Peter Pan Keeps Coming Back

Will he never grow up?  Will he never learn to manage his anger?  Will he ever learn that I just don’t play that way?

Cover of 1915 edition of J. M. Barrie's novel,...

Ah, yes.  The Angry Ex has returned, texting me today, all nicey-nice about a couple of favors he needs from me.  The check is in the mail, but will I send a short paragraph to his potential mortgage lender about how he pays child support regularly?  And can I send him a copy of our divorce papers?

Number 1: He doesn’t pay child support regularly, so he is asking me to lie in exchange for money that he already owes his own son.  Number 2: We are divorced, and keeping track of his paperwork is no longer my responsibility (like it ever was?).

When I first spoke to an attorney about the possibility of divorce, the attorney told me that so many of his cases were against “Peter Pan” – guys who just never grew up.  The ex in my case seems to be Peter Pan’s darker twin brother, because when I won’t play along and do what he expects me to do, he gets angry, verbally abusive, and retaliates by not speaking and/or seeing his son.

At first he was fine with me not making copies of the divorce papers.

And then he called.  As soon as I heard my phone (I have a special ringtone, just for him), I knew that I would be asked for another “favor”, and not that he was actually calling to talk to his son, with whom he hasn’t spoken in two weeks, and then only because The Boy called him.  He explained that he was in a “time crunch” and asked if I would scan in the divorce papers and email them to him.  I told him I really didn’t have the time, and he hung up on me.

As if that hurts me in some way.

Nope, he’ll never grow up.

“We won’t grow up!
We will never grow a day
And if someone tries to make us
We will simply run away” ~ Peter Pan


But What Do I Do?

I spent some time on divorce forums after the split, hoping to find a community, mostly to help me work through my anger and hostility toward my ex.  I knew it wasn’t healthy for me to feel this way, and I still had some raw emotions, even though we hadn’t really loved each other in a long, long while.  In those forums, people would inevitably post questions about what to do when…

  • their ex didn’t pay child support
  • their ex didn’t show up for visitation
  • their ex yelled at them on the phone
  • their ex didn’t call enough
  • their ex cancelled plans at the last minute
  • their ex brought the girlfriend to parent-teacher conferences

and so on, and so on…

“But what do I do??” they would plead.

After awhile, even I knew the answer to every single question like this:  “Nothing!”

You do not have control over your ex.  You can’t make him (or her) do (or not do) anything.  The only thing you can control is your reaction to his/her actions. (Notice I didn’t say feelings – you can’t control feelings, and anything you feel is natural – let it be).  The ex doesn’t pay child support?  Find a way to live without it, and keep track.  Find out what your state agency will do for you and when.  Give them a friendly phone call and ask for enforcement.  The ex doesn’t show up for visitation?  Have a back up plan (always), and use it.  The ex yells at you on the phone?  Hang up.  The ex doesn’t call enough?  His/her loss.  (This is a hard one, when you know your child may be hurting.  Help them to know how much they are loved, use a backup plan, and know that in the end, your child will learn valuable lessons from this, and love you even more for being there for them).  The ex cancels plans?  Use your resources to cover childcare if necessary, and use your backup plan.  The ex brought the girlfriend to conferences?  In the whole scheme of things, it probably isn’t that big of a deal.  In any case, it’s out of your control, and as much as it is hard to accept sometimes, worrying about things that are not in your control is a waste of energy.  Save it for the big battles.

That being said, you can cordially express your displeasure with the ex about any of these things.  But don’t expect an appropriate, cordial response.  Document everything, know your rights, and if they are being violated (or your parenting agreement is not being met, etc.), step up and say something.  But always ask yourself if you are really just trying to control the situation.  Trying to control your ex will get you nothing but a headache.

A Pleasant Surprise

Here’s the shocker: The Boy actually went to his dad’s for a whole two weeks, and they had a great time.  And his dad actually spent time with him, rather than working and foisting his son onto his girlfriend or his mother (of course, he’s been laid off, so I’m not sure it was a conscious choice, but it’s something).  They went sledding, bowling, and to an aviation museum, and I think, just maybe, the ex is starting to realize what a neat kid we made together.

I’m not saying he’s a changed man.  The Boy came home with cat scratches covering his hands, and his boots were left behind.  A hearing is about to be scheduled for nonpayment of child support, and the ex is talking about paying for two plane tickets to come and gather The Boy after we move.  (I don’t really see the second half of that sentence happening because of the first part of that sentence).  But I’m hoping that the ex has come to understand how important it is for him to see his son (more than he did in 2012), and I’m hoping he has come to understand that it isn’t up to me to make sure that happens.

As I said, only time will tell.  But it is nice to get a pleasant surprise once in awhile!

The Boy and his dad

Child Support

For the past year or so, the ex has done a fairly good job with keeping up with the meager child support payments he has to make.  Why?  Because as long as he is gainfully employed, they take it right out of his check.  If he had to do anything himself, it probably wouldn’t get done.  I’m not slamming him, that’s just a fact, which he would probably admit to, as well.  Sometimes his employer has taken it upon himself to submit it biweekly instead of weekly.  I’m not sure why he does this, but as long as The Boy gets his support in a timely fashion, it doesn’t really matter to me.

The gainfully employed part of that is the only sticking point.  There are times when the ex “gets laid off” which is code for “gets fired”.  He tends to have a problem with authority, and tends to not hold a job for terribly long.  I think that is what has happened yet again, as it has been longer than two weeks since a payment was made.

Thankfully, I haven’t really had to fight too much for The Boy’s rights.  My state (as I think most states do) works with the state in which the ex lives, and they do a great job of tracking down the people and information they need, and following through with their procedures.  A couple of years ago, the total amount owed got up to about $3000, and my state initiated hearing proceedings.  They notified the ex, who started to panic, and they even went so far as to intimate to him that if he didn’t have all of the money at the hearing, he would be put in jail.  I’m not sure that is entirely true, but good on the (mostly) ladies who work for child services in getting the desired results.

Of course, the ex sees it as “the man” trying to “keep him down” because he’s known a lot of guys who have been “screwed by the system” over the years.  The funniest part of all of this was the moment when the ex realized he actually had to pay more toward his son’s upbringing after the divorce, because I footed so much of the bill when we were married.  Karma.

In any case, if you are going through a divorce, please, PLEASE do not make any agreement to go outside of the system.  I know my state doesn’t even allow it, so it may not even be legal where you are, but beside that, there is no enforcement if you make your own “deal” with your soon-to-be-ex, like my ex desperately wanted me to agree to.  Where would I have been when he owed me $3000?  Out of luck, that’s where.

Also, if you can at all help it, try to get to a point where you do not depend on that support.  It really is another form of control that your ex still has over you.