Ex-wife troubles...
August 10, 2007 1:15 PM   Subscribe

How to survive my partner's ex wife?

I know divorces can be bitter, awful things, but my boyfriend's ex-wife seems to want to ruin him....

They're split occurred long before I met him and had nothing to do with infidelity or abuse- which are just about the only reasons that could exist, in my mind, for the level of damage she is trying to inflict.

She has taken everything from him, financially speaking- to the tune of over 150k and she won primary custody of their young daughter although he was able to secure a standard visitation arrangement and joint legal custody(he spent 80k fighting in court for that.)

So- he is broke. And yet she continues to come up with ways to financially fuck with him. It's a never-ending nightmare and there is no money left to pay lawyers to stop her.

I have been unable to face her myself when she comes to my doorstep to pick up her daughter after we have her for the weekend because I am literally afraid of what I might do/ say that could then arm her with more lawsuits, frivolous and otherwise... and I don't want to behave in a way that would adversely affect the child who I have grown to love....

She has become this parasite living off of us- $1500/ month child support and she, a licensed architect, refuses to get a job...

I just don' t know what to do, how to handle this anymore. We have a baby of our own on the way.

I hate this woman and I feel so much vindictiveness beginning to boil inside of me...

Has anyone been through this??? How can we stop her- short of doing illegal things (which, naturally, I fantasize about...)

Believe me- I am interested in any/ all creative ways of dealing with people like this- I am completely beyond rising above at this point...

Please share anecdotes.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think it's probably best that YOU not deal with her at all, with respect to the financial arrangements --- those are between your husband and her --- and your role should be very limited: being courteous and civil on the occasions that the minor children force you to have contact with her.

The other thing to keep in mind is that, what feels like her trying to destroy your husband, may actually be, from her perspective, just getting what she and her children are legally entitled to. The laws of divorce and custody and child support are very harsh and draconian for a reason ... to force non-custodial parents to support their children. It's not unheard of for non-custodial parents be court-ordered to pay up to 50% of their income to support their children from a prior marriage. It's unfortunate that the new wife has to stand by and watch all that money go away, but that's what you sign up for when you marry someone who has kids from a previous relationship.
posted by jayder at 1:46 PM on August 10, 2007

you haven't alleged any bad acts directly on the part of the ex, maybe it isn't her fault at all, maybe she just has a really good, aggressive lawyer. i used to do divorces. when couples lawyer up, there's a hazard that the lawyers will take over the situation and make things happen in accordance with their own perceived benchmarks of what constitutes a good job of representation in this file. the clients are under stress and lack the tools to control properly their powerful servants, so the servants run amok.
posted by bruce at 1:56 PM on August 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

I second what Bruce said, with the exception of the bit about servants running amok. Given the way that child support law usually requires a large chunk of the non-custodial parent's income to go toward support, nobody needs to be running amok for the result to feel oppressive to the non-custodial parent.
posted by jayder at 2:05 PM on August 10, 2007

Therapy. You need to reframe the situation for the sake of your partner's daughter. Heck, you need to reframe it for your own sake and for the sake of your relationship.

Child support is for the support of the child. It is not money for the ex-partner. You need to reframe the way you see that. As for the other financials, it's impossible to know under what circumstances the money was awarded, at least based on the info you provided.
posted by acoutu at 2:55 PM on August 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

You're the adult. You have to rise above.
posted by footnote at 2:58 PM on August 10, 2007

There's actually nothing your boyfriend can do to keep from being financially screwed in divorce - because everybody gets screwed. It's part of the whole "getting divorced" deal. If he's gotten a good lawyer, and this is what he's ended up with, there's probably not a lot that will change at this point.

You, on the other hand, are *choosing* this situation by choosing to stay with him, so the only thing that you can really do is adjust your attitude. Just remember, everybody has crap to put up with in order to be with someone else. If he's worth it, then keep saying to yourself: My man is worth this, and nothing this woman can do will break me. Be polite. Be courteous. Be kind, even. Especially since your relationship with his ex-wife will affect his daughter, which will affect him, which will affect you, etc.

(We are all connected, in the great circle... of life...)

Good luck.
posted by eleyna at 2:59 PM on August 10, 2007

When you are starting to define issues that have nothing to do with money in terms of money - there is a problem.

Many years ago my parents divorced each other. They fought about everything, who did this, who did that, finally when there was nothing left to fight about, they fought about money.

To this day, 20 years later, it still seems they can't speak to each other. My siblings and I are well past caring about it, and it has become a sort of joke.

But my sister is getting married next year, and I am concerned about my parents spoiling it.

How sad is that.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 3:35 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Child support is for the child. If you have actual evidence that it is being used otherwise, take it to your partner's lawyer.

For you: Therapy. Rise above. Those are your choices; you're best off taking them both.
posted by rtha at 3:49 PM on August 10, 2007

i live in a partnership where there are three annoying-to-psychotic exes that can't be got rid of for various reasons. this will be a permanent situation in regards to the mother of his children. my tack: aspiration toward total buddha-consciousness hand in hand with a great effort toward avoidance. the more you can stay clear of any conflict, the better. always.

if you're in it for the long haul, the best thing to do is look to the long distant future when all this will be past. and help your partner to let it go as well.

i mean really, do what you can legally. plod along. but accept that this person is a succubus in human form and don't stew. have your nights where you and your partner give each other permission to rail on her, call her names (when children are absent), and just generally let it blow for sanity's sake. but help each other to *endure.*
posted by RedEmma at 4:02 PM on August 10, 2007

This is a great book, and by no means should its recommendation be considered an evaluation of your post one way or the other:

Living the Full Catastrophe
posted by craniac at 4:05 PM on August 10, 2007

If your boyfriend spent a fortune on defending his interests, and still ended up fucked, then there's two possibilities:

(a) the law wasn't on his side
(b) his lawyer wasn't (or sucked so bad the end result was the same).

If it's (a), then he needs to get better at negotiating arrangements outside the legal realm (both at keeping things out of court and at actual negotiation). If it's (b), you've got to find some way to get better legal representation for him. You probably really need to do both if it's at all possible.

The zen-attitude get-along advice is good to a point here... and that point is encounters with the ex and preserving your own peace of mind. You and your boyfriend should be defensive about his welfare, but all your anger is only useful to the extent it's really about that and helps you put energy into planning how he's going to protect that.

And that planning? Extra important for when you actually do see the ex. Your plan is your way of dealing, so that the frustration has a productive place to go, and doesn't have to come boiling out on contact, and you can be wise and civil and avoid being hurt by little snipes and being drawn into petty personal confrontations. You probably shouldn't have much contact with her at all, but you have to be at least somewhere between coldly civil and politely cordial when dealing with her. So does he, and it's a victory every time it can be done.

So, what is this plan you're gonna have? Hell if I know. But maybe it's sitting down and sketching out scenarios you or he fear and coming up with good responses ahead of time for dealing with them: smart and reasonable reactions for any unreasonable demands from her, ways of cooling down or opting out of scenes she might try to make, ways of defering negotiation or otherwise making it less heated and personal. Or maybe it's looking deep into your bank account and his and seeing how to scrimp and save and maybe even borrow to get good representation, or finding someone who's willing to work on contingency. Or maybe it's getting a good therapist or someone who can train your boyfriend on how to negotiate better, or reading a load of books about that. Or maybe it's going to his friends/family who think he's been used and creating a defense fund. Or maybe it's finding a specialist who knows about ways to shield his assets. Or maybe it's retreating to a monastary. Maybe it's getting fake passports and starting a new life in Brazil. I don't know what it is, but you should be brainstorming possibilities like this and seeing which ones look real on a regular basis and then trying them.

But don't put all your time into this. Make sure you cultivate enough stuff outside of it that it doesn't take over your life and any battles you lose don't become the end of the world.
posted by namespan at 5:22 PM on August 10, 2007

It's probably worth noting that the current parter of a divorced man or woman is just about the least qualified person on the planet to objectively determine who of a divorced couple is the one being "evil" or "vindictive". I say this as the current husband of a woman who was married once before. I'm pretty confident the current wife of my wife's ex-husband probably has a low opinion of my wife. After all, she gets all her information on my wife from him; not exactly an unbiased source. And vice versa.

My guess is the ex-wife probably has an entirely different take on all this. But taking everything you say at face value - what do you think you can do? Has any divorce battle been improved by a new partner interfering? I doubt it.

I know you said you want to avoid the "rise above it" advice, but I'm afraid it's the only logical choice here, seeing as you're having a baby of your own with this man and are going to be connected with this man for the foreseeable future. The best you can do is to avoid exacerbating the situation.
posted by The Gooch at 7:24 PM on August 10, 2007

Anonymous, you might get different answers if you gave more specific examples of ways in which the ex-wife is acting vindictive. The child support payments seem totally reasonable, absent any about your boyfriend's income. The settlement amount ($150,000) is impossible to judge without knowing more about the couple's finances. The fact that your boyfriend spent $80,000 on an attorney is unfortunate, but with more specific information, I can't blame that on the ex-wife.

I don't know if you can add more detail to your question. Maybe one of the moderators could post it for you? But without more info about the concrete ways in which you believe the ex-wife is acting nasty, I don't think you'll get better answers than you've gotten so far. The info you've given so far just doesn't sound terrible at all. It sounds like a run-of-the-mill divorce, to the extent there is such a thing.
posted by alms at 7:55 PM on August 10, 2007

The ex-wife does not deserve so much of your emotional energy.

It sounds like she has become a convenient scapegoat for all of the problems your boyfriend is having, and that you must have by default. Maybe she is even the reason for the problems you have in your current relationship. Maybe she is why you are not married to your boyfriend yet (if that is what you want). Maybe she is why things aren't going to be as nice and simple as you wish when the baby comes.

But her major sin (as you relate it) is just financially hurting your boyfriend (money is the root of all evil). Beyond that, she's actually responsible for something new in your life that you love (their daughter). That ought to balance out a lot of the grief.

I think you need to take a closer look at why this lady causes so much hate in your heart. You might be projecting a bunch of your own crap onto her. Figuring out some deeper reasons for the hate is going to be the best route to getting rid of it.

And if you just can't get rid of it, remember that living well is the best revenge, and focus all of that hate energy into making an amazing life for your new baby and boyfriend and yourself.
posted by extrabox at 8:07 PM on August 10, 2007

I don't have any advice in particular how to avoid financial fuckage, sorry. The only way I know how to deal your boyfriend's unreasonable ex is to simply treat her well when you come into contact with her, give her no reason to say nasty things about you or do horrid things to you. If she persists in childish behavior, that's her problem. One day, hopefully not too late, she'll realize that she exposed her daughter (who should be the most important one and the one that matters most to her at this point) to this ugliness and change her ways.

You mentioned you're both expecting a child of your own. Congrats! I'd just like to say that you should try to keep yourself as positive and relaxed as possible for the sake of your baby. Focus on things you have control over and try not to stress out so much on things you don't (i.e., steep court ordered child support, ex wife's unwillingness to find a job). Not easy, but your family needs you to be strong during this very difficult time. I think that's the best thing for your family right now so this little one comes into the world knowing how much they're loved.
posted by blueorchids at 8:50 PM on August 10, 2007

$150,000 is not that much. It sounds like a lot, and if she came up to him and pulled it out of his wallet, then, yeah, wow; it's somewhat amazing that he had that kind of liquid assets lying around in the first place. If he did, then coming up with $1500 every month shouldn't be that tough. But you're utterly and completely unclear as to what you mean by "she took $150k from him."

Pardon me for saying that that sounds funny. It's only that every single time I've ever heard a guy tell me that "she took X dollars from me," he was blowing it up to make it sound awful by laying out the entire value of the promissory note he's paying on child support or alimony. Which is to say: if "she took $150,000 from him" means "he has to pay that $1500 every month for the next eight years," then, yeah. That's not quite as bad as you're making it sound, no?

When divorces happen, the two sides are divided financially on the basis of income and assets. Things seem (in my experience) to be balanced somewhat against the side of men and in favor of the side of women. (This is how it should be, I think, given the nature of the world.) As bruce pointed out up at the top, there can be inequity in the quality of the lawyer, and therefore sometimes one side is able to duplicitously hide assets or to misrepresent the truth of the matter. It's not often easy to fix this.

However, not one of the things you mention in your question carries the scent of duplicity or misrepresentation. "She took everything from him" is a common enough sensation, unfortunately; there has to be more than that vague impression for it to be illegal and immoral.

I say all this because a good friend of mine was actually the victim of a duplicitous and misrepresenting ex-husband. The ex happened unfortunately to be a lawyer, who did planned the financial end of the divorce carefully about two years in advance so that he could come out on top. Everything, from the funky life insurance policies to the undercutting of support payments to the secret side-investments to the assets that she knew he had but had hidden beyond finding, made the divorce a hell, and still have her living in some fear.

What you describe, however, sounds like an average divorce. Divorces are devastating on both sides, unfortunately. You should keep in mind that she is probably as devastated as he is-- desperation and bile are usually signs of that-- and that, when he says that "she took everything," he's speaking from the same bitterness.

Get away from it, as much as you can. That bitterness is bad.
posted by koeselitz at 11:20 PM on August 10, 2007

It seems to me that your troubles, while money and legalities seem to the the hard surface of things, are rooted in a lot of emotional turmoil and pain that your boyfriend's ex is going through. I add the stipulation that I am not defending her, but many women believe that since they are the biological mother and have spent some time with their ex, they are entitled to things, with emotional control being one of them.

I have had to deal with a similar issue, yet nowhere near the same magnitude. My husband and I were married when his daughter was barely two years old and as the years have gone by, I have become another parent. His ex has not given us the same problems you have, thank goodness, but it has been just as stressful. You are lucky that all she is asking for is money. As bad as this sounds, money is just money. Consider how you and your boyfriend would feel if his daughter's life and well-being was in question.

With my husband's daughter, there was always a concern for her health and the environment she was living in when we did not have custody of her. The experiences I have gone through, because I was an idiot and wanted to actually be friends with this woman for the sake of my little girl, have been horrible. Anything I did for the progress of my little girl was seen as me trying to usurp her position (which was greatly lacking) or trying to compete.

A lot of people have posted asking you to consider what it is like in her shoes. I would suggest you do. Since you are the one aware of the situation, you have to be the bigger person. If not for yourself, but for your boyfriend and his daughter. On her end, she is a single mom (who may still be emotionally tied to her ex) who must now face the fact that her ex is having a child with someone else. She may be thinking that since the two of you are together and building a family of your own, her daughter's needs will be neglected. She could also be using this as a way to get back at you because you now have the life she once had.

Like my situation, there seems to be a lot of immaturity involved and everything is emotionally driven. I think you should do your best to stay out of it, especially when it comes to legal matters and since you are not married and are not the step parent yet. Once you are the step parent and share financial responsibilities with your boyfriend, you do not have much legal say in anything. And also, you do not want to get involved and risk the chance of implying to your boyfriend that he cannot handle his own problems.

With my husband's ex, I know she is hurt and jealous. She has lost him and she has to face daily that her own kid sees me as her real mom because I am the one stepping up. It is a horrible thing to face when you know you have things lacking and there is someone else in your child's life that is providing that. People with common sense would do their best to bring themselves to a better situation. But emotionally driven, spiteful people lash out and use the child as a means to hurt the other party.

Please, I beg of you, do not take part in her schemes. The child is innocent of the mistakes of the adults around her and she does not deserve to have to witness it or even notice the tension. And trust me they do, kids are very aware of these things. Just do the best you can because ultimately (and I do hate to sound preachy, it is just I have years to back this up), you can only control your behaviors and actions. Be the best stepmom to his child and support him. There really is nothing else to do but hope that your good nature will help her lose some of her steam.
posted by dnthomps at 1:16 PM on August 11, 2007

If she is really angry, and stuck in her anger, she might be playing legal games. She might also have a very aggressive lawyer who is happy to help her engage in litigation.

Limit contact. If at all possible, drop the kids off at her house, and pick them up, rather than have her come to your home. Don't call her, and if she calls, keep it short and to the point. Make sure child support payments are on time and any contractual agreements are kept.

They're going to be co-parenting for a long time. They're going to need to deal with parent-teacher meetings and other routine stuff, as well as any troubles that arise, and troubles always arise. You all need to let the anger dissipate, and develop a working relationship, because his daughter deserves 2 parents who are taking care of her needs.
posted by theora55 at 5:59 AM on August 12, 2007

Are you finances separate from his? Because they need to be. Completely. Don't mix money. Make sure you have a bank account and credit card that's in your name alone.

Does the child support to the ex leave enough for the new baby to be supported? I have no idea of the law on these things, but surely the courts have to protect the well being of both children.
posted by happyturtle at 11:44 AM on August 12, 2007

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