Hello, Betrayal, your name is babymama (Tax Edition)
January 13, 2014 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Almost 50/50 custody, and after a year of agreeing that we'd split the child tax credit, all of a sudden she announces that since she's pregnant with her new man's child, she's keeping all of it. Snowflake details inside - get ready for indigence.

My fiance and I share custody of his under 5yrs child with the mother - daughter gets bounced around a bit, but it essentially boils down to us having her 49% and mom having her 51%. Fiance and I have been living under a friend's roof for 2 years, it's not a great living situation, but the only one we have been able to afford. Daughter has had to live in our room with us. We now make enough that we could maintain a place of our own, the only obstacle is having that big lump sum for the security deposit (around here the standard is 1st and last month's, plus we'd need a bit extra to get basics like dishes, cleaning supplies, TP, the initial grocery shop, etc). He has no credit and mine is abysmal due to essentially losing everything before he and I met(escaping an abusive relationship FTW!), i'm still not able to start paying off CC debt (around 5k) yet, my credit score is around 520 now, used to be near perfect.

Child's mother knows this. It was a very volatile relationship to begin with, but for most of the past year we've been very friendly, her even going so far as to say i'm one of her best friends. Lots of time together, support, etc. She knew that our only hope of getting a place was splitting that credit. This isn't just for us, it's so that the daughter can have a real place and room of her own too. The way our bills go right now, saving up that huge chunk needed would take another year or more. To say that life has not been kind to my fiance and I is an understatement. Being able to get a place to live in that is our own has been what our sanity has been hanging on, that light at the end of the tunnel that kept us going through all the crap that kept knocking us down. Again, she KNEW all this.

A few days ago, my fiance gets a text message saying she's already filed, and that she has to "take care of her and her own" because she' pregnant, 6 months along, and is therefore reneging our year long agreement and keeping the entire child tax credit. Meanwhile, she and her boyfriend have a house, everything they need to live, he already has three kids, is on probation, and she chose to get pregnant with another child yet is claiming they need all the money. We have our clothes and our respective computers - nothing else to our name. That money was quite literally our ability to start a real life and provide a good, comfortable environment for the daughter to grow in and be able to start a real future together.

Adt'l info - they went to a mediator this year to establish support payments/custody in writing. He currently pays 50 a week, the mediator informed him that she would be legally be eligible for quite a bit more than that, which would be a massive financial burden to us.

We're not able to afford a lawyer in any way, shape or form, and my fiance's fear is that if we went to try to recoup some of the tax credit that she'd retaliate by taking him for the full amount of support the courts would make him pay, which would be near disastrous for us. We're dealing with a pregnant, hormonal, VERY immature young woman who displays bipolar and BPD tendencies.

On a personal level, we're now dealing with the fact that everything we've been working towards for the past 2 years has been brutally stripped from us, and i cannot begin to express how demoralizing it has been - akin to getting punched in the chest. The level of betrayal and lack of empathy she has presented is something we can't even begin to wrap our heads around. It's not the money itself - screw money - it's what it meant to us, for the significant betterment of our lives, after living in what is a combination of a jail cell/parents house for years. At present, there is no where else we can move to, as far as family or other friends are concerned.

Mefites, explode your advice at me! What the heck can/should we do?
posted by assasinatdbeauty to Human Relations (37 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You cannot tackle this without a lawyer, so if your first move out the gate is to decide that the only advice people here can reasonably give you is the advice you do not want to get, your ability to come out on top here is severely diminished. You have to get a lawyer. Full stop. Do not try to solve this without one.

I say this as someone watching multiple people in my life trying to win similar battles in the their lives right now without lawyers and they are putting their children through hell because they won't do the logical, smart thing. Please don't do this to the child in your care. Let a lawyer go to bat for you so you can be free to take care of the child in your partial custody. Battling this on your own will deplete you.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:11 AM on January 13, 2014 [33 favorites]

First question: what is the legal status of the custody arrangement? Is it informal or do you have something in writing/legal? (i.e. I read the mediator bit, was that official/legal?). If you have legal split custody, you split the tax credit. You can call the mediator with specific questions about this. However, you will need to make sure this is actually what is going on.

I went through a similar situation with my SO and his nutty ex. While I would strongly encourage you to find someone with legal expertise in your area, the advice that we received was that if both parents file for the tax credit, the IRS has a set of determining factors to figure out who "deserves" it and can adjust your or the ex's taxes accordingly if necessary (i.e. she can file for it but might not get it if there is a dispute). THAT said, this also leaves your fiance open to getting their own taxes audited by the IRS and it might not be worth it.

In order to be effective with this, you need to split all the personal drama and your own circumstances (who does or does not suck, who is or is not having a really hard time, who made bad decisions, who might have BPD, etc) from the specifics of the situation. I understand that you are having a hard time, but there is a lot of emotion wrapped up in this. If it's not about the money I'd cut bait and deal with her on a business-only level from now on. She's not interested in your own path to betterment when contrasted with her own (it seems to me) and the path to your own betterment is going to be to keep your heads down and get yourself to the place where you want to be and keeping this drama as much at arm's length as you can.
posted by jessamyn at 11:18 AM on January 13, 2014 [20 favorites]

I don't have much experience with your question, but I wanted to ask for some clarifications? Is this the $1000 child tax credit, that you were looking to get $500 for? Then, to me, the cost of hiring a lawyer, filing small claims, and potentially have the babymama ask for more child support is probably not worth it. On the other hand, the babymama could have her new baby, decide they don't have enough money, and ask for more child support anyway. I don't know any of the players in your situation--only you do.

Also, it sounds like that if you go this $500, you were going to upsize your life, move into a bigger and probably more expensive living situation--without actually having more income or more savings in case of emergencies. That is very financially precarious, and would not necessarily lead to a happier life, if one of your jobs cut hours or something like that.

Also, you say "Meanwhile, she and her boyfriend have a house, everything they need to live, he already has three kids, is on probation, and she chose to get pregnant with another child yet is claiming they need all the money." It sounds like she's actually not in a very good financial situation. Could they be behind on mortgage and car payments, and therefore trying to keep all the money? That's still disappointing, if you're looking forward to it, but again, outward "stuff" does not actually mean financial stability. They could've also had a hard year, and just chose not to share it with you and burden you more. (Again, I don't know you or them, just giving them the benefit of doubt.)
posted by ethidda at 11:20 AM on January 13, 2014 [11 favorites]

Are you talking about this?
If more than one parent claims the child and do not file a joint return, the child will be treated as a qualifying child of the parent with whom the child resided for the longest period during the taxable year,
So that's the mother.

and if the child resided with each parent equally, with the parent who has the highest adjusted gross income in accordance with 26 U.S.C. Sec. 152(c)(4)(B)
Even if you could prove equal custody, would this even apply?


To be honest, you weren't ever legally entitled to it to start with. It was in her power to gift it to you, or not. She chose not too.
A gift, is not a gift, until it has already been given to you. DO NOT COUNT ON GIFTS.

What you have learned:
We're dealing with a pregnant, hormonal, VERY immature young woman who displays bipolar and BPD tendencies.
If you knew that already, don't get into financial arrangements if at all possible.
Don't count on chickens until they have been hatched and you are awarded full custody.
I'm coming from a place of sympathy - I deal with some similar people (actually, this seems small potatoes in terms of erratic behaviour, it's not really erratic at all). If you know you can't rely on someone, you have to stop trying to rely on them.

Bottom line:
The most important thing, is your partners relationship with his daughter. That can be blown out of the water far more easily than sorting out anything with this tax credit.
Decide what you will compromise on, and what you won't.

Pretty much every time, I've had to go with - the child comes first, and swallow it.
I don't regret those choices.
posted by Elysum at 11:20 AM on January 13, 2014 [14 favorites]

If you are truly in financial need, there are probably organizations in your area that may be able to connect you with pro bono representation. Each organization will have it's own criteria for who they are able to help, and the organizations will vary by location, but it's worth looking into.
posted by lmindful at 11:20 AM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

The maximum child tax credit is $1,000 per year. I suppose that's worth as much as $13,000 over the childhood. But if you successfully contend for it that doesn't necessarily mean you will get it for 13 years. It might come into contention again. It also sounds like there's a big question mark over whether your fiance is paying what he would owe in child support if things got contentious. I'd try to see if you can find a low-cost source of legal advice so you can make an informed decision. You aren't going to be able to get this advice here.
posted by grouse at 11:24 AM on January 13, 2014

Response by poster: To clarify - he makes less money than their household, so please, those starting to go down the "he should thank his lucky stars" path, you don't know our financial situation outside of what i've said here, so please keep all thoughts of dead beat dad/trying to evade things or be shady out of your minds. The whole point is that we were in a position to give his daughter a better living situation, and now, because of the broken agreement, we're not. The child always comes first, nothing is discussed in front of her, we all come from broken homes, so we're all acutely aware of how much things can impact the child.

Everyone's relationship with the child is great, we all bend over backwards (as we should) to make sure she feels happy, loved, and cared for.

I'm looking for specific advice as to what CAN be done in situations like this. And the credit we would be getting is closer to a few thousand, based on what was received last year, and that was to be split in half.
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 11:27 AM on January 13, 2014

You really need legal advice. I am concerned that your ex has not been paying the recommended amount of child support and that she may come back with a retroactive request *for the sake of her child*. Depending on where you live, her household income is likely not relevant. What is relevant is her income and his income. If you are in dire financial straits, perhaps you can get some sort of legal aid or use one of those "lawyer referral" services to see what is recommended. You might also want to get some accounting advice.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:36 AM on January 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, but I see from your earlier questions that you are in PA, so you should be able to get an estimate for what a court would determine for child support with this online calculator.
posted by Asparagus at 11:37 AM on January 13, 2014

Also, it sounds like that if you go this $500, you were going to upsize your life, move into a bigger and probably more expensive living situation--without actually having more income or more savings in case of emergencies. That is very financially precarious, and would not necessarily lead to a happier life, if one of your jobs cut hours or something like that.

I understand wanting a better home for your stepkid, but I agree with this. You don't have enough money to move whether you get the credit or not.
posted by chaiminda at 11:41 AM on January 13, 2014 [15 favorites]

Okay, let's see if I can make this more clear.

The mediator informed him that she would be legally be eligible for quite a bit more than that, which would be a massive financial burden to us.

This means he's currently paying less than he's legally obligated to pay, according to the state calculators where you live, which are based on income. Right? So, he makes more than she does. I'm not seeing why you are arguing with this. You might personally feel it's not fair (because her boyfriend makes enough money? Is that what you mean talking about her "household"?) but again, personal drama. If the actual question is "how do I get my fiance's ex to give us money that we are probably not legally entitled to without having her ask for money she definitely IS legally entitled to," then the answer is "you can't."
posted by celtalitha at 11:48 AM on January 13, 2014 [44 favorites]

I applaud you for fighting the good fight and trying to better your SO's daughter's life. All three of you living in one room must really suck. However, no matter how immature or unreasonable she is being, she has made some decisions that are in her favor such as having 51% of physical custody. I don't think there is anything you can do except file for it yourself and hope the IRS sorts it in your favor.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:49 AM on January 13, 2014

What you will need to prove that the tax credit belongs half to your fiance is a written custody agreement. When my parents divorced (27 years ago), the custody agreement included the provision that my mother would claim my brother and I one year and my father the next, alternating until we were no longer dependents. My father attempted to claim us when it was not his year. An audit ensued, and he had to pay back the credit, because the custody agreement was clear that it was not his year to claim us as a deduction.
posted by LightMayo at 11:49 AM on January 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

We're not able to afford a lawyer in any way, shape or form, 

Then, the solutions that remain are called "fixes" and the more effective fixes are usually outside the law. Therefore, don't wholesale throw out the legal option. If you are in America, there are legal groups with goals specifically to stop the cycle of broken families, and they provide assistance.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:53 AM on January 13, 2014 [6 favorites]

Your fiance should get his support arrangement codified by the local court. If there's a support order in place, it should be honored and any tax breaks should be in that order.

If you truly have a 51/49 custody arrangment, then a nominal payment of $50 per week is about right.

You and your fiance should go to legal aid and work with folks to understand your rights and obligations re: family court. If there is no formal support order in place, step one is to make that happen.

As for who makes more money, it's immaterial, that's not how it works. It'a computation between what your fiance makes and what his ex makes, and what an appropriate level of support is for the child is from that pool of money. What her boyfriend makes, how many other children she has, what you make and how you're living....none of it matters.

You don't have to hire a lawyer, a lot of family court is DIY, and you can call your local legal aid office for a reference to someone who can help you pro bono if it comes to that.

Whatever agreement your fiance has with his ex, it's clearly too fluid and loosey-goosey to be doing the job. Get a real support order in place.

If you're afraid that the court is going to impose MORE child support, and that's why you don't want to rock the boat, then that really begs a question, what the hell is the issue with money?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:02 PM on January 13, 2014 [12 favorites]

While it may feel like it, this is not your battle to fight. You are not married to the child's father and do not have legal standing. You may feel that you have moral or social standing, but that is nothing to do with the situation at hand.

As pointed out, the financial arrangements are benefiting the child's father - you say the mother's household has more income than the father himself, but unless she's actually married, what her "household" brings in doesn't matter. It's the comparison between what the actual parents earn. If they have an informal agreement only, then he can only rely on her in upholding it. If $500 means the difference between your own place now or another two years, you might need to look at your actual ability to maintain an independent household overall.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 12:14 PM on January 13, 2014 [15 favorites]

Ruthless bunny is correct. My SO has a child for before and the only way my money factored in was that he was payng less for rent because I was paying a share. She cannot get her support adjusted based on my money, nor can he get her share adjusted based on (in our situation) money she gets for her parents. It's his money and her money that factor in.

In our case, she also had a lawyer who was known for figuring out exactly what the line was where his lawyer would tell him that it would cost more to fight it then what he would get. So he did have to pay more than what was 'fair.' And then eventually we worked out a legal agreement through the courts which spelled everything out exactly, and we all were much happier.

Here is what you need to do: take her out of the equation. This is not about fair or not fair what you are supposed to egg or what you aren't supposed to get. It's about you and your guys and the ship you are steering together. Assume zero money from her forever, and plan your life based on what you and he can make together.

If you are truly making so little money that you can't afford your life, you have two choices. You can downsize your life or upsize your income. Can one of you take a second job,even if it's very part-time, or even if it's only for a few months? I paid off a $15,000 student loan, put almost that much into my retirement fund AND lived on my own in a basement apartment while earning less than 30k by babysitting once a week (easy money for not that much work) and teaching a Sunday school class for one hour per week. I currently pull in a few hundred extra doing a little freelance writing work, and I have a friend who paid for a much-wanted Christmas holiday (plus all the Christmas presents) by working part-time in a toy store just during the holiday rush.

Do you have cable? Do you buy alcohol? Can you eat a few more meatless meals per week? Can you negotiate your cell phone bill? Can you have one 'month of hell' where you eat nothing but the very basics, never go out, cut everything to the bone and then pocket the savings? The bottom line is, there is a syaing I have read many times before on financial blogs that you don't solve money problems with more money. You have learn to live within your means, and all the extra stuff about his ex and the tax money sounds like a smokescreen for that basic problem. If you want a better lifestyle, that is on you to provide it for yourself, fair or not.
posted by JoannaC at 12:16 PM on January 13, 2014 [23 favorites]

Random internet strangers really aren't qualified to help you when we don't know what is/isn't enforced by the court in terms of child support. You do not really have simple legal remedies open to you if the agreement about the tax credit and/or child support has not been entered onto the record by the court. When you saw the mediator and came to a written agreement, was that through the family law court? Was anything actually filed with the court?

I don't know what kind of remedies beyond "go see a lawyer" or "go to court" you're expecting here. You can have it out with the kid's mom, but she can lawyer up and take this to court, and from what you've said, it looks like that would be to the father's detriment. Any informal arrangement you come to outside of court will remain just that: informal. And in an informal arrangement, the child's father doesn't look like he has much in the way of bargaining power with the mom given that he's paying less child support than he "should."

Until/unless you get something formally codified by the family law court, there's not much to be done other than arguing with the mom and one or both of you simply claiming the tax credit, which could of course lead to an audit for both parents.
posted by yasaman at 12:24 PM on January 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry, but regarding what you can do about this--nothing. The person who has the child more, even in a 51/49 split, gets the credit.

Also, I suspect that what you're referring to is not the child tax credit, but the Earned Income Credit, which often comes out to, yes, several grand. Only the custodial parent (that is, the parent at whose house the child spent more nights, regardless, iirc, of what the custody order says) can claim the child for these purposes. Neither the EIC nor the child tax credit is something that they can agree to split and then have half magically show up on each tax return. At best, your ex's partner could have filed for it and then given him some of the resulting rebate.

I realise that this sucks for you, but it's not a situation in which you're being wronged or screwed--it's a situation in which someone is choosing not to give you a big chunk of money that's rightfully theirs.

I would agree with everyone else suggesting you tread cautiously here. It sounds like his ex could make your lives really difficult if she chose to do so--$50 a week for support payments is basically nothing, and your living situation sounds not especially stable--if she wanted to take you to court for increased support and full custody, I suspect that you'd have a really hard go of it.
posted by MeghanC at 12:26 PM on January 13, 2014 [17 favorites]

Oh--it's also worth mentioning that in the event that the IRS has to decide which parent gets the tax break, they give it first to the parent with whom the child spent most of their time, and then the biological parent. If the time was split evenly and both parents are biological, the credit is given to the household with the higher income. (Source.) So the fact that their household makes more money is, unfortunately for you, irrelevant here.
posted by MeghanC at 12:32 PM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

The person who has the child more, even in a 51/49 split, gets the credit.

This isn't actually necessarily true, but the circumstances in which it isn't true are circumstances where the noncustodial parent is paying enough in support that the court grants that parent the right to claim the child on taxes (or the court orders the parents to alternate years). In that case, the custodial parent has to sign a form 8332 giving the noncustodial parent right to claim the child.

Assuming none of that has happened in your case, all the above comments stand.
posted by celtalitha at 12:32 PM on January 13, 2014

IRS Rules on :

Who is a qualifying child

Tiebreaker for qualifying child of more than one person

Special rules for divorced/separated parents

Find out if you are even legally entitled to claim the child. If not, then any agreement to "share" credits is a separate legal agreement and would have to be enforced either in family court (if under a divorce decree, depending on state) or in civil/small claims court (if a separate contract).
posted by melissasaurus at 12:38 PM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

To clarify, a child's SSN can only show up on one return. The only ways to "split" the credit are either your fiance claims the child and gives the mother cash, or the mother claims the child and gives the fiance cash. If this agreement was just a verbal agreement, enforcing it will be nearly impossible. Hopefully this was addressed in the divorce/custody agreement, as it really should have been.

IRS isn't accepting returns until Jan 31, most prep places aren't open yet, and many places haven't even sent out W2s and 1099s yet. So, I find it highly unlikely that she's filed already. That said, if she has filed already and listed the kid's SSN, your fiance's return would be rejected if he also lists the kid's SSN. If, based on the links I posted above, he thinks he legitimately can claim the kid, then he'll have to take it up with the IRS.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:48 PM on January 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Everything's got to be in writing, with all the legal i's and t's dotted and crossed. If the tax credit thing was an oral agreement I'm not sure there's any way to change what's already happened now, but it's a good indicator of what needs to be done moving forward.

The PA Legal Aid Network might be a good place to start looking for help.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:58 PM on January 13, 2014

Well, her boyfriend's income might be considered, by a judge, to be relevant to determining his and their respective child support obligations. So might your income. Or it might not. Family courts vary.

Why not negotiate?

What does she want? Can you barter here?
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:17 PM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Two pieces of advice:

1. Get some tax help. Not knowing all the details, it is really impossible for anyone here to opine on your tax situation. (For example, your fiance may not qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit on the basis of a qualifying child, but perhaps his income is low enough to qualify on his own.) There is free help available! Please look into this, it sounds like both you and your fiance could really use the assistance, especially with the confusion around who is entitled to the various credits.

2. Dial down the drama. It's frustrating, and I really feel for you guys trying to get back on your feet, but you can't control what anyone else does. You can only control what you guys do. Getting all irate about her is emotionally satisfying in the short term, but it doesn't do much to really help you.
posted by stowaway at 1:28 PM on January 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't think any of us can help you here. We don't have enough information to know whether your fiance is entitled to claim the child on his own, nor does it sound like your fiance and the mother of his child have followed the steps required by the IRS to split the benefit, and I'm not certain of the ability to enforce this agreement otherwise.

In short, there are better resources that can look at this specific situation as a whole and tell you what you might be able to do -- local legal aid, IRS has an advocate service, etc.
posted by sm1tten at 1:41 PM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Folks, no reason to go on the toughlove offensive here. Comments really need to mostly be answering the question.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:44 PM on January 13, 2014

Not the response you want to hear, but I would view this as a blessing in disguise. It sounds like even if you got this lump sum, you would be sailing really close to the wind financially if you were to move out on your own (especially if you still couldn't afford things like TP) and would quite likely dig yourself into an even worse situation. I would use this additional time to (and I realise easier said than done) shore up your finances. Can you take on some freelance work, get an additional job or skill, give up cable, etc. but make permanent changes that bring in more money and/or cut back expenses because it seems like a lump sum won't be enough.

With regards to the ex, I think you really need to reframe this in your head. Instead of thinking she was stiffing you for money (that legally you're not even entitled to!) why don't you instead choose to see it as, hey, we should be paying a heck of a lot more in child support and she's very generously waived this. She doesn't have to, you should be thanking her. I would not rock the boat on this, or financially she could make things considerably worse if she wanted to call in what you owe. Whether the tax money goes to her or you, either way, it is looking after the child and that is the main thing. I'm sorry for your financial troubles, but it is a situation you've gotten yourself into, and not her responsibility. Instead, count the blessings she has already extended to you. Best of luck.
posted by Jubey at 3:10 PM on January 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

"Also, it sounds like that if you go this $500, you were going to upsize your life, move into a bigger and probably more expensive living situation--without actually having more income or more savings in case of emergencies. That is very financially precarious, and would not necessarily lead to a happier life, if one of your jobs cut hours or something like that."

From my understanding of the question, the ongoing living situation would be sustainable — they just need to get enough money together to have a lump for a security deposit. So this, and similar advice, seems to be ignoring what the question stated.

(Now, for my own bit of ignoring the OP: Go to legal aid! This is what they're for! It's a hassle, but this situation is a legal one and you need a lawyer's help to navigate it! Everything else is kinda irrelevant — Jessamyn gave good advice about dealing with the facts of the situation, not the emotion, so go find a way to get legal help to at the very least figure out what your bf's obligations are.)
posted by klangklangston at 5:01 PM on January 13, 2014

A couple of thoughts, and I have at least 7 years of expensive legal advice and family court experience under my belt, under the guidance of an excellent lawyer, but take this however you choose. And yes, I heard you about the not being to afford one. I get that completely, and part of my response is in counter to other posters who say that it's the only way out of this:

You can't solve this particular problem, right now, in a courtroom. And, going there will create a distance and atmosphere of conflict that perhaps you will not know how to handle. What may be agreeable and reasonable now may be things that a lawyer would never let either one of you get away with. Namely, the fact that the child does not have a room of their own in, presumably, a dual-income household (yours), and the fact that your fiance has a very minor child support obligation ($50 per week).

Looking at this from a longer-term perspective, it may be better to cut expenses way down, go to food banks for some or all of your groceries (and shampoo, and tp, and toothbrushes, and laundry soap), and try to find a housing situation that does not require such a major financial outlay at first. In my experience, and YMMV, some landlords are willing to work with you as per the security deposit, etc. You know, set a deadline for getting out and then get it done.

I've been thinking about this question all day. The only thing that I can think of is to get the money that was promised as a loan, or at least try, and write down a workable repayment plan. If she's 6 months prego, she may not need the cash for a while. It's something to think about, and if she's willing to do $50/week in child support, she might be flexi enough to do a loan if she has something in writing.

Still, you will be well-served utilizing a legal aid service and getting a free consult with a lawyer (or more, seriously, talk to a few people if you can, they are all different and you may land someone who is truly on your team...) who can review your case and give you some pointers, and if you ask, maybe they could help you map out a future plan. Your situation looks and feels vulnerable, regardless of whether mom is certifiably cuckoo or not.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 5:09 PM on January 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

My point is: try not to burn away any good will or flexibility that has been established up until now. You are going to need that as you guys work towards a more secure life. Like, if she says no to giving you the money (a poster upthread mentioned that the IRS is not even accepting filings yet), maybe she will float it (as long as you are really truly totally good for it), or whatever, but in my experience, her flexibility is kind of like gold and I would treat it as such until you are really ready to make a home on your own. If there is a lot of distracting and unrelated chaos in the place where you are living now, try to make a regular time and a place outside of the home to meet with your fiance and get some plans made. Now is the time, any work you do now will come back to you in good ways later. The child is only 5, you have a little while to work on getting serious, but not too too much time.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 5:19 PM on January 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

One more thought and I'm out: consider trading services for money down on a new place. Can you fix shit up? Babysit? Clean other units? Like the young rope-rider said, maybe you could barter with a few of the players in this scenario, including mom. Now would be a great time to take stock of your skills and integrity.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 6:57 PM on January 13, 2014

And the credit we would be getting is closer to a few thousand, based on what was received last year, and that was to be split in half.

If you are in the US, the child tax credit is a maximum of $1000.

It's unfortunate that you won't be able to carry out your plans due to her not doing what was promised. It's fortunate that he still has the same support and custody arrangements (and I don't say that to imply in any way he is a "deadbeat", as far as I can tell from what you have described he is holding up his end of the support and custody arrangement that was agreed to). If you can't afford a lawyer there is not much you can do here, but if you can't afford a lawyer you certainly want to stay on as good terms as possible with this person.

You will need to find a new path to your dreams that does not rely on this money. Maybe you can find a way to do this that costs less money, or earn more money somehow.
posted by yohko at 11:09 PM on January 13, 2014

Lots of times landlords will let you pay security deposits in installments. There's a thought.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:47 AM on January 14, 2014

As someone mentioned above, I think that you are referring to the Earned Income Tax Credit rather than the child tax credit. It appears that you are both still potentially eligible for the EITC even if you don't have a kid. With a child, the maximum EITC you would be eligible for is $3,169, so about $1584 if you had been splitting it with the child's mother. However, the maximum EITC for a single person without children is $475 so if you're both eligible for that, that's $950 - not quite $1584 but not too shabby. And if you're low income, you're probably eligible for other tax benefits. So I'd work on getting together the documentation to do your taxes and consider going to a class at the library to be sure you're filing correctly.

That said, it's helpful to think of such money as gift or surprise money. I don't make plans based on gift or surprise money. My mother in law has said several times that when we're ready to buy a place, she wants to help us with our down payment but when I look at places, I don't factor that in because I don't have it in hand. She could change her mind, she could need the money for something else, she could flee the country. Similarly, when we planned our wedding, we planned an event that was low key enough that we could afford it if our parents couldn't help.

It sucks that you won't be able to move out yet but it's not the fault of the mother of your fiance's child. Framing it in your head as her fault is not productive. It would be more productive to just think of it as a setback. Everyone experiences setbacks. It's unfortunate but it will make it seem that much more exciting when you do move in to your own place. Your goal is to move into your own place. Hating her guts isn't going to help you get towards that goal. Thinking that everything you've been working for has been taken away isn't going to help you get towards your goal. Nothing has been taken from you - you found out that you won't be getting something that you thought you would get. That's a bummer but it's not the end of the world.

Do you have a potential apartment in mind? Can you talk to the landlord to see if you could pay higher rent for six months in exchange for not putting down a deposit? I've seen landlords around my city offer similar trade-offs. I do agree with others who seem concerned that you cannot actually afford to live in an apartment if things are this tight for you two financially. Things happen, even with apartment living. My husband and I have renters' insurance. It was not helpful when a pipe burst and flooded our apartment, destroying a rug we owned. It was just a rug but it could have easily been our laptops or TV. Is renters' insurance in the apartment life budget you have developed?

After the pipe burst, my husband was worried that there was mold growing in the apartment. Another time, our sink backed up and there was raw sewage in our apartment. Both times, we considered moving into a hotel for a night or two so that situation could be taken care of in our absence because it's not healthy to be around mold and sewage. If something like that happened at your new place, what would you two do? What if it was you, your fiance and his daughter - what would the three of you do? It's possible that you've thought through all of these things already but if not, you should consider them before you get an apartment.
posted by kat518 at 6:34 AM on January 14, 2014

You have lots of good advice but I worry that you think that your whole gain that you have made in the last two years is gone. Not so, it may be delayed but you could lose those gains if you blow up and become rash. This child sees both her parents and probably does not have a clue about whether she has her own room or not. Sure, it is disappointing but it won't make it better to start a war. Negotiate...yes, threaten, no!
posted by OhSusannah at 9:16 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

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