes this is the bill that my son just paid for them. My daughter pointed that out and has refused to speak to them since. My ex says he expects her to apologize for her attitude before he’ll speak to her. My son isn’t making waves but he is sticking up for his sister pointing out that nothing she said was incorrect, and if his step mother doesn’t like the implication she should consider changing the situation.

End result is it cost my son $3500 to learn this lesson with his dad and it could have cost much more if they hadn’t been so foolish and if my daughter hadn’t found out what was happening and come to me for advice. Since your son is an only child and his mother is already working the guilt card I suggest that you find the time to talk about him protecting himself from her bad decisions. It’s HARD to say no to your parents when they say they need something, but my ex doesn’t need the house he has, nor does he need to indulge in luxuries when he can’t afford to pay the utilities and he shouldn’t be relying on the kids to make up for his bad decisions. Sounds like your ex has had some bad luck with medical issues, but that’s only going to strengthen her case when she is appealing to your son. When he’s off to university you need to find some way of protecting his money so she can’t get to it.
Sorry if this rambles a little but it’s been a year and I’m still pissed. Current status is still not a single dime in repayment, but at least no more loans.

Snakes with tits, the lot of 'em.

Yes it would frustrate me, but unfortunately there’s nothing you can do about it.

However:- once your son is old enough to drive, he’s old enough that you can explain the situation to him, imo.

Frustrating yes, but letting a hapless ex borrow a notebook is pretty small potatoes in the scheme of things.

It would have pissed me a few years ago, but I have since come to the conclusion that PC’s and PC notebooks specifically are like shovels or pliers and are just tools. I have my work notebook I spent some money on, and then I have 2-3 notebook spares of various types and sizes and configurations floating around. I don’t spend more than $400-$700 each on the spares. I loan them to friends all the time and eventually my kids get them when they’ve finished destroying their current notebooks.

Someone needing to use a notebook temporarily these days is like someone needing to use a wheelbarrow. It’s just not that big a deal.

I’m kinda with In Winnipeg, it is his laptop, he’s old enough to care for it. And taken out of context, letting your mom use your computer to do her taxes is not so crazy, so long as it’s not creeping into her using it for email, surfing, etc.

This is assuming that it is his computer, not “Dad’s computer that kid uses.” If you didn’t set up prior terms then I would say it’s the former. For a car, saying it’s “Dad’s car that son drives” sounds like a smart decision. But a computer … he’s old enough to mind his own computer. Talking about limits and that it’s okay to say no to people is probably a good idea.


Although it will be different if you buy him a car, and no one else is supposed to drive it, and someone else does.


If the kid is half way intelligent, then he, like my kids, understands far more than you give him credit for.

Except that puts him squarely in the middle of the conflict. Well, he’s already there, of course, being the conduit by which money and assets are being taken from the o.p., but now he becomes a direct victim who can neither control nor escape the situation.

If the boy is 15 and is otherwise well adjusted, it’s probably time to start introducing him to the reality of the relationship (and the ways in which adults can act like five year olds) in a way that makes it clear that the o.p. both loves him and wants to let him start making decisions about and for himself. He can start by sitting the young man down, explaining to him about the past history and financial arrangements, why the o.p. is done as he has (i.e. in the best interest of his son), and why it is important to separate financial issues from whatever love and affection the son’s mother may be providing. It’s is also a good time to provide an applied lesson on why it is important to stand up for yourself and not be a doormat just because someone applies emotional leverage.

One of the very few worthwhile things my father ever did for me, albeit much delayed, was to show me the divorce and custody agreement, and the myriad of ways that my mother was taking financial advantage of me. That allowed me to define some strict boundaries, and when she violated them in her pathologically narcissistic and histrionic way, to walk away from her without any remorse or guilt over my own actions. If I’d remained in contact she would have sucked me dry for everything I could offer just as she did with everyone else in her life.


This is quite possibly true; perhaps I could refine it somewhat and say that you can discuss it with him openly and frankly… before that age it is probably better to apply more discretion.

Yes, it would frustrate me. No, I wouldn’t get my son involved with it. More than anything, I’d be eternally grateful that I was no longer married to a deadbeat who is so pathetic that she can’t afford her own laptop and has to borrow things from her son.

OP, have you considered asking your son to live with you full time or almost full time?

I don’t know about your state, but in my state if the child is over a certain age (I believe it’s 12) he gets to have a big say in who he stays with. My parents were separated a few years back, and a short term agreement was drawn up. My brothers were 12 and 16 (I was 20, so I wasn’t involved. I mean, I was in terms of financial decisions in regards to my tuition, but not for custody). Their opinions were the basis of the agreement.

Based on what you’ve said, you’re acting as my mom did in the situation. I’d ask your son what he’d think if you got nearly full custody (say having him constantly with you except for perhaps every other weekend or so). You may be surprised that he *does *want to stay with you, but is only going to his mom’s to not ruffle feathers.

A lot of my divorced friends started deciding on their own who to live with more in high school. I’d involve him in the situation - calmly, of course.

Good luck.

This thread really struck me because I was in the exact situation as your son when I was a child. My father was not nearly as financially able as my mother, but she wanted to move overseas when they divorced, so my father won custody. They were, and still are, on extremely poor terms with each other. They divorced when I was 5.

It was very difficult for me growing up as a rich child in a poor house. It was emotionally very difficult for me, watching my dad struggle with the burnt out computer while I used my laptop in my room. It was even more difficult watching him struggle to pay for bills and groceries while my mother funnelled money into my savings account, insisting that I not tell him about it in case he tried to take it from me. He was very bad with money and he made a lot of bad decisions, so at the time I completely understood where my mother was coming from. But it is a very difficult situation for a child to be in. Keep in mind that however much you loathe her, your son may still be emotionally connected to her. You don’t mention how he feels about her in your post, so I won’t assume.

I completely sympathise with you regarding your ex. It’s frustrating not having control over the people in your child’s life. Have you asked your son how he feels about the situation? When I was 15, I loved both my parents equally, but they hated each other with a passion. I was either listening to my mother bitching about my father or vice versa. Personally I didn’t want to be a part of it and I felt like shit walking around in new shoes when my father didn’t have enough money to replace his worn-out ones. To this day I don’t know who was in the wrong in the situation because they both told me conflicting stories.

If you sit him down and explain the situation to him, keep in mind that his mother has probably also sat him down and explained the situation to him. These will never, ever match. According to my father, my mother wasn’t paying child support, was emotionally abusive and vindictive, and was trying to turn me against him. According to my mother, my father was physically abusive and owed her thousands of dollars. This is tough on the kid.

sorry if anything is wrong with this post it is my first one

Frustrating but outside of your realm of control.

Would you be equally pissed if you found he was letting a friend use the laptop to look something up on the internet? I think not - it’s the fact that it’s his deadbeat mom using it that rankles with you.