The Day in Court

Wordsworth wrote that poetry is “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” Been waiting for tranquility in order to write eloquently about the day in court, but it’s not forthcoming.

Long story short, the cougar ex-wife showed up with a sack and ashes routine. No highlights, hair cut shorter, thick black glasses and a sweater over a dress like a church lady. This is the same woman whose been comporting herself more like a cross between Marilyn Monroe and Laura Croft for the last four years.

We waited two years, almost to the day, for our day in court after she sued us for full custody of the children (with supervised visitation only), more child support (which was $2000 at the time) and more alimony ($2000) the same week we got married. In the lawsuit, she argued that she had become accustomed to luxury items and deserves to keep enjoying them. She called me an agnostic and a paramour, just for kicks; it had no bearing on what she was suing for. Just because.

We spent two of our four allotted hours for the hearing with our attorneys scurrying between rooms negotiating what had long since been put to bed, custody. This had been settled at the temporary hearing, but the order was nowhere to be found. (When it miracolously showed up right before we left the courtroom, it had an inaccurate hand-scribbled note on it with an inaccurate directive; you’ll never convince me that something shady if not illegal transpired here.) Finally, the witnesses she had called were sent home, we refused to force the oldest child back to her house but agreed–as we always had–that she could return to her mother’s at any time. This way, the ex still gets child-support for the 16 year old, which is what she cares about most, even though she has lived with us full time since January. The ex even told the oldest this, that if she doesn’t move back in with her, she might end up owing us child-support, which in fact should be the case. But if we had wrangled with her on this point, we never would have had a hearing. Two more years of child-support we should not be paying. . .

Finally, the case was heard. The ex testified in a mousey voice (the woman can yell across a field with a boom that will knock you over) that she had to buy a second house to be closer to the kids’ school and that it needs so much work. Mind you, she still owns the other house. No one cared. Ironically, we looked at the second house a year earlier when house-shopping and rejected it because its state of disrepair would cost tens of thousands of dollars to rectify. She explained she is just a teacher and he’s an attorney. That he’s the kind of man who would plan the appearance of his own financial demise, because he’s that smart. Mind you, she sounds more like a middle-schooler when she talks; she doesn’t use words like “demise,” but moving on. . . In fact, she had found, she testified, just last week on the internet that he earns between 1 and 5 million dollars a year. No one flinched. She never was treated like anything but a perfectly sane individual. She said she simply cannot live on less than $4,000 a month from him. She makes at least $46,000 a year at her job.

My husband testified to the decline in his business, explained the reasons, explained what he had been doing since to make ends meet during a year-long job search.

We went home without a judgment (thus my previously muddled post).

The next day we got it. Child-support went up to $560. Impossible and crushing. It’s a calculation. How can it go up?! Alimony went down only $350 a month. A $7000 monthly income was imputed to my husband–in other words, the judge says he is capable of earning $7000 a month and can pay her $1650 in alimony. Never mind he is making nowhere near that, that that is a higher percentage of his income, even if he were making $7000, than when he got divorced.

I freaked out. . . over and over again. . . for quite a while. . .

The child-support turned out to be a mistake. We pay $184 a month in child-support. The judge had figured the child-support without including the $1650 in alimony a month into her income. Really?!!!

A month later, I am devastated. Did we really wait two years for that? Did we really fight fair for that?

Do judges really have full discretion, no guidelines, every judge a spin on the wheel of fortune that’s your financial stability?

Why in the hell would income be imputed to a man just because he has a degree and is a man? How can it be that she bears no responsibility for her own economic welfare? I really thought that alimony set at around $1000 was a realistic but still unsatisfactory goal. And the best part is, even though she sued us, and even though she sued for more alimony and is getting less, sued for more child-support and is getting less, sued for more custody and has less, the judge ordered us to pay $3000 of her attorney’s fees. Excuse me, that’s not how it works. If you sue and lose, you don’t get attorney’s fees. Otherwise, people would sue each other all day long at the drop of a hat.

I cannot live with this. I will not live with this result. I will not.

So, after we follow a few channels still open to us in response (with at best a marginally better result if we are lucky), there’s nothing else to do for the moment. How will we pay for college for 3 kids when we have to pay her $1650 a month until she keels over? This isn’t Game of Thrones, so that option is out. . .

So, the broomstick becomes a pen. I’ve joined the South Carolina Alimony Reform Movement to end permanent alimony in SC, and I will fight this with all I’ve got between now and the time the youngest two go to college. It’ll be in the open and on the offensive. There will be t-shirts and bumper stickers, conversations with anyone who will listen, letters to politicians, letters to the editor, more social media.

If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them. If you know someone who is paying permanent alimony in SC, send them my way. Laws have changed successfully in other states, in part due to a push from so-called Second Wives Clubs. If you have any connections that may be able to help, let me know. As one member put it, if we do nothing, we know nothing will change. This is very true.

But more than that, it is just wrong.

Why in the hell doesn’t someone tell a fully grown, fully capable 42 year old woman with a full time job earning $46,000 in our humble state to sell one of her houses and take care of herself? Why doesn’t that state bud out of my husband’s divorce and his finances? Why aren’t the almost half million he paid, the house he quit-claimed, and the car he paid for enough? That is one hell of a rehabilitative alimony.

Permanent alimony is economic servitude, and it is wrong. Second wives should not pay the alimony of the ex-wife, and hard-working professionals should not be in debt to their parents in order to fend off a lawsuit and to pay the alimony of a foolish, fully grown adult. Why should I teach this summer, when she does not, so we can hand what I earn over to her? There’s a lot of work to be done.

~Wanda

 

 

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