Whew! Do I have a story to tell you all. Sit down, buckle up, and maybe pour a stiff drink (or not so stiff) before we begin because this is a long one.
When I last left you I was playing a waiting game. Nothing was progressing. They’d seemed all gung ho to get this over and done with; Jerry Lee’s lawyer was constantly playing “Let’s Make a Deal” with no actual deal offered. Then- radio silence.
Monday afternoon, around 3:30 or 4:00 I got an email from my attorney’s legal assistant. She was asking for my pay information going back to July of 2018, which would have been the month after Rock Star graduated. What’s that you say? I lost it! It was one of those moments where I wish I had been wearing a mask at work because I was muttering under my breath left and right. Motherfucker!
Here my lawyer had not balked one bit at calculating arrears at the full amount of the court order. Now all of a sudden I’m being asked to submit every single one of my pay raises, you know the big fifty cent ones, back to July 2018. Now it seemed that perhaps they were only going to go after the difference between what he should have been paying and what he actually paid. Really?
Of course my phone was almost dead so I couldn’t return the phone call. I had to wait until after work and until I walked to my car so I could plug my phone back in and begin to charge it. To say I was on edge for the next 60 minutes was an understatement.
Once I talked to her legal assistant (let’s call her Sally) she quickly put my fears to rest- mostly. She said according to the law Jerry Lee should have to pay the $902.90 difference but the judge did have discretion in this case. She wanted to be prepared with all of the numbers in case he decided to do it that way. She didn’t want him to have to continue the case and have me have to drive back. She did say that more than likely that’s the way he would rule (for the entire amount, not the difference) but better safe than sorry.
I also got an email from my attorney (let’s call her Jane) letting me know that Jerry Lee was claiming poverty- only $2000 to his name. Funny, because according to his bank records he (they) just rented a vacation home for $1800… His best offer was to continue paying child support after Picasso graduated from high school. She also told me he was going to claim inability to pay seeing as how I take over 50% of his take home pay. He has no way to pay towards the arrears or towards the lawyer’s fees. I’m going to refer you to the sentence above.
He’s got money to pay for an expensive vacation rental. He’s got money to rent another amazing house. Oh yeah, we found that, too. At one point I thought he might have actually cashed in his 401k to put a down payment on it but I believe he’s still renting. They’ve got $900 to blow at Better Homes & Gardens. They got a stimulus check; yeah, he wasn’t making nearly as much as I thought he was at the second job. If you deduct the spousal support he paid he’s under the threshold needed to get a check. He gets a tax refund each year. In other words, he has money he could pay towards his arrears and legal fees, but he chooses not to. It’s more important for Harley the Hillbilly Whore to live in a better home than she’s ever lived in in her life and for them to go on vacation than it is for him to fulfill his obligations.
Essentially, we went from me getting a lump sum, plus an additional $500 and him continuing to pay that amount until all arrears and fees are paid, to him being willing to continue to pay child support after Picasso graduated- which the courts would make him do anyway. I let her know I was not feeling charitable and listed all the different means from which he should be able to pay, or could have been paying more towards all of this- his stimulus check, bonus checks, tax refund, 401k. I also reiterated that it seemed to me staying out of court benefitted him more than it did me.
I went to work on Tuesday a little dejected. Even though not going to court was more his benefit, I do get nervous about it. You never know what will happen. I was hoping we could reach a deal that I could control and stay out of court. Plus, I would be able to drive directly to the mobster instead of making a layover in Harrisonburg.
I left at noon on Tuesday. I got a phone message from Jane about 20 minutes before I was due to leave. I was pretty much finished with everything I needed to do so I returned the call immediately. She conferenced in Sally. Basically, Jerry Lee’s attorney was doing his best to reach a deal. The offer was now a lump sum of $2000 (all the money he has to his name), an additional $1000 a month towards arrears, and he would continue paying support after Picasso graduated (a given).
That’s nice but it’s not enough. I decided to go for it. I asked Jane if I could get it ordered for him to pay me through direct deposit from his company. I am done playing these games with him. I’m tired of never knowing when I’m going to get paid, how much he’s going to pay, if he’s going to pay… This way I would know exactly when to expect the money. I also wanted it put in there that the spousal support arrears are tax free for me. If he gets to pay me over a long period of time instead of coming up with a lump sum then he doesn’t get to deduct that from his taxes. Even better I don’t have to pay taxes on them. She balked a little on that one but I assured her it was definitely possible if he agreed. She said she’d put it in there.
Then she added in talk of interest on the arrears. I had completely forgotten about that.
Finally I mentioned when Picasso graduates next June. I told her I knew it was small potatoes compared to everything else but I wanted to know if we could put something in there about how to calculate that last month’s child support instead of going through him prorating the amount down to the half hour once again.
“Oh, we’re going to have him pay the entire amount for June.”
How you like that, Jerry Lee? Fuck me over and prorate support down to 8:30 the night your daughter graduates? Now you get to pay for the entire month of June when Picasso will actually graduate sometime between the 7th and the 11th.
She said she was going to email Jerry Lee’s attorney and try to get this done. I let her know that I had about 2 hours once I got on the road to make a decision as to which city I would be going to.
Problems ensued. The log I was supposed to send didn’t get delivered for some reason so I had to resend it while on the road. We still hadn’t heard back by the time I was supposed to exit to go to Fieldale so I continued on to Harrisonburg.
We stopped in Ohio to eat lunch. While we were eating I got a call from my attorney. He had agreed to everything! She was literally hanging up with the other attorney to take my call. His lawyer point blank told him he needed to sign or he was going to go to jail. My own attorney couldn’t believe it. As she said, “What an idiot!” I’m not sure if she was referring to Jerry Lee or to his lawyer. She said she would have never agreed to what we asked for.
I was breathing a sigh of relief. Thank God it was over! I couldn’t believe it either. I was almost giddy as the tension left my body. Onward to Fieldale- even though I was now about an hour, maybe an hour and a half, off track. We exited the toll road and headed towards the mobster. Sadly my victory celebration was short-lived.
Around 4:30 I happened to see another email from her. She was forwarding a message she had sent to his attorney. Apparently they were just now figuring out that the child support arrears were not being calculated at the difference between what he should have been paying and what he was paying, but the difference between the original amount ordered and what he had been paying. I thought it had been too good to be true. I was shocked that Jerry Lee wasn’t fighting me on that. His attorney was trying to argue that it wasn’t fair for him to have pay support for Rock Star because she had aged out of support. Jane went on to point out to him that she had told him there was no Motion to Modify; that was why we were now modifying the child support. More importantly, I was agreeing to modify it now at the same time we were getting this crap done instead of making him file his own damn motion. She was much nicer about it, of course, but that was the gist of it.
I had just finished dictating a response to my mom when my attorney called me. She told me the lightbulb had finally gone off for them (maybe just Jerry Lee?) and he was balking at signing now. He claimed we had an agreement. I told her we had never had an agreement. She was able to pull up all of our correspondence and see that that was true. He refused to accept the numbers she threw out in early December. By January I had decided to go with the state because it was free.
The difference between the two amounts was approximately $20,000. She wanted to know what I wanted to do. Did I want to secure the deal by taking $20,000 less? When I balked at that she offered potentially splitting the difference as well.
I had pulled into a gas station so I could take the phone off of speaker. A million different thoughts were running through my head. I could take the deal. Screw myself and my kids out of $20,000. You all know I’ve been back and forth about whether or not I was truly entitled to that money. It should have been modified. At the same time, he dug his heels in and refused to do so, putting it instead on me. The pro to the deal is I would have the money directly deposited into my account. The $11,000 in spousal support arrears would be tax free. That would be huge. I could also give a little and split the difference. Same pros, same cons. I took a deep breath and told her I wanted to go to court.
Fuck that! I’ve already made enough concessions. I was supposed to have $25,000 by the end of 2018. He never paid and he made it very clear he had no intentions of doing so. His email response to my request was a blunt, “I don’t have it.” Period. No offer to work with me. Not to mention he didn’t even bother to sign his damn name. If I went to court the judge would more than likely order at least 25% of the arrears. Even though my attorney pointed out that they would only calculate the actual arrears and not the legal fees, he would still be ordered to pay a minimum of more than $4000. He was offering up $2000. I had been as gracious as I was going to be. I knew that if I went to court I would lose the tax free spousal support. I knew there was a possibility he wouldn’t bother with ordering Jerry Lee to pay me via direct deposit because, as Jane always pointed out, a Georgia company doesn’t need to follow a Virginia judge’s orders. I had given as much as I was going to give. I might lose some things I wanted by going to court, but I wasn’t going to face an ass chewing either- or potential jail time.
She told me she was going to call his attorney and tell him we would see him in court. I wasn’t going to budge. She would call me back after she had talked to opposing counsel; in the meantime, I should set my GPS to Harrisonburg. I love a change of plans; don’t you?
I had the directions to Harrisonburg on my phone while my mom had the directions to Fieldale on hers. I was still hoping his attorney could talk some sense into him. At the moment the course we were on could take us to either Harrisonburg or Fieldale, but at some point that path would diverge and I would be forced to take one path or the other. Onward we drove.
6:00 I get another call from Jane. She had been talking to his attorney. She had forwarded him all the documentation proving that we never had an agreement about child support modification. She point blank told him she was going to show he had money to pay towards arrears. She was going to ask for jail time. She wouldn’t be offering to modify child support at this hearing; he would have to make a separate motion. The legal fees she had computed would also be going up. After her phone call to him she said he had told her he would be telling Jerry Lee to sign the papers or risk going to jail. Apparently his attorney knew this was not looking good for Jerry Lee. She told me she would call back and let me know if he followed his attorney’s advice but she was confident he would agree.
At 6:45 I get another phone call from her. He was refusing to sign; he was going to fight it. His attorney told him if he wasn’t going to sign then he needed to get in his car and get up to Virginia. He had to be at the hearing. No excuses this time. Damn! Even my lawyer sounded dejected.
I have to say I was pretty calm considering I had gone from an incredible high of getting pretty much what I wanted, down to a low of thinking there was no deal, back up when it looked like he was being advised to sign, and now once again being told I was going to have to appear in court.
As I told Jane I still remember going to court and having the judge modify spousal support back to June when Jerry Lee didn’t make an effort to modify it until November. I knew it wasn’t a sure thing. I knew there was a possibility that child support modifications could be scaled back by $20,000. I wasn’t going to get tax free spousal support arrears. I probably wouldn’t get my money via direct deposit.
As I drove on I practiced what I was going to say if his attorney asked me about my efforts to get child support modified. I was terrified the judge would say I knew it needed to be modified and I had somehow agreed to take on that task by starting the process. I was dreading being interrogated on the stand once again, although Jane had told me all I would be doing is going over my support log and answering the question, “Did you want legal fees from today’s proceedings?” Sounds simple enough but it was terrifying nonetheless. I told myself to buck up. I’m a goddamn warrior. If I was going down I was going down fighting. I would drag that sonofabitch through the mud. I hoped that at least I would get to witness the judge throwing the book at him. I wanted jail time!
Meanwhile, because of all the twists and turns during our trip the drive to Harrisonburg took an additional hour, at least. Plus I was driving state highways instead of toll roads and interstates. Why is that important? It’s important because instead of driving to the hotel from a nicely lit, straight interstate I was driving around a dark mountain from approximately 11 pm until 12:30 am. I am going to lobby to have mountains and countryside roads well lit! We counted at least 6 deer grazing along the side of the road, with one of them deciding to run across the road in front of me. Delightful! We finally checked into the hotel at 1 am. I made notes for court until 1:30 and then set my alarm for 6 am so I could get up and run 3 miles.
I didn’t run after a mere four and a half hours of sleep because I’m an exercise fanatic. I ran because I needed to alleviate my stress. Get it all out! I sweated for a good 50 minutes before heading back to the room to shower and get ready.
My mom and I arrived at the courthouse about 8:40. Court was at nine. We were sitting on the bench waiting for Jane. I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths. I dreaded seeing Jerry Lee. I didn’t think he’d bring Harley along. He’d waited long enough that I didn’t think she could reasonably accompany him if she had a job. Plus, even if she could have got the day off she probably didn’t have childcare for her youngest. He’s probably around 12 now but I still wouldn’t leave him home alone while I traveled 8 hours away. Then again…
We finally saw Jane coming towards us. She said she saw Jerry Lee’s lawyer enter the courthouse but she hadn’t seen Jerry Lee. We went on in and headed to our courtroom.
Inside the courtroom sat Jerry Lee’s lawyer. No Jerry Lee in sight. Maybe he was meeting him there.
He looks at Jane and says something about the signed Consent Order. She looks at him and says, “What?”
“I told you last night we had a deal.”
Uh, no. No you didn’t. She told him she must have misunderstood because she had been working on exhibits for court from 8-10 last night because he had told her Jerry Lee wouldn’t sign.
I’m a bit fuzzy on the details but I do know he mentioned something about Jerry Lee turning around and heading back to Georgia. It sounds like Jerry Lee was planning on fighting it but then decided it wasn’t worth it, or the pain that the judge was going to bring down on him wasn’t going to be worth the $20,000 he was going to save.
My lawyer apologized profusely and told me she didn’t charge me for the time she spent working on the exhibits. Hopefully that would offset the amount of money I had to pay for the hotel room.
By 9:45 we were out of there. The judge went over all the details of the Consent Order and made sure Jerry Lee was not claiming inability to pay. He did remember him from our trial almost 3 years ago. The case remains on the docket to follow up and make sure Jerry Lee is complying with the order.
Oh, and while I was reading the order I asked Jane if we were beginning the new amount next month or this month because the order said July 2020. She realized that was a typo and should be July of 2021. At that point she whispered, “I wish you lived closer. I would hire you in a heartbeat and I would pay you a lot better than what the bank is paying you.”
That’s my story. I WON! AGAIN! I didn’t cave. I’m so happy I didn’t take the reduced offer. Hell, I’m glad I didn’t take the “split the difference” offer. I don’t know and I don’t care what his thinking was. Maybe he figured he could bluff me and I would eventually back down and go the easy, surefire route. That might have worked if I had just as much to lose as he did. But I didn’t. I was willing to go to court and let the judge decide, even if it meant I didn’t get everything I wanted. I kept reminding myself that not going to court benefited him, not me. I was already being more than flexible. I was willing to let him pay me back $60,000+ over a period of years instead of having the judge order to him to pay me immediately, or at least a much greater chunk immediately. If he couldn’t see the allowances I was willing to make, well, he could try his luck with the judge. No. More. Concessions.
Now I get the entire $23,000+ in back child support plus interest. I get tax free spousal support arrears. I get an additional $1000 per month for the next 3+ years. True, it’s all going into savings, but I get it. Best of all he can no longer mess with me. I get that money directly deposited into my account every time he gets paid. No more nasty messages. No more obscene emojis. No more not knowing when or how much he’ll pay.
Oh, and I forgot. There is a suspended jail sentence in the order which means if he fucks up and decides to play games again he goes to jail. Jane told me to text him my account information and if he gave me any attitude to let her know. She also said that all the arrears were calculated through this month so I won’t receive any spousal support but I will receive the $2000 lump sum he’s supposed to pay. That’s okay. I have money set aside and it will only end up being an $800 difference. She told me to let her know if he doesn’t get it set up because she will haul him back to court.
I’m also very glad I advocated for myself and asked for the things I wanted, like the direct deposit and the tax free spousal support. I stood strong. I refused to take less than my kids and I deserved. I put my big girl panties on and I marched forward even when my heart was pounding out of my chest. It wasn’t fast. It took a lot of patience and a lot of determination. God knows I have dealt with roadblock after roadblock.
This saga began back in June of 2018. He refused to modify support and refused to pay any more towards Picasso. Then he refused the numbers my attorney gave him, being an ass about it all the way. I’ve been trying to garnish him since January of 2019. What was supposed to take four-six months took over a year and then just dead-ended when he moved out of Mississippi to Georgia. I never heard from my caseworker after I last emailed her in March. Jane took over a year to get through all of her pending divorce cases and finally work on my contempt case. But dammit, I just kept pushing on; I saw it through. I didn’t quit. I never gave up. The asshole tax is real and Jerry Lee will be paying it for at least three years.
I didn’t get the life insurance clause added in there like I wanted. I didn’t get as big of a lump sum as I wanted. We also didn’t bring up him needing to pay me bonuses and tax refunds to reduce his arrears and fees sooner. I’m sure he has the ability to pay; he just doesn’t want to. According to their bank records they bring home over $14,000 a month. That’s more than when we were together and he was the only one working. Even with the $4000+ he’ll be paying out for the next 3 years he’s got as much income coming into the house as he did when we were together. I’d say they’re doing quite well for themselves. I don’t feel a bit sorry for him. I’m sure he’ll spin it to whoever will listen that I’m a greedy, gold digging, vindictive bitch that has poisoned his kids against him and tries to take every dime from him. I’m sure it’s all my fault that he owes this because I lied and told him I’d take care of it for him. Guess what? I don’t give a fuck. Go be happy with your whore. Leave me alone and make sure that direct deposit is set up.
This saga is over finally! Thank God! I’m going to say it again: I WON!