I haven't felt like writing about the past few weeks as it all just seems like a dream, a weird dream. So much has happened that needs to be processed.
But I need to get it out of my head, so out it goes. Here is what happened on Court Day two weeks ago.
When we first arrived the Lawyer came over and went over our paperwork. She asked if we were in agreement about what the State of Colorado had determined for the new child support modification. We both stated "no". He mentioned that it didn't take into account the $1600 a month he pays for health care for him and the children. I supplied my pay stub that showed my new wages at my job. I also stated that having to prepare for this court, I had noticed that my alimony was to be paid through August 2015. While the State of Colorado had told me I was on my own in collecting the 20 some months of back due alimony, I asked that we address the fact that he still owed me 4 months alimony.
This was how I was able to get the Lawyer and the Judge to address the alimony.
In the State of Colorado, if he owes me child support, even $1 and alimony the State will enforce the alimony order. If he doesn't owe me any child support then the State turns a blind eye and has no assisted process for me to force him to pay the court ordered amount. As I was the one ordered to pay child support, the States only concern was if I was current.
The Judge came out and it was a different Judge than we had the first 3 times. This judge didn't know me as the awful home school mother who had illiterate and below average children. To her I was just a divorced single mom with two kids in public school.
I sat at the same table as my ex. We had less than a 2 feet between us.
It was okay for the first bit as he felt in control and confident. He went up on the stand first. The Family Support Registry's Lawyer walked him through all of the standard questions. Who do you work for? How much do you get paid? Then it always veers into the subjective part. He presented that I am underemployed and that property managers in CO make around $80,000.00 a year. He had documents to back that up. He had done some research on my behalf of what I should be making as a property manager and what I could be making if I went back to web design. He compared our skills and school level and implied that as I had just as much opportunity to make $50 an hour like he does.
He stated that it was odd that he had gotten this new job, making more money and suddenly I was coming after him for child support.
Then the question about why he hadn't paid me the court ordered alimony for the past 20 some months came up. I had been holding my breath waiting for this moment. Wondering how he would explain and twist it to come out okay.
Without blinking he answered that he couldn't afford it and that his parents had been helping him financially and when they found out that the money they were sending him was going to pay me, they cut him off. I still cannot believe he just laid it all out there. They didn't feel I deserved it, so they stopped paying.
No one told me I would be cross examining him.
All of a sudden the Judge asked if I had any questions for him. I did, a million. But I knew all of the thoughts going through my head were not appropriate. Instead I asked if he had any college education. He said he did. I asked how many course hours. He replied 21 (can't remember the exact number). I asked him if I had any course hours from college. He said not that he was aware of. I asked if his big break had begun when he was given free Oracle Training at while he was on a government job? He said yes. Before he had that training he was making about $30,000 a year. That training and certification was his first big legitimate certification that propelled him into jobs where he could learn & practice & hone his skills.
I asked him if I had any certifications? No, not that he was aware of.
Then my turn on the stand. I know I was flush and not breathing. A flood of horrible memories hit me regarding the last time I had sat in the exact seat.
The lawyer ran me through the same group of standard questions. Then she stated that my ex believed me to be purposefully underemployed. I stated that was incorrect. I work as a property manager and make $26,000 a year. That works out to about $13 something an hour. The couple before us the wife worked at a Safeway and made $8.00. I felt really good about my $5 more than minimum wage.
I was able to explain that the reason we were here at court was that my ex had been messing with me being able to pay my checks or money orders to him. The checks seemed to get lost by the mailman & the money orders were not cashable by his bank. So a friend has suggested that I pay him through Family Support Registry. When I looked into that it was easy to send them my check and somehow they received it every month with no problem. I explained that while I was there I had inquired if they could help me collect the back due owed and was told that they couldn't. I asked that since they couldn't help with that, could they help me by having our finances looked at so I didn't have to pay him child support any more. That they could help me with. That is how we ended up in court. When you take into consideration that he wasn't paying me $2000 a month, it made me not owe him any money. To not have to pay him every month sounded fabulous.
Then the Judge asked me why I had waited so long to bring him to court. I explained the repercussions of him telling the kids what is going on, what I was doing to their dad and that it had been easier to just not rock the boat. The Judge was not happy with me letting him get away with this.
Then my ex had his turn at questioning me.
The best thing for me in court is for him to not have a lawyer to speak on his behalf. He comes off very condescending. He restated my underemployment, he graphs and documents proving what I should be making and I again stated that I had only been able to earn $20 an hour 13 years ago because he did all of the database work for me. He asked me how many pages my big clients web site had been. I stated about 31 pages. He asked how many of those were "my work" and how many were "his work". His work was one page, mine was the other 30. He acted like this was a big deal. My 30 to his 1.
Then I stated that my 30 pages were static pages with content, his was the biggest part. People went to the website to look for properties and his one page was the one that linked our web site the the county realtors website making our web site searchable. My 30 pages were all fluff. His one page was the whole reason for the website.
I stated that I did not have him currently to help me with the database side, nor did I have current skills.
He asked what programs I had used and then he explained to me that those software products are the exact same one that are used today. I got in a really good jab by replying that I no longer had a husband who could get me pirated versions of the expensive software that I had been using. I no longer had a husband who could create and manage databases for me. I no longer had a client who fed me their clients either. What I had back in 2002 was fabulous, but I explained that I did not have the time or resources to create a new business and support my family.
Then he started in on me again about being underemployed in my current chosen field.
I explained that I had made $12 and hour plus really good bonus's when I worked at an apartment complex but they required I work a rigid 10 am to 6 pm schedule and weekends at the complex. I explained that I had left that job to work as a property manager for another company so that I could have a flexible schedule and work from home on weekends and do occasional showings of top end properties. No bonus's or overtime, but I was afforded the flexibility I need as a single mom with two teens going to school in Woodland Park while I work in Colorado Springs.
I had the opportunity to explain that I am proud of the work I do and my ability to provide for my family. I work very hard in a very demanding profession.
I did have to explain that I do not know a single property manager who makes over $40,000 a year and that I would guess that if they are making $80,000 a year that they have their Realtors license. Which I don't have. Honestly, I don't know a ton of Realtors who make $80,000 a year.
After he finished his questions, I had to go sit back down next to him at the table.
The Lawyer and the Judge started working calculations to see if they could agree on the modifications. The Judge started stating she was going to keep the alimony active. My heart sank. Alimony is not enforceable.
Then she said he would pay me $59 a month child support. That was what I needed.
Child support allows me to have the State go after him and collect the money from his wages. I wasn't aware I had tears streaming down my face, but the Judge asked me why I was crying. I told her that while this was a huge victory, it would cost me so much with my children because he would tell them what I was doing to him.
Right then and there the Judge ordered him not to speak about the finances with our kids anymore. He started arguing with the Judge and she advised him that if he talked to our kids about these proceedings that she would put him in jail.
All the while the energy at the little table we were sitting at was vibrating. He couldn't sit still and was tapping his feet. I was within arms distance and very, very scared. You could just feel the anger coming off him in waves.
He started arguing that he hadn't expected to get a "new" Judge and had hoped Judge Colt had understood our situation since he had been there since the beginning. Then in the same breath he stated how my first lawyer had screwed him by presenting a ludicrous dollar amount as his annual income. (We used his tax forms.) He didn't explain to this Judge that not once in our 2 subsequent court appearances did his lawyers argue on his behalf to have a different figure accepted as his income.
He kept arguing with the Judge about what he could afford and what his expenses are and how at almost $9000 a month, he is barely making ends meet.
You could feel the hatred and anger building less than two foot away from me. I just sat tense & poised to move if he moved my way. Neither the female Lawyer or the female Judge would have been able stop him had he come at me. There was no Bailiff or Sheriff or anyone with a damn gun or night stick in the room.
The Lawyer tried to start wrapping the meeting up by stating she would send us copies of the new orders. She asked to verify my address and then she turned to my ex to verify his and he started ranting over and over again that he was going to lose the house now. He had barely been able to afford it and now he would lose it and they would be homeless. He hoped I wanted the house, cause now I was going to get it. All I could do was freeze and be ready.
Then all at once it was over and he was standing up and then I was standing up and he was leaving and I was following him. And then I stopped. I don't know what made me stop, but I did. I let him leave the room and the door swung shut behind him. I waited maybe 5 seconds and then slowly opened the door.
The counselor at the women's shelter had told me several years ago that the scariest time for a woman was in those moments after leaving court. Those are the moments when women die. I do not want to die.
I stood at the top of stairs and watched him exit the building and then he walked by my car and then went on to his car. I stood there for a good 5 minutes and cried. I won. I WON! I did not owe him any further child support. But most important the Judge took the time to express what bad choices he had made in not following the court orders.
After 20 months, finally someone stood looking into his eyes and told him what he had done was wrong. His parents weren't telling him that. His friends mustn't be telling him that. Our Parenting Coordinator sure isn't holding him accountable for thumbing his nose at the court order.
That is what I wanted more than anything. Just for one person of importance to tell him what he was doing was wrong. No valid excuses to make him not paying me acceptable. As smart as he is, all he had to do was file a motion to modify the support based on his new income. They would have accessed the situation. He didn't do that. He just decided he was above the rules. Or he felt I wouldn't have the balls to take him to court. Sadly it took almost two years for me to find my courage.
Then I saw the Lawyer come down the steps and she said she was glad I had waited for him to leave. I asked her if there was a way for me to forgive some portion of what he owed me as I hadn't come to court to break him. I did not want him to lose the house as my kids would blame me. I want them happy and healthy in both of their homes. I don't want them to have to change anything.
We hadn't been out of court 10 minutes and I was feeling guilty for making him accountable and trying to figure out how to fix this for him. To fix this for me so my kids wouldn't hate me. I have been beating myself up for weeks now for not being able to fix this for him.
I turned in my initial paperwork to get this ball rolling August 2014. I didn't get the paperwork notarized and turned in the State until February. Making this decision has cost me sleep and peace. I beat myself up for letting him treat me like I don't matter. I don't want my kids to repeat our cycle. I am choosing to be a strong example and knew it would be a painful road to walk, but still there are days I wish it would stop being so insane. It is always so much harder than I expect to be strong and do the right thing. It is always so hard to cause my children more pain and sadness by requiring their Dad to do the right thing.
Knowing how filled with rage he was, I called our Parenting Coordinator to tell her what had happened and to ask her to make contact with him to help him calm down as it was his night with the kids. I told her I was going to forgive $20,000 of what he owed me and asked her to tell him so he would know I wasn't trying to screw him.
It is in these moments of reflection that I realize how much work I still have to do to be the strong woman I know is inside me. I am so stuck in old patterns. I want to fix things for my ex and smooth it over when he hasn't given one thought to the struggle I have had to live to survive financially. He doesn't waste time thinking about my struggle. Had he paid me what he was ordered to, he would be free and clear this August. No more alimony ever.
The Judge ordered that I be paid every dollar the original Judge had agreed for me to have based on my need and my ex's ability to pay.
I met with Family Registry last week to close my case number where I was the one paying child support. My case worker was stunned that the Judge had forced in this new order. She said I was very lucky.
Then she explained to me that I would not be getting the $2000 alimony and $59 child support. That they would have to work with him or in her experience he would quit his job and just give up, feeling overwhelmed.
She can't tell me how much I will end up getting each month. Her job is to work with him to create a plan that he can afford.
I asked for the form to forgive a portion of his debt. She asked me to wait until they worked through the process with him.
Will I be getting the spousal support? Nope, the State will work out a plan with him based on what he can pay. I have known for a while that I won't get the money he owes me. That was never the intention.
I won the right to stop paying him!! And I am now the proud owner of a court order that states that I am not underemployed and that my ex can't unilaterally decide to no longer pay. He will also have to submit proof of insurance every year, no more messing with me on that either. I just received my first insurance card for the kids last month. I should have had copies of it since 2011.
The bad news is that he notified me that due to what I have done, our son can't go on the paleontology trip this summer. My ex and his parents have decided that the most important thing is that he doesn't lose the house so all money will be funneled there. I offered to pay a portion of the remaining balance and he notified me he had already cancelled it.
"Due to what I have done." It seems very foreign to me that he has no ownership in his choices. I have to let that go as it isn't mine to fix.