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LastChanceLarry posted 12/12/2013 08:52 AM

So the time has finally come, the ex and I have mediation tomorrow at the local courthouse. I'm feeling pretty mixed about this, on one hand everything becomes so much more real and permanent and on the other, a real parenting plan will introduce some much needed stability into my life and my son's life as well.

I don't know if she has an agenda but there are a couple things that I'm going to push for. First, I want her in IC. I worry about her coping habits and FOO issues getting passed to my son. Second, I co-signed on her car, I want it gone. Third, I want a better, more static custody schedule. Currently we are 2-2-3 and it just seems like a lot of transitions for my son (who is only 3 and already having trouble at school). Maybe a 3-4 schedule? Full week? Not sure what would work out well vs. what she would agree to.

Any advice from the folks who have moved past this step? Anything I should look out for? Anything you wish you had brought up but didn't think of it at the time? I think the thing I am most nervous about is having to sit in a room with that lying, self-centered bitch for two hours. Seeing her face to face for 10 minutes when we exchange the kid is already too much interaction for me. I'm going to be crawling out of my skin by the time mediation is over.


nutmegkitty posted 12/12/2013 09:23 AM

Good luck Larry. I did not go the mediation route so can't help you there.

chikastuff posted 12/12/2013 10:03 AM

I think the car and custody are no brainers. Definitely bring those up.

Therapy isn't a battle you're going to win unless there are diagnosed mental health/substance abuse/anger issues. To be honest, while we all think our ex's need intensive inpatient therapy (including shock therapy), it's non of our business unless it poses an immediate threat to the health and safety of our children. Instead I would push for therapy for you and your child. The therapist might suggest to your ex that she needs therapy as well, but it's her choice to make and you can't force her to do it. She's not your responsibility or business anymore and demanding she go to IC is going to come off as controlling. So suggest IC for your child to help with the transition and address the issues s/he is having at school. You'll present more as a concerned and loving parent than a controlling STBX spouse.

crumbs posted 12/12/2013 10:05 AM

We both had attorneys for our attempt at mediation so didn't have to be in the room together. It didn't matter--he had already decided he wasn't participating. The mediator came back to me, said, "He's delusional. No point in wasting anymore time." But...

My son is older so the split week works best; he doesn't need to be with his father longer than that without a break. For other families, I've heard many times that the full week with at least one dinner during their "off time" with the other parent works better.

Don't forget holidays, school breaks, child tax credit, medical decisions & costs (dental, braces down the line), moving out of state, who's paying extra activities/sports as he gets older. I included private school tuition & fees. We're "supposed" to do a 70/35% split but he's never reimbursed me for anything. Child care/after school care decisions. Health insurance--who's providing?

Again, down the will you communicate with your son when he's older? I included son must have cell phone access when he's away from either parent. I know it's hard to think 15 years down the road, but the more you can iron out now, the better it will be in the long run.

Good luck!

crumbs posted 12/12/2013 10:09 AM

Oh, and to agree with Chica, there's really no point in bringing up the IC. You can't force another person to do that without just cause--believe me, I would if I could. However, I did get the approval to provide counseling for my son with the provider of my choice. I had to pay for it myself, but it made a huge difference.

7yrsflushed posted 12/12/2013 10:10 AM

Hey Larry, glad to here you are okay. I didn't have to go through mediation. We agreed on most things and had my L draw up the property settlement agreement which included custody, CS, debt spilt, etc. STBXW signed off on it and it was filed with the court.

My 2 cents though, drop the counseling thing. You don't get to control what she does with her free time just as she can't make demands of your time anymore. It would be nice if she would get IC but you can't make her. If you are worried about how it will impact your son then after you establish custody, YOU get your son into counseling. The stability you give him along with the counseling if he needs it will work to counteract her issues.

Definitely get ALL the debt stuff squared away.

As for custody, make sure you get what you want. For me, both my STBXWW and I have 50/50 joint physical and legal custody. Make sure your L guides you because if you don't have legal custody and just visitations then you CAN'T make a decision to put your DS into counseling or other medical decisions, etc. So make sure you get the custody you want and udnerstand what it means. I don't like my STBXWW very much but we do fine when it comes to decisions for the kids and I am okay with that.

Our schedule is alternating weeks with weeks starting and ending on Fridays. Each parent gets weekend time with the kids and weekend time alone. Also the handoffs take place on Friday evenings so the kids get all weekend to adjust to the switch and don't have mid week handoffs causing problems at school.

Good luck at mediation!

[This message edited by 7yrsflushed at 10:13 AM, December 12th (Thursday)]

LastChanceLarry posted 12/12/2013 10:50 AM

Thanks for the tips, gang. I definitely plan on bringing up holiday schedules and things, she has already put up a stink about the schedule for Christmas saying that "it's more important to [her]". I didn't really consider planning 10-15 years ahead, I always figured that things would undoubtably change between now and then and we'd have to come to new agreements anyhow.

As for debt, we weren't married so she isn't legally obligated to help clear up any of the debt that she made under my name. I've kind of resigned myself to paying it off without her help, I mean, she can't even afford her apartment without my CS payment, how could she ever help pay off the credit card?

She doesn't have any insurance, I cover my son through my plan at work. In exchange, she covered the cost of daycare (which is heavily discounted because she works for the same preschool). I was toying with the idea of paying for childcare with pre-tax dollars and having that count as part of CS, figure money is money as far as she is concerned but it would be less of a burden on me.

I'm pretty sure one of the things she will push for is to be able to call whenever she wants in order to talk to DS. I was OK with her calling at first but it got to the point where she would call 2 hours after dropping him off or when DS and I were in the middle of some quality time and I stopped answering her calls. She'd then call back 2-3 more times within the next 20 minutes which only made me not want to answer even more. I've tried explaining that it's a big interruption in my time with my son and I don't call her every day and interrupt HER time with him. It feels like just one more way that she has power over me, she calls and I HAVE to answer or she freaks out.
In fact, the last time she brought it up I told her that things like that are what mediation is for. She had been dragging her feet giving the court a time that would work well for her but after that exchange I got a summons in the mail a week later. Coincidence?

Thanks for the help guys, I'm feeling better about tomorrow already.


chikastuff posted 12/12/2013 11:56 AM

Regarding healthcare and daycare expenses.

Health insurance:
If you're already carrying the child on your insurance then the court will likely assign that to you. You might be able to request a 50/50 split of the premium but you might not get it. Definitely ask for a split of the out of pocket costs (we have 50/50). Our agreement stated that in the event my ex lost his ability to insure our son (i.e., long-term unemployment), I could insure him and he'd be responsible for 50% of the premium.

Daycare: Daycare expenses are temporary in the grand scheme. Some states account for daycare expenses in their calculation of child support. We chose not to, understanding that it's a variable cost and was determined by the price of care at the time of the agreement. What happens if we move our son to a different school? I'd be on the hook for the difference. So we have childcare separate from our CS agreement. And we split that 50/50. You should not be on the hook for 100% of the child care/school costs, though you should be responsible for childcare when the child is with you (for example, evening baby sitter). One thing to note, if your ex chooses to go through the state enforcement agency for your support payments, they cannot collect on these daycare payments if they're made outside of the child-support order. So there is some risk for your ex associated with this route.

Once your child is in school child care costs convert to before/after school care and activity expenses. These should all be laid out in the agreement with an established split. We, again, have a 50/50 split. So you will never totally escape these expenses. You can, however elect to do the pre-tax dependent care account through your employer and get the tax benefit. I believe you can put aside up to $5k/year/child. I get my full 50% contribution back this way and it's nice to get an extra chunk of money each month (even though I get less in my paycheck).

If you go the Dependent care account route you can't deduct childcare from your taxes. Just keep this in mind, they're separate. I don't know if your ex can also do the dependent care account for your child, you'll want to consult with an accountant if it comes up.

The dependent care/pretax dollars question doesn't need to come up in mediation. All you need to discuss is whether you want to split daycare 50/50 outside of CS or include it in the CS.

Good luck!

Nature_Girl posted 12/12/2013 13:48 PM

You don't have to be in the same room. You can request separate rooms.

You have no right to insist she get IC. Drop it. Don't even ask. I totally understand why you want this. If you've ever read any of my posts you know what a deranged, monstrous, perverted bastard I was married to. As far as the courts are concerned, though, he's a loving parent. I can't force him into counseling. And yes, he's fucking up my kids. I can't do a thing about it preventatively. The family court system does not prevent damage.

7yrsflushed posted 12/12/2013 13:55 PM

I was OK with her calling at first but it got to the point where she would call 2 hours after dropping him off or when DS and I were in the middle of some quality time
STBXWW and I agreed on the kids calling the other parent in the AM when they get up and in the evenings before bed time. If the child wants to call at some other time during the day then we let them but none of this calling every 5 minutes stuff by the parents. I admit I used to get pissed in the beginning when she called but I just stopped letting the kids walk around the house with the phone on "speaker". I mellowed otu over time so it doesn't bother me anymore.

That's some good stuff chika wrote about child care. I will just add that if you are using the state forumla to pay for child support make sure you look at what it includes. In my state the child care is included in the calculations for CS but if I pay it myslef it doesn't get added to the CS payment. I was paying it anyway and the benefit is I don't have to go back and petition for my CS to be lowered in a few years when the kids age out of needing childcare. If you aren't actually going through the state to pay child support then get everything in writing in the PSA or settlement agreement. My L then submitted the PSA/agreement to the courts and child services as part of the filing so it's known that an agreement is in place and the amounts. I also keep every pay stub for everything I pay.

STBX and I agreed that misc. expenses would be handled at the percentage determined using the CS calculation so I pay roughly 70% of any expenses and she pays 30%.

[This message edited by 7yrsflushed at 1:57 PM, December 12th (Thursday)]

Nature_Girl posted 12/12/2013 14:00 PM

About phone calls: I finally had to get a legal document done to "force" ex into only calling at a certain time of the day, and also spelling out that if a phone call is missed it doesn't mean I'm withholding the children from him or alienating the children from him. I tried to be reasonable but he insisted on calling whenever it was convenient for him, and he cried to his lawyer if we weren't home when he called.

It is not at all unreasonable to have a phone call schedule. For certain kinds of assholes, it's actually necessary.

LastChanceLarry posted 12/12/2013 15:07 PM

It's nice to know that I'm not the only one dealing with phone call annoyances. I really don't want to seem like I'm withholding my child from his mom but on the same note I need my time with him to not be tainted by her insecurity. I'll see if we can agree on some sort of schedule, that might save my sanity a bit.

I'd like to do some sort of 50/50 split on everything. I mean, we share full legal and physical custody, why not all the expenses? The only problem with this is that there is a HUGE income discrepancy between us, I make 4x-5x what she does (not because I'm loaded, she just hardly earns anything). Asking her to pay half of a summer program or hospital bill (heaven forbid) is probably unrealistic as she is highly dependent on my CS.

I believe you can put aside up to $5k/year/child. I get my full 50% contribution back this way and it's nice to get an extra chunk of money each month (even though I get less in my paycheck).

Is this only if you itemize your deductions? I normally take the standard deduction since I don't have many assets or situations to take advantage of itemizing. I DO plan on claiming my son though, since XWGF doesn't earn enough to even have taxes withheld and she will get it all back (well, maybe 90%) with or without claiming DS. Every year I would do our taxes FOUR times. twice for each of us, once with the kid and once without. We always ended up getting more back when I claimed him.
My dad is a CPA so this is probably something he and I should talk about over a beer one night.


[This message edited by LastChanceLarry at 7:46 AM, December 13th (Friday)]

7yrsflushed posted 12/12/2013 15:20 PM

I DO plan on claiming my son though, since XWGF doesn't earn enough to even have taxes withheld and she will get it all back (well, maybe 90%) with or without claiming DS.
^^^Make sure you get this ironed out in the agreement. I have 2 children so we both claim one child and when the oldest ages out we alternate years claiming our youngest child until she ages out. Whatever you choose to do get it in writing so there is no question about it. Last thing you want is the tax man knocking on your door but if he does at least you have the agreement in writing with her signature on it.

devistatedmom posted 12/12/2013 20:43 PM

Check with your lawyer about the debt too. So what if you weren't married? If you lived together, and your state recognizes common law, the debt could be/should be split 50/50 also. Not your problem if she can't afford it. I know it is on your cards, so you have to pay even if she doesn't give it to you, but I wouldn't just assume you have to take all her debt.

homewrecked2011 posted 12/12/2013 20:56 PM

I can't remember if I sent you this guide or not:

It's standard in SC, but your state is probably different, but it gives you an idea of what's ahead.

I also go first right of refusal === if he's working and I'm home, I get our children.

Definately try to claim your child -- at least every other year.

What you and I did not understand until recently is that she will FIGHT to claim your child on taxes..Why? There is something called the Earned Income Credit. If she doesn't make very much $$, she will actually get 1-5 THOUSAND dollars in a tax CREDIT if she has a child. This idea was born in the 1980's to get people off of welfare and to work... Instead of paying people to stay home,,, they govt now pays them to go to work at low paying jobs....For instance, last year I make aoub 20,000. 00. My total tax bill was 0, but I got a refund of $2,800. I would have gotten another 2,000 if I had paid for child care (they give that $$ back to you, too.) Just a head's up.

What works for us is every other weekend, and every wednesday night they go to their dads.

Be sure to ask for Halloween as a shared night or rotate, otherwise you'll never get to take your child trick or treating.

LastChanceLarry posted 12/13/2013 08:18 AM

Thanks for the link, Home, though it doesn't really apply for me. NH has a default 50/50 split unless you can prove that one parent isn't fit to have the kid that often. CS is also based largely on salary discrepancy rather than actual time spent with the child (ie. CS is the same if I have him 20% of the time or 70%).

About EIC - that was the main reason I did our taxes 4 times every year, she would get a good chunk of money from EIC which made it very attractive for her to claim DS, however, even though I never qualified for EIC, our total return was always bigger if I claimed him (maybe 20% more). I understand that there is no more "us", even for tax purposes, so i'll prepare myself to defend claiming DS on my tax return. Though honestly, I don't think she's bright enough to bring it up without my saying anything.

I had heard about right of first refusal before. Definitely something I plan on asking for. Anything else like that I should know about? I'm going to be moving in with some friends in the next town over and I'm going to want to have my address as DS physical address since the new town would be a MUCH better school district. I know moving to a new town would complicate things if my son were in school so I'm going to try to get her to agree to it now before it ever becomes an issue.


chikastuff posted 12/13/2013 14:11 PM

I understand she doesn't make a lot now. But you don't know what her earning potential or income situation will be in the future. If you have 50/50 then go for 50/50. Seriously, don't shoot yourself in the foot due to a potentially temporary situation. I know that sounds heartless but there will be plenty of opportunities to support your kids over and above the agreed upon amounts. What happens if YOU lose your job and can't afford to cover what you agreed to? I'd rather take the debt and do 50/50 for everything kid related.

Also, I believe MA has a default 50/50, but I have primary custody and we split legal 50/50. You wont get what you don't ask for. So if you're happy with 50/50 then great, but if you want more then there's no harm in asking for more. She might ask for more than 50/50 so be prepared for it...

HurtsButImOK posted 12/13/2013 14:13 PM

Hope the mediation went well Larry

nowiknow23 posted 12/13/2013 15:42 PM

Hope everything went smoothly for you, Larry.

homewrecked2011 posted 12/13/2013 22:43 PM

Hope today went well for you, Larry

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