I think I am going to pay alimony -- what am I getting myself into?
June 29, 2007 2:46 PM   Subscribe

DivorceFilter: Am I being too nice to my soon-to-be ex? What do you make of this situation?

My wife has filed for divorce against me over irreconcilable differences. Please bear with me, as I've spent 30 minutes writing this up.

The detailed backstory: We have one 3-year old boy who has awesome and has a happy disposition. We have no substantial assets, and just successfully completed a long Chapter 13 bankruptcy from a $25K medical bill and some credit card debt. I may have Aspergers Syndrome; an autism psychologist I saw in 2004 decided I have it yet no one else I know agrees; my wife has locked onto this as an untreatable affliction. She has always been sort of highstrung and very controlling of her surroundings; to me my Asperger-like qualities are behaviors that originate from my fear of her temper and controlling personality, and that's prevented me from getting emotionally close to her even though I love her and am very attracted to her; I inevitably came under her crosshairs as a liability to be put out of the house. This way she could find intimacy elsewhere. She did talk me into allowing her to have a sexual affair during a 4-month separation we agreed to last year, and again last month after she told me her divorce intent. Interestingly last week we both realized and agreed strongly that she has borderline personality disorder and fits the entire constellation of symptoms, but I'm not sure if that issue is relevant. There has been zero violence, though she has hit me twice in our worst arguments. She sees herself as an emotional abuse victim because she's had to deal with "me". We are still capable of being good friends and things have actually gotten more cordial between us since the divorce agreement. Okay. Whew. Moving on...

Now for the problem.

As I've had time to digest this it's been gradually dawning on me that the divorce may not be financially sustainable. I bring in an average of $4000 a month, and this fluctuates by +/-30% every month. My wife wants $800 for child support plus $2100 for alimony for 3 years so she can pay rent/utility/internet/etc; rent is $850 FYI. The $4000/mo I get is after business expenses but before taxes (which are about 28% due to 1040, 1040C, and 1040SE).

Alimony is not awardable in Texas so it's something I'd be voluntarily doing. I initially said I was open to it because I realize that my kid's home is more important than my own and that I respected her job as a mother. She agreed it would be for 3 years only so she could work on getting her own business started. It would have been doable because I would have been living in a 20-ft travel trailer in the back yard and sharing the rent and utilities. However it means I can't afford to go back to college (no colleges within 50 miles), and presents an awkward situation for her if she gets romantically involved with someone else, and I think it prevents us from moving on with our lives.

I got to talking to my mom today about this and she said she's never heard of anyone doing any alimony arrangement like this. It's clued me in that I might be digging my own financial grave and that maybe I can't afford to pay for mothering duties.

In short here's our situation. We have no assets and our vehicles are over 10 years old with 200K miles on them.

* Age 38, happily self employed, makes about $50K adjusted taxable income
* Likely to keep only business items, some basic furniture, and one of the two vehicles
* 3 years of college classes, with no degree, and I want to finish college and improve my credentials

* Age 37, homemaker and mother, not employed
* Intends to claim the rental house, travel trailer, and majority of our belongings, and one of the two vehicles
* Has 4-year BS degree from a state university

We have been under friendly terms and a few weeks ago I proposed we make no changes and continue being separated, but she declined to allow it to continue because other people won't get serious with her if she's still married. I also proposed getting our divorce but keeping our finances bound by written contract, but she thinks this can't be done for some reason.

I think it is absolutely imperative for us to resolve our problems, but she is not receptive to any ideas I have. Furthermore I'm keenly aware that actively resisting a divorce at this late stage is always harmful and counterproductive, and makes her more dead set on it.

Yes, I know, "lawyer up", "see a lawyer", etc, but it's Friday afternoon and I can't discuss this with anyone until next week. I also want a handle on my situation before I deal with anyone trying to coax me into action. Yes, I know "see a therapist", but we did a couple of years ago to no good end, and I don't know anyone around here with the professional background to address any Aspergers issues to my wife's satisfaction.

I think I know how this is looking but I throw myself on the mercy of Metafilter for advice.
posted by calhound to Law & Government (54 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (In fairness to my wife, she didn't really talk me into letting her have the affair... I agreed to it after she gave convincing arguments that it would help things, so it was partially my doing)
posted by calhound at 2:53 PM on June 29, 2007

I'm sorry you & your family are going through this right now. Reading your side of this, though, it does seem like your wife is taking advantage of your agreeable behavior.

Is there really any reason she gets a 3-year free ride while she "starts up a business"? Maybe I'm a jerk, but I just feel that since she is the one initiating this, and she is the one who seems to have all of the advantages, she should have to give a little too. Meaning that I think she should suck it up and get a job, like almost anyone else would have to do in this situation. If your child is 3, that means at most he'd have to spend 2 years in daycare, and I think it would be important for you BOTH to contribute to the daycare costs.

Also, if you already work at home, maybe you can be daycare for part of the time, reducing said costs. Either way, I think it's silly for you to support your soon-to-be-ex follow her entrepreneurial dreams while you scrape away.
posted by tastybrains at 2:56 PM on June 29, 2007

So you're going to be forcing yourself into poverty because your soon-to-be-ex doesn't want to get a job? Yes, you're being too nice. Pay whatever child support the state tells you to pay, split the daycare costs, be a good dad, and let your ex worry about how she's going to pay the internet bill.
posted by cmonkey at 2:58 PM on June 29, 2007 [8 favorites]

Second cmonkey. You are being too nice. 2100 plus child support means you're coming around 1000 a month and that is roughly what should be going towards your taxes. So that leaves you 0 dollars a month to live on.

How the hell is that feasible?

If you feel bad, pay her rent. Anything above that isn't feasible especially with the fact that the amount of money you bring in fluctuates.
posted by Stynxno at 3:04 PM on June 29, 2007

Good lord, you want to give her 3/4 of your income? I'm all for amicable divorces (my parents had one, thank goodness), but that's too much. I respect your generosity, but you are going overboard. If you want to get an idea of what alimony or spousal support awards are in states that have them, you can probably find the formulas on the web. That would give you a frame of reference. And give her a frame of reference.

You should also keep in mind that support agreements can be very very hard to modify (in NY where I am, but probably also in Texas). If your income fluctuates, you might want to take that into account when you determine how much you can pay, or see if she'll agree to a percentage. Keep in mind a future where you may lose your job or just lose some income and make sure you're protected. (You do NOT want to be on the hook for $3000/month if your income goes down to, say, $3100 per month.)

You already know you need a lawyer, so I'm just giving you my off the cuff opinion, which seems to be what you're looking for.

[Also not good--living that close together after a divorce. Yikes.]
posted by Mavri at 3:06 PM on June 29, 2007

cmonkey is right. she's the one that wants the divorce ... she should be prepared for the financial drawbacks.

it might be easier if you think of it this way--you're paying x in child support ... but unless she has an income, she won't be making any financial contribution to the support of the kid. the arrangement you have made means that you're going to support both her and the kid for three years. is this what you want?

be prepared for a backlash. your backstory sounds pretty scary. once she learns that she's not going to be getting any extra money from you, she'll probably take it out on the kid. definately read up on what kinds of things you should do as a dad in a shared custody thing.
posted by lester at 3:08 PM on June 29, 2007

Huh? Of course that's not sustainable. You'd be living at a welfare level, if that; you'd end up on the streets if you encountered the slightest difficulty (a period of illness where you couldn't work, say) at that income.

I'm blown away by -- among other things -- your giving up the trailer you'd be living in in this penurious scenario. (How long until she started charging you rent for it, I wonder?)

The problem is not so much the largely laudable impulse to pay for mothering, but the poverty it'd force you into.

Why would you not share custody of your son...?

There're all sorts of problems with your scenario. If the three of you are living comfortably in a $850 place, she and your son can live comfortably in a cheaper place, for one. And why would only one who could afford to buy new things end up with the majority of the belongings?

I am close to a probable-Aspergers guy, and see him get, or at least almost get, hosed sort of like this from time to time. Rather upsetting. You are being too nice.
posted by kmennie at 3:12 PM on June 29, 2007

If what you tell us is accurate (you have $2880 in monthly post-tax income), then you are giving her all your money every month. What are you supposed to live on?

Also, any settlement predicated on your living in her backyard in a trailer seems unlikely to be viable.
posted by ottereroticist at 3:12 PM on June 29, 2007

what?? the child is still your responsibility, but when she said "i don't want to be married anymore" she stopped being your problem.

if you'd like to pay *just* her rent for six months while she finds a job, that would be very decent of you.
posted by nihlton at 3:21 PM on June 29, 2007

Dude. Lawyer up and get therapy. Give her no more than is required by law, ensure that you get joint custody and buy your kid clothes and such over and above the minimum.

Your ex-wife can pay her own goddamn rent. I don't care how good your relationship is. If you want to negotiate and she does not, the only reasonable middle ground is to refuse to pay more than is required, be inflexible, and demand arbitration if she balks.

Otherwise, she will continue to walk all over you.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:22 PM on June 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

From the facts that you have presented here, it sounds like your soon-to-be-ex is trying to seriously take advantage of you. More than she already has. (Guilting you into agreeing that it's ok for her to have an affair is taking advantage of you. It is, no matter how else you may rationalize it.)


50K / year taxable income = less than $35K net after taxes, unless I'm doing my math wrong.

You're proposing paying your wife $35,400 / year for three years.

This leaves you with less than no income for three years.

This is a terrible idea, and will not enable you to be a good father to your child, or, for that matter, to be an effective business owner.

Do not allow your feelings of guilt (over what, I'm not sure) rule this matter.

You said you know to talk to a lawyer.

Do so, then. Before you make ANY AGREEMENT on child or spousal support.

There is no way you need to make a decision on anything like this before the weekend.

So don't.
posted by dersins at 3:23 PM on June 29, 2007

I agree with others - your wife is being unreasonable. She's basically wanting to take every penny you earn so she can have the life she wants.... leaving you with nothing.

Bottom line is, you cant afford to pay for the 3 of you if you live separately. If she wants a divorce, she needs to get a job.

You say you've both 'decided' that she has BPD - has she actually been diagnosed? Is she being treated? If she really does have BPD, I'd seriously consider taking custody of your child, BPD is a serious mental illness and your breakup will only exacerbate her problems.
posted by missmagenta at 3:25 PM on June 29, 2007

I am not a lawyer, & get a lawyer.

You need an advocate who will look out for your interests. The mere fact that you thought some of these things were reasonable for even a second indicates to me that you are either too emotionally wrapped up in this woman to have good judgment, or you don't have good judgment in general. Bring a lawyer and/or third party (your Mom?) into the picture.

Also, you will be doing not just yourself but her a disservice by promising an alimony stream that you will not be able to keep up. If you get ill, lose a job, have unexpected automobile expenses that impact your ability to get to a job, etc... the money she's used to getting every month will disappear. I seriously doubt from how you describe your wife that she is the type to build up a financial reserve. I think you should agree to child support, and that is it. Any additional money you pay should include a letter with every check that this is not a promise of continuing payment in the future.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:29 PM on June 29, 2007

I can't really comment on the proposed settlement beyond that it sounds lopsided.

On the Asperger's, there is no special treatment for adults. If you have comorbidities, like depression or social anxiety you can get treatment for those but that's about it. Specialized treatments don't really go beyond adolescence.

If you do have Asperger's, be aware that you probably aren't the best judge of motive. Especially not in the heat of the moment. Move slowly. Talk things out with others who are on your side before making any decisions. Many Aspies have fallen victim to scams and shady deals. Guard your trust.

Assuming that both of you are right with your diagnoses, the conclusions about emotional abuse and the need to address one person's symptoms to the other's satisfaction are a bit funny. Not funny like ha-ha, but funny like shaking your head. Bipolars, more than most with a psychological disorder, crash through the lives of others.

Good luck.
posted by BigSky at 3:30 PM on June 29, 2007

Nobody is entitled to 3 years income while they get their business off the ground. I've seen so many starry eyed folk start and fail - without capital it's almost already doomed, and clearly, there's no capital. So we have someone with no skills (?), no recent experience, and no real understanding of the business world, planning on living off you while she gets a business up and running? What happens when that business fails? Does she get a longer free ride?

When you're a parent, you have to make sacrifices. Well, you already are. She has to understand that she is just as responsible for the financial security of the little boy as you are.

So yes, get a lawyer. You can instruct the lawyer you're not out to shaft her, just to protect your interests and those of your son.

Oh and I agree, move out and move on with your life.
posted by b33j at 3:38 PM on June 29, 2007

Seriously, she's playing you for the chump. Pay child support, and if you really feel guilty, pay her rent, but you need some money for your own life.
posted by kdar at 3:41 PM on June 29, 2007

Disclaimer: I just went through a divorce from a likely borderline personality disorder afflicted ex-wife. Take that as making me biased, or making me "informed."

First, let me get this out of the way:
There has been zero violence, though she has hit me twice in our worst arguments.

Sorry, that is not zero violence. I mention this because you are excusing her bad behavior. Which means you are likely excusing it in other areas as well.

DO NOT agree to this. You are being ripped off! She is taking advantage. Do not pay alimony. She wants 3 years to start a business?? Baloney! She can get a job. I say this as someone who DID agree to alimony, for reasons I won't go into here.

If your soon-to-be ex's disorder demonstrates itself in any way like what I am familiar with, she will act selfishly with no regard to fairness. There is no reason you should be punished, or punish yourself financially, for the marriage not working out. Like me, you are being a "nice guy." You will soon turn into "resentful, poor guy" if you cave on all this.

Yes, lawyer up. Wait till Monday. Don't make any agreements about anything.

No, you can't live on the same property, and you can't keep your finances entangled. It simply will not work. I know it feels like the nice, reasonable thing to do, and you want to get along, and make the best of a bad situation. But you MUST have separate lives; that's what a divorce IS. You also don't want any way that you could be made responsible for debts that she incurs after your divorce.

Just to be clear: NO NO NO. Do NOT agree to any of this. It is ENTIRELY unreasonable to give her $2900 a month! It's not fair to YOU, and YOU are as important as HER. YOU deserve a good life. And the child support must be decided based on how much your child will be with you and how much with her. Don't just assume she has to be the 100% custodial parent. You are the father, and you have rights. This deal is very appealing to her. $2900 a month, she lives in the house, she can have you babysit in the back yard while she "gets intimacy" from other people. Yeah, heck, why wouldn't she agree to that? YOU ARE NOT BEING MEAN or a jerk or selfish by standing up for your rights. Your role WAS to take care of her, but once divorced, it's not your role any more. She seems to want to keep all the perks of having you pay for everything without having to deal with you as a person. That is selfish of her, and insulting to you as a human.

I'm sorry you are going through this. Even ending a bad marriage is painful beyond what anyone who hasn't been there can imagine.

I'd be happy to chat by email if you'd like.
posted by The Deej at 3:46 PM on June 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all for the brutal honesty. I am going to review and try to find out how she thought this idea was viable in the first place. I will be taking charge, and will continue to read replies.
posted by calhound at 3:47 PM on June 29, 2007

I am going to review and try to find out how she thought this idea was viable in the first place.

This doesn't sound like a good idea to me.

She has talked you into allowing her to take advantage of you before (viz. affair). It sounds as though you are going to give her the opportunity to try to talk you into this.

Don't try to have this conversation with her. It doesn't matter WHY she thought it was viable. Frankly, she probably didn't care whether it was viable.
posted by dersins at 3:51 PM on June 29, 2007

First thing that came to mind: Stockholm Syndrome
Second: Borderline
posted by rhizome at 3:53 PM on June 29, 2007

Yep, you're getting screwed.

You need to realize that, whether you think it or not, you are already in an adversarial position. You need to be protecting your interests like you're interested in them.

What the kid gets and what your wife gets are two separate things.
posted by Netzapper at 4:01 PM on June 29, 2007

Dersins is right. Any reasons why she thinks this is viable are irrelevant: the fact is, this arrangement is not viable. Period. That is the point you must accept, and the point you must proceed from.
posted by scody at 4:06 PM on June 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

I am going to review and try to find out how she thought this idea was viable in the first place.

I don't think that is a good idea either. She is trying to take advantage of you. She has left you yet is demanding a $104,000 settlement. The fact that she over-reached should be your wake-up call that she doesn't have your interests at heart, not a starting point for negotiations.
posted by grouse at 4:11 PM on June 29, 2007

As just about everyone has said, the alimony arrangement you've described isn't reasonable. You need a lawyer.

Also, if your wife really does have BPD, you may be in for some very vindictive behavior from her. Folks with BPD often swing from extremely positive feelings about a person to extremely negative ones. It's another reason to lawyer up.
posted by thinman at 4:20 PM on June 29, 2007

I love her and am very attracted to her.

To my mind this comment stands out. It suggests you are trying to be kind to her because you still love her.

Therefore, I would suggest that you stop talking to her (starting now) and only communicate through a lawyer. I suggest this because when you tell her that you're not going to give her all your money, she will be very very angry. And because you love her, you will want to make things better, and next thing you know you'll be giving her all your money again.
posted by medusa at 4:21 PM on June 29, 2007

Nthing that you should not try to find out why she thinks it's viable. She's trying to take advantage of you, and has proven her ability to do this in the past. If you ask her why it's viable, you are conceding that it might be viable. It isn't. But you will give her a chance to convince you or bully you or guilt you, or whatever she has done in the past to get her way.

You want to be amicable and generous, but by doing so you open the door for her to walk all over you. Accept the fact that she is not going to be happy with a fair settlement and accept the fact that this is going to get adversarial because she is unreasonable. It will not be your fault when that happens. Get a lawyer, tell the lawyer you want to be fair and maybe even generous, and then let the lawyer take over all communications.
posted by Mavri at 4:23 PM on June 29, 2007

There has been zero violence, though she has hit me twice in our worst arguments.


behaviors that originate from my fear of her temper and controlling personality


she didn't really talk me into letting her have the affair... I agreed to it after she gave convincing arguments that it would help things


we both realized and agreed strongly that she has borderline personality disorder[...]I know "see a therapist", but we did a couple of years ago to no good end, and I don't know anyone around here with the professional background to address any Aspergers issues to my wife's satisfaction.

I don't think you've got enough distance to see this, but yes, you probably are being too nice and you probably are being taken advantage of. Some of this sounds maybe kinda abusive. Please go see a lawyer. And maybe a therapist just for you, if you can afford it.
posted by dilettante at 4:25 PM on June 29, 2007

You should prepare yourself right now for the very real possibility that your son's welfare will be used as a bargaining chip. Given her history of manipulation, it is almost inevitable that she will attempt to erode your son's relationship with you in an attempt to control you. You need someone trustworthy by your side to give you a wake up call because this pattern will be ongoing. Your desire to care for your son is laudable but you need someone to help you do a sanity check on her demands. She knows which buttons to press and she is used to getting what she wants. I'm afraid this is going to get very ugly for you very quickly and you need someone to help keep your best interests and that of your son's in mind.
posted by hindmost at 4:26 PM on June 29, 2007

When she starts arguing, just think of her cheating ways. Think of how she made you waste many years of your life on someone who was the wrong one and caused you pain.

Avoid contact as much as possible, just set your terms and go through with it. You are giving her your self-esteem, your money, your home and your child? Everything you worked for is going to a cheating woman who cares nothing for you?

It's time to be you now. Give her the minimum, let her be herself now, and go off and become who you are. Pay her half what you intend now, but for 6 months. Best would be to take a loan, put it in a bank account and tell her to withdraw what she needs a month. Then just clear off, and don't let her manipulation get to you anymore.
posted by markovich at 4:43 PM on June 29, 2007

The only way you should talk to her about why she thought this was a viable idea is with a lawyer present.

Seriously, you sound like such a nice, forgiving guy. Most of the time, that's a good thing. Right now, however, it is a problem. Before she can even start trying to talk you into something, talk to a lawyer (yes, that means drop it over the weekend) about what you want, and have them there when you're talking this over, so you don't get taken for the chump again.

I'm re-iterating what has been said upthread: pay the child support, pay for part of daycare, if you're feeling nice, pay for a few months' rent while she finds a job. THIS IS IT. THIS IS ALL. YOU ARE ONLY OBLIGATED TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR SON NOW. YOUR EX-WIFE IS JUST THAT. AN EX. SHE IS NO LONGER YOUR PROBLEM. SHE HAS TO TAKE CARE OF HERSELF NOW.

Think about it this way: in the current situation, you're giving her money to take care of your son during the time that she could be working. You're making it her job. Make it someone else's job, and have her take care of herself. It's cheaper and fairer this way.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 4:46 PM on June 29, 2007

Also, regarding the child support: I like Mavri's idea of trying to get child support to be a percentage of your monthly income. As someone who is self-employed, this protects you from market slumps, time where (for whatever reason) you can't work, etc.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 4:49 PM on June 29, 2007

I would just add that if she fits the profile of a borderline personality then things will get WORSE when you "betray" her by moving out. (Yes, it was her idea. No, that doesn't matter to her way of thinking.) See if you can find a copy of hte book at the library called "Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking You Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder" - if she seems to fit the profile, then the book might help you understand what is happening and protect yourself from likely problems.

Get at least joint legal custody of your kid and as much physical custody as you can. Base the custody on the assumption that she is also going to be working too. If she thinks all of her problems are caused by your (possible) Asperger's, think about how she will be talking about you to your son (not good). Also, the more contact you have with your son, the more you will be aware of any problems in his life. And I would assume that you will not have any access to him that is not mandate by a court agreement (don't rely on her goodwill for something this important)

Only commit to what you can afford, even if you are having the worst year ever. You can always make gifts if you are having a good year. I'm not sure of hte law in Texas but a friend found himself in a terrible position where he was obligated to pay spousal support to his ex, regardless of how much she makes or how she spends her own money, he was still on the hook (even while he was unemployed for months)

Good luck. Stay close to your friends and family - people that you can count on support this is likely to be a difficult time for you.
posted by metahawk at 4:51 PM on June 29, 2007

Just my opinions ...

1) Don't get a lawyer -- if things are amicable then start with a mediator. If that doesn't work out, sure, lawyer up. (ok, so technically the mediator is a lawyer, they're just not YOUR lawyer)

2) Read this book: amazon link

3) My alimony is paid with pre-tax dollars. Yours might be, too, so take that into account when you run the numbers.

4) Re-read what Netzapper wrote -- alimony and child support are two ENTIRELY separate entities.

Best of luck,

posted by devbrain at 4:57 PM on June 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

How much would you be paying for daycare and transportation costs for daycare? I wouldn't offer more than the child support plus that amount, given that she pursued the divorce. I'll bet that would cover half her rent. Since she sacrificed her career to be primary caregiver, it would be reasonable to help her get back on her feet *for a limited period of time*. I'd limit that to the time at which your child enter kindergarten, which I'm guessing is 1-2 years. Your child will benefit from stability in primary caregiver during the turmoil that will follow from the divorce and separate households. During the times when you have custody, she could work at a part-time job and come up with another $500 a month to cover her very basic expenses (if not more). If she wants more than that, she should figure out more employment for herself.

But get a lawyer.
posted by acoutu at 4:57 PM on June 29, 2007

Don't talk to her without a lawyer present-or better yet let the lawyer do the talking. Till then if she needs to communicate with you or vice versa let it be with your mom.

Don't even let her know you are talking to us yet. Don't let her know yet that anything is gonna be different-let your lawyer be her reality check, not you.

Do not feel obligated to do anything besides take care of your child.
posted by konolia at 5:06 PM on June 29, 2007

Wow. You have boundary issues. I know that's blunt; I think you need to hear it. Lawyer up, then level up, so to speak. What she does is what she does.

Certain people with BPD, or other mental illnesses, may overspend to self-medicate. I don't know enough about the situation to know if that's what's going on here, but whether it is or not so far, you guys are just coming out of debt, and you don't want to set her up to send you or both of you back there.
posted by RobotHeart at 5:11 PM on June 29, 2007

Not a lawyer, but everyone here seems to be speaking in unison, let me concur.

Just an IMHO to compound to the above arguments: For the record, not only are you severing off your proverbial foot economically, you’re totally cutting yourself short on your own future happiness because of this woman who has taken unreasonable advantage of you.

I happen to be the second spouse of a wonderful man whose marriage fell apart before me. We live a very happy and stable life together and by law he’s required only to pay a very reasonable percentage of his income to support his wonderful daughter. We're lucky, all adults involved are satisfied. However, from a personal point of view, no matter how much I love him, if there was any hint of this kind of agreement you’ve previously conceded to work out, I wouldn’t have touched him with a ten-foot pole. What kind of life can one build with a partner continually indentured to their ex? What kind of happiness could I build with such a person who couldn’t put me first as the main woman in their life?

We are not talking millions here, we are talking about a normal salary where everyone is responsible to be adult enough to take care of themselves. You’re not in your latter 50s with most of your career behind you. You’re both sound and fit adults. Your life and future shouldn’t suck just to make your ex’s cushy, this will not help you or your emotional state, and will likely hurt your child in the future. As adults, there is a middle ground and a way to keep the divorce amicable (which of course is the best way for you and your child) but it takes two reasonable people to do so.

Any sensible woman would admire you for taking up the reigns of your responsibility to your child, indeed applaud you for that, but this is not only a financial, but an emotional hardship leash she’s designed to keep you on. It is intended to keep you in a very precarious situation, constantly at heel, and in such a manner as to keep you so for years. She’s setting you up to ensure you always fall in future relations with women - and there are some very nice ones of us out there.

You seem to be very forgiving of this woman, possibly trying to degrade your worthiness by with unsubstantiated diagnosis of Aspergers. I assure you, simply because this marriage fell apart doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to be happy, financially stable, with future prospects. Stop kicking yourself. Life isn’t always as ‘forever’ as we expect them to be, but realize you’re worthy on having a happy future and imparting that important lesson on and with your child.
posted by eatdonuts at 5:21 PM on June 29, 2007

This is what I think you should do:

Stand up for yourself, and your child.

You do this by:
1. Geting a lawyer
2. Giving her nothing more than child support.
3. Geting as much custody of your child as possible & never say a bad word about your wife to him or her.
4. Reexamining (and probably discarding) any negative feelings about yourself that have been planted or encouraged by your wife. Obtain professional help if necessary.
posted by Good Brain at 5:22 PM on June 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Let me add this, her start-up business is her responsibility. Even previous homemakers can get lucrative receptionist positions and / or customer service positions. There are plenty of positions out there with ‘mother hours’ although it’s true that those of us with corporate jobs make motherhood difficult - very difficult... but if you’re the stable one, you do have the option of seeking custody.
posted by eatdonuts at 5:30 PM on June 29, 2007

I have to say, in response to the above comment about getting a mediator, not a lawyer....


You will get screwed, because you are a nice guy. The mediator's job is to help you settle. NOT to make sure the settlement is fair. GET A LAWYER, and you can still get a mediator, but your lawyer can be there for mediation.

Mediation is not to take the place of lawyers, but to take the place of judge.

I had a lawyer, she had a lawyer, AND we had a mediator. Mediation was just to avoid court.
posted by The Deej at 5:45 PM on June 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

The most telling part of this for me was this:
Alimony is not awardable in Texas so it's something I'd be voluntarily doing.

I divorced an abusive husband in a non-alimony state. I'm not even sure a judge would let you do this. As far as I know, the court's main concern is care for the children. In non-alimony states, this does NOT include extra money for the custodial parent, but the child support is based on a percentage of the non-custodial parent's income. If you honestly report your income, you are doing better than a lot of non-custodial parents.

When I left my marriage, I had to sort out how I was going to support my children and put a roof over all of our heads and fix the damage that had been inflicted. This was not unreasonable, although it was very difficult.

Please follow the advice here and get an attorney. ANY money that changes hands MUST be documented, just to cover your own backside. Please do NOT just give her money without documentation. Please do NOT just agree to give her a free ride here.

Also, please consider that your child may be better off with you as the custodial parent. Who was looking after your child while she was having her affairs? Is your child in day care already? Don't discount your own parenting abilities. And consider, perhaps she is the one who should move. At the very least, you will be having visitation and have to provide a reasonable home for that.

Best wishes to you. Take good care of yourself so that you can be a good father for your child.
posted by lilywing13 at 6:30 PM on June 29, 2007

Are there any circumstances that you've missed - did she enter your marriage with substantially more assets than you did? Were the houses or trailers hers before the marriage? Also, you are self employed. Is she a part owner of your business? Did she invest in it or support it? Did she work there occasionally? Did the bankruptcy hit one of you harder than the other?

Barring circumstances that you haven't shared with us, the proposed settlement seems tremendously unfair.
posted by 26.2 at 7:01 PM on June 29, 2007

I am going to ... try to find out how she thought this idea was viable in the first place.

It's not you and her against the world anymore. She does not have to tell you why she thinks anything, and in fact, her thoughts are none of your business. Her opinion of you, whether she shares it or not, NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. "Why" does not matter. I think it would help if you back off from being responsible for her, or accountable to her, or thinking she is accountable to you. Don't be making your decisions based on what she thinks and feels.
posted by b33j at 7:09 PM on June 29, 2007

By the way, it's great that you've even asked this question in the first place. It shows that deep down, you knew something was not right with this whole situation. Good on you for recognizing that.
posted by marionnette en chaussette at 7:18 PM on June 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

I get the feeling you're reluctant to see a lawyer.

Please see one. I don't care how clear-headed you are or think you are; it's almost impossible to think rationally during the upheaval of a divorce.

You will need someone in your corner who's fighting unreservedly for your best interests.

I'm sorry you have to deal with this.
posted by YamwotIam at 7:24 PM on June 29, 2007

You need to go hard against her on any sort of money beyond child support, but there is another concern you might want to hedge against. I'm not sure how crazy she is, but it has come up and no one's ever expected it to happen to them.

She may take the kid and run like hell. Family services in america have a less then stellar record as far as deciding which parent genuinely is responsible and which one is a horrible, manipulative monster, so there is a chance the law could even side with her if it gets bad.

I have no direct experience so you should take what I say with a bit of salt, but I really think you should present some evidence of the suggested alimony payment of more then you actually make as evidence that you deserve a greater share of custody. Not exclusive unless she starts making threats about this, but you really shouldn't give her too much time alone to turn your awesome kid into her pawn to use against you.

Even if you think she is a good parent, the manipulation and (so far) low key physical abuse mean she should absolutely not be granted sole custody, especially if she has no prospects for a reliable source of income beyond robbing you.

It goes without saying that you should live away from her, because really that's the whole point of this sordid affair- to NOT be with the woman.

Find a lawyer fast and a few knowledgeable and understanding friends for morale support/fast cutoff from appeasement, but as everyone else has said you need to completely ignore what she wants or why she wants it, your only problems are YOU and your SON.
posted by sandswipe at 8:09 PM on June 29, 2007

how she thought this idea was viable in the first place

I'm going to be frank. She thought the idea was viable because she thinks you're a chump. The fact that you considered it means that she's partially right. She's taken advantage of you in the past and she will continue to do so in the future. She doesn't think it's viable for you, she just thinks it's beneficial for her. That's all there is to it. She's not confused. She's greedy. Don't make the mistake of thinking that just because you're still in love with her that she feels the same. She doesn't. She checked out of the relationship before she convinced you to let her sleep around. She doesn't give a shit if it's viable for you as long as she gets what she wants.
posted by hindmost at 8:26 PM on June 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

hindmost speaks the truth. Unfortunately.
posted by The Deej at 8:38 PM on June 29, 2007

yeah you're totally being screwed over. I mean, when my cousin got divorced he gave away more money than he had to but he makes a ton of money so, whatever, he could

giving her money will NOT provide a good environment for your kid; frankly, the idea of a child relying on her frightens me, but such is life these days. if you are even someone who might be considered to have asperger's, trying to get custody as a man probably is not gonna happen.
posted by dagnyscott at 8:41 PM on June 29, 2007

Well, a good lawyer will tell you this for free: Child support is a percentage of your income, determined by the judge or by an agreement between you and the ex, typically in the Marital Settlement Agreement, a separate document from the divorce petition, and which you could get going right now.

There is Spousal Support in TX, but I'm not sure she'd qualify for the permanent, especially if you can document the actual violence from her.

Now on to the Borderline/Asperger's/controlling/fear issues. If you really think she's got a mental illness, get a lawyer, period. She may or may not get one, but you will definitely need someone who knows his/her way around the system because she is going to drag this out as long as she can feel like she's in control.

Even if she doesn't have a DSM-IV qualified diagnosis and is just a controlling bitch, you're better off with the lawer on your side.

There's either a rating system or certification for divorce lawyers that I can't remember and my google-fu fails me on this, but try to get a sharp one. Don't rely on freinds' referrals, get board certification. Especially don't rely on mutual friends with your wife referrals.

Good luck with your son. You'll most likely get Joint Conservatorship, but the kid(s) usually end up with the mother. Be sure to get generous visitation either in the MSA or the decree.
posted by lysdexic at 9:39 PM on June 29, 2007

I've been thinking about this, and I have a list of facts and adivce.

Instead of thinking in numbers; think in goals.

Your child is likely to live with the Mom while he's young. Think long and hard about the best living situation for your child. This is absolutely the most important point. Custody is always re-negotiable.

You want to continue to be an active parent.

Going from 1 household with a child to 2 households with a child requires lots more money. You & she may need to sell posessions to finance this. She almost certainly needs to get a job to help finance this.

You need to assess all the finances. Any equity should be split, not automatically going to her. Make sure all bills are paid off, so you don't get stuck with debt.

She is the one who wants the divorce. (I think that gives her responsibility to assume more of the financial cost than if she were not.) She wants you to finance a business startup in which you would presumably have no equity. I don't think that's reasonable.

You and she don't really get to decide child support. The court does.

You have a huge focus on everyone's emotional status. The finances aren't related to the emotions. Lots of people are on that Asperger's spectrum. You didn't let her have extramarital sex; she did it and manipulated you into accepting it.

zero violence, though she has hit me twice
sees herself as an emotional abuse victim because she's had to deal with "me".
still capable of being good friends

Your viewpoint is totally dominated by her at this point. It's a bad time to make these sorts of decisions alone. So you came here, and got a chorus of WTF!? Do Not Do This!. Please listen. Get a good, calm divorce lawyer. Get a therapist. Your lawyer is not your therapist. Way too expensive, for one thing, and not your lawyer's area of expertise. You really, really need an ally, and a therapist should do that.

You have a child who is between a Dad who's dealing with possible Asperger's and some serious emotional baggage, and a Mom who may have Borderline Disorder. Your primary goal should not be funding your soon-to-be-ex-wife's desires. It should be about setting up a custody arrangement that will best support your son, and where he has the best chance for a secure childhood. You will be co-parenting with her for the next 15 years. You need to get good at it, cause it isn't easy.
posted by theora55 at 1:48 PM on June 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer. Naturally. And this is not legal advice. Naturally.

That said, it seems to me that You BOTH probably need to be able to sustain households in which the child can live comfortably. This does not mean something lavish, but it does mean something decent. Giving her 75% of your income is not the way to do that.

I second the people who told you not to go to a mediator without counsel. A mediator's job is not necessarily to look out for you-- it's to get you to agree to something and get you out the door. It doesn't sound to me like you need someone to help you say "yes," it sounds to me like you need someone to help you say "no." It really doesn't seem like you're very good at detecting bullshit, when it comes from your wife. A good lawyer can help with that a lot.

Feel free to comparison shop, when you're looking for a lawyer. Read about different attorneys on Martindale. Call your local bar association for referrals, and check up on the disciplinary record of anyone you're seriously considering hiring. Have several intitial consulatations with different attorneys, if you can, and feel free to bring someone you trust with you.

I wish you the best of luck with this. It's a horrible thing to go through for everyone concerned.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:11 PM on June 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Too much for me to digest here, but I'm probably repeating something.

I just finished a divorce w/kids, and here is my advice. IANAL. Any "amicable" divorce has the potential to turn into an ugly process, so you need to protect yourself every step of the way.

1. Get a lawyer for legal advice, not representation. And find a good one, somebody who has recent court and mediation experience with all the nuances of cases similar to yours.
2. Pursue mediation. Do not agree to anything that relinquishes any rights you might have.
3. In mediation, ask for separate rooms. This may appear to be more expensive because the mediator has to run from room to room, but it gives you a chance to ask the mediator questions without tipping your position to her.
4. Your first mediation session should discuss what should go into your divorce filing.
5. If she doesn't want to file, you should file yourself. If you have *any* issues with what she files, you should be able to file a counter-response. This varies state to state, so consult with your lawyer on how that should proceed.
6. Schedule mediation sessions at least 2 weeks apart until all issues are settled. Get legal advice after each session.
7. If you are a decent, nice guy, you have nothing to fear from court other than expense. But any expense is better than a bad settlement. So if necessary, use looming court deadlines in your favor. She may try to get you to settle for something rather than go to court. Call her bluff and don't settle until you've weighed the expected outcomes of court with your own lawyer.
8. In the meantime, do not discuss any divorce issues with her face to face. This is a highly charged and emotional time, and it is likely that you will not be able to get any rational responses from her. Save discussions for mediation.
9. Take every opportunity you can get to spend time with the children. Be nice and allow her to join you. If you are agreeable, she should allow you to join in joint activities as well (holidays with family, vacations, school activities). Avoid any negative comments on her behavior -- your relationship is over, so the best you can hope for is to be good co-parents.
10. Get a journal and document the time you spend with your children. If she engages in any weird or confrontational behavior, document that also.
11. You should suggest (graciously) and work for 50/50 custody (AKA residence time). This generally gives you the lowest child support obligation (in WA, $0! other than some minimal amount of income transfer, but essentially nothing.). Unfortunately, most states don't give the man much opportunity for 50/50 if the mother isn't cooperative. If you can get her to agree to it you're way ahead. Otherwise you're stuck with the "traditional plan", every other weekend and one mid-week visitation.

If she tries any sort of domestic violence / abuse tack, your documentation of good behavior and peaceful interactions should deflate any case she might make.

If you can't get 50/50 (e.g. alternate weeks), you may have to start from "traditional" and work up from there. For purposes of child support, only overnight residence counts. If you are working things out over time, try to get Fr/Sa/Su stays, with a Wednesday overnight in alternate weeks. Over time, you may be able to get her to agree to W/Th overnights, especially if you can schedule something like swim lessons for wednesday nights and agree to alternate time for that. From there, it is just a small step to add M/Tu nights and you're at a 2/2/3/2/2/3 schedule, which works out to 50 percent.

Helpful books (for me):
Mom's House, Dad's House
Blink [Malcolm Gladwell] (see the chapter on John Gottmann and relationships)

Feel free to email me if you have any questions! There *is* a light at the end of the tunnel, never fear.
posted by Araucaria at 6:02 PM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hmm, re-reading, I see she has filed already. You can still file a counter-response.

My situation was very similar. She was the one going way out of bounds emotionally, and then accused me of emotional abuse. When I told the mediator that she had suggested taking vacations together, and that we had actually gone on two long joint vacations (separate sleeping arrangements) after I had moved out, the mediator said she had no case and dropped the issue.

Be nice and courteous, but firm. You don't have to give up anything. Over time she'll respect you for standing up for your principles. Listen to your gut and if it doesn't feel right, it isn't.
posted by Araucaria at 6:09 PM on July 5, 2007

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