Honestly, I don’t mean to beat a dead horse but I am astounded.
“Why?” you ask.
I would love to tell you. I see women come to support boards. They’ve been a stay at home mom for years. Some of them homeschool. They are at the mercy of the very man who cheated on them and left them in financial disarray. And then they ask, “Will the judge award me enough child support (and/or alimony, in some cases) that I can continue to stay at home with my children?”
You continue the conversation and let them know that they are probably going to have to get a job. That’s when they hit you with, “But I homeschool!” or “But I have young children! They’ve never been in daycare.” Or even, “How can I even consider getting a job when daycare costs will eat up everything I make? I might even lose money!”
Honey, the judge doesn’t care. I know this wasn’t what you had planned. But it’s your reality now. For every one woman who tells you she is able to manage to get by on support payments alone you’ll hear from over 100 that will tell you they had to get a job. No judge is going to award you 90% or more of your ex-husband’s paycheck. You’d be lucky to get half and that’s a rare occurrence.
I get it. I really do. You’ve been blindsided. Your whole world has been turned upside down. You are grasping desperately for anything that might provide a semblance of normalcy.
I say this as gently as possible. You must let go. Holding on to that old life of yours is doing you no favors.
I was that woman once upon a time. I found out my husband was cheating on me six days after our $57,000.00 inground pool was finally filled. I lived off of what he was willing to give me (what he had incorrectly been told he would be ordered to pay) and the money I had transferred into my own account. And then I lived primarily off of the temporary spousal and child support, which gave me a lot more room to breathe, my half of what remained of his bonus, and the remaining savings. I found out in August and still didn’t have a job in June when my world turned upside down yet again.
I believe I’ve shared with you before that my plan was to start looking for a job right around the time my daughter was able to drive. That way she could get herself and her brother to the places they needed to go and they wouldn’t need to lose out on cheerleading, gymnastics, and band because I had a job and couldn’t leave to take them.
Of course, we all know how that panned out. Terribly. Jerry Lee lost his job. Stopped sending money. I had to sell off everything I could and what I couldn’t sell I left behind when the kids and I moved 600 miles away to Indiana, in with my mom. My kids received free lunches and free textbooks. We were on Medicaid. I might have been able to qualify for food stamps.
My advice is based on the shit storm of my experience. DO NOT RELY ON THE PERSON WHO BETRAYED YOU!
When you are reliant on child and/or spousal support you are at the mercy of the person paying you. You disagree with him? You refuse to go along with whatever it is that he wants you to do? He holds the support payment hostage. Or maybe he doesn’t hold it hostage; he just doesn’t pay if he has something better to do. You know- taking Schmoopie on a fancy vacation, buying toys or bikes or dogs or cars for her kids to impress them, putting in a pool, buying a new car. Whatever strikes his fancy because child support is simply a suggestion and it’s the bill he pays after he buys whatever he wants. Now what are you going to do? You can’t take him back to court when you have no money. Sure, you may be awarded court costs but you have to pay your lawyer in the meantime. How are you going to do that when your only source of income has dried up?
Let’s say you are fortunate enough to be awarded enough child and spousal support that you don’t have to get a job. Let’s even say you’re able to be comfortable on what you’re awarded. All worked out, right?
Until he stops paying. Or he modifies it on his own. Or he dies or becomes disabled.
My temporary orders gave me $6600 a month. While that sounds like a lot my household bills, including our credit cards, mortgage, phone, insurance, and utilities totaled approximately $5000. I had $1600 a month for food, gas, pet food, and anything else we might need. I was planning on staying at least until Rock Star graduated. I was willing to stay until Picasso graduated if he decided he wanted to stay. At that point I would have probably moved back to Indiana. I could have managed just fine on $6600 per month without working if I was no longer living in such an expensive house. Living with my mom? Oh, I definitely wouldn’t have had to work.
I received the court ordered amount for all of five months. Then he lost his job, stopped paying, and decided it would be more advantageous to him to force me and his kids out of our house and go into this divorce with no job. I lost everything.
The lesson there? There’s a big difference between what you’re awarded and what you actually receive. The last statistics I read were 43.5% of people who are awarded child support receive the full amount. That leaves 56.5% who do not. Statistics also report that 30% don’t receive anything.
Let’s say he pays in full as he’s supposed to and it’s enough for you to live on. Great! You’re free to homeschool and be there to take your kids to all of their extracurricular activities. You get to be a stay at home mom despite the fact that you are divorced.
Have you thought about what’s going to happen when your kids are no longer in school? At some point they’ll graduate. The child support will stop. You are then going to have to support yourself. On what? You’ve been a stay at home mom now for twenty years, give or a take a few years. Who is going to hire you? When you get hired how much are they going to pay you?
I was out of the workforce for 15 years. I had a college degree. I stocked shelves at Target for $11.00/hour. I went in anywhere from 2 am until 4 am. That was the first place that called me for an interview. I put in endless applications and heard nothing back.
It took me four years at the bank before I began making close to decent money. Four years and five promotions.
Maybe these ladies will be very fortunate. Maybe one or more of them has a pharmacy degree or a nursing degree and they can go back to work and make fantastic money. I’m pretty sure pharmacists are making six figures now, and depending upon your nursing experience you can definitely make six figures. But from the way they present their situations I don’t think they’re going to enter the workforce after being out for 10 or 15 years and find a job making a huge salary.
All those years you spend at home, living off of child support, are years you are NOT advancing in your career. It’s years you are not being promoted or earning raises. It’s a longer period of time where your resume is blank.
And don’t even get me started on retirement! You might be able to live on child support but can you also save for your retirement? That is doubtful. Again, we’re back to years of NOT contributing to your future. You’re only going to be eligible to receive half of your husband’s retirement, and depending upon how long he’s been working and how much he’s contributed there may not be nearly as much in those accounts as you’d think. No job means no Social Security benefits of your own, and even if you were married 10 years and one day (and don’t remarry) you only get to collect half of what his benefits are.
I can tell you now, almost seven years after finding out about the cheating, that there is nothing more satisfying than knowing you can support yourself, if need be. I spent years being at his mercy. Wondering if this was the month he wasn’t going to pay. When his mom died he paid about a fourth of what he was supposed to pay because he was busy paying her funeral expenses. Didn’t have the common decency to ask if I would be okay with that. Didn’t even have the common decency to tell me that’s why he would be late. And then had the nerve to act indignant that I asked about it. He would pay when he wanted. He would modify payments when he wanted. He frequently waited until the very last day of the month to make his final payment. I dealt with 2 job losses There was always that fear that he would stop paying and I would have to go back to working two jobs and running myself ragged. Now, if he decided to test me and see if I really would throw him in jail (spoiler alert: I would) I might have to tighten my belt but I would make it. My bills would be paid. I’ve been fairly smart and I put money aside for taxes every month and I put money into savings. I won’t have to go get a second job if I don’t want to. That is an amazing feeling.
Yes, when you have young children daycare costs may eat up most of what you make. But you’re still advancing. You’re still getting raises. You’re still putting your name out there and creating a resume for yourself. Your children won’t always be in daycare. And as someone pointed out daycare costs are separate from child support; they’re also usually income based so if he out earns you by a significant amount he may be paying 60%, 70%, even 80% of the costs while you pick up the remaining amount.
We tend to focus on our children when they’re little. We don’t think about the future and what happens when they grow up and move on. We never seem to see what lies ahead. Please look out for yourself, and don’t rely on the person who tried to destroy you.