I’m pleased to report that E has now paid the January installment of Child Maintenance that the Child Maintenance Service asked him for.
He’s still not paying anything towards his share of the mortgage, or any maintenance at all for the girls (I receive child benefit for the boys, so the CMS can only arrange maintenance for them). He’s also not paid any arrears for November and December and he’s not responding to any emails (from me, my solicitor, my dad, or his parents), so it looks like I’ll have no choice but to go down the legal route to arrange everything else.
In one way, E’s strategy of withholding money has worked beautifully. Whilst it didn’t work for him (at least not in terms of forcing me to sell the house, I’m sure it freed up lots of Christmas cash for him and P), it brought home to me quite powerfully just how financially dependent I am upon him and has made me determined to try and lessen that and protect myself and the children. As November turned into December and it began to dawn on me that E really was leaving the kids and I utterly in the lurch, I also finally began to understand that that I could never rely on E for anything, and that what little trust I had left in him was misplaced.
I looked back over the last year or so and realised that this had been on the horizon for a long time. I’d been gradually running up debt because of essential things (like maintaining the house, helping Oldest Daughter at Uni and buying clothes etc for myself and the others), on the assumption that E would eventually help me. I’d written to him, several times, over the year, explaining that the money he was sending me only covered the mortgage and the household bills, and that it didn’t cover any of our food costs or personal costs. My salary (which is less than 15% of his), barely covered these, and I was being forced to gradually build up a credit card balance to just cover the extras (things like broken shower pumps, or new school shoes) that seemed to come up every month. His eventual response (after ‘not responding’ to endless emails) was to tell me he was already ‘handing me’ the equivalent of a very generous salary and to imply that the extra money I was asking for was completely unreasonable (as if these extra expenses had never happened when he lived with us).
Even then though, as I wasn’t asking for anything for me, I was just asking for money for our kids and our house, I still believed he’d do the decent thing. As a result, I’d accepted that, in the short term, I’d have to build up a little debt. So I’d put together a long term financial plan, but, in the meantime, if the kids needed school uniform, or shoes, or money for school trips, I put them on my credit card, or used my overdraft, whilst waiting for E to help with the essentials.
By October this year, I had a loan and a small credit card balance, but I also had a carefully constructed budget and a plan for clearing all my debt within a couple of years, as well as a savings account, so I wasn’t too worried. Of course, that budget was utterly dependent upon E continuing to pay me what he’d agreed to pay when he left.
Inevitably, E’s withholding the money in November and December scuppered that plan and sent me spiraling deeply into debt, but it also represented another ‘last’ in our relationship. It finally saw the end of any trust that I had left in him. I’m not sure why, but it had never occurred to me that E wouldn’t support his children and I and this latest action saw the last shred of belief that I had in him stripped away. I hadn’t even realised that I still had it until it was lost, but losing that last bit of faith, that last piece of our relationship, hurt me all over again. Whilst I’d been hurt, sad, angry and even contemptuous before, I now began to feel a dark, crawling loathing, for him. I know this is understandable (and probably a little late – I think my family, and most of my friends, have felt this way about him for a couple of years now), but I found it, still find it, difficult to realise that I feel such deep dislike for someone I once loved.
In the end, despite the financial stress, I managed Christmas, and the kids and I had lovely time. We had presents and a lovely lunch and played Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit (Youngest Son is wickedly good at this, don’t ever play against him). There was a life sized David Tennant cut out and a 1,000 piece Christmas jigsaw that took us until the very end of 2018 to complete. We saw family and friends and celebrated my Dad’s birthday on the 30th. The girls also had two New Year’s gatherings at the house – meaning that we went into 2019 with loud songs and even louder laughter. In the end, despite the heart-racing anxiety I’d struggled with leading up to it, Christmas was everything it should be – it was full of love and family and friends (and rather too much wine).
Sadly, E didn’t see the kids at all in December (or most of November) and he didn’t provide a penny for their Christmas. He didn’t even call them to wish them a Merry Christmas (they got a text each). They didn’t say much, but I know that it hurt all of them, and I’m so proud of the way they dealt with it and the fact that they made Christmas so special for me.
The thing is that, far from scaring me, E’s actions have made me more determined than ever not to be bullied financially by him. As a result, I now have a new financial plan and I know I can manage until we come to an arrangement that protects the kids and I.
If my final loss of trust in E was painful, it was also essential. The loss of any belief in his sense of decency means that I’m now dealing with a stranger. It’s removed any emotion (or guilt) I might have felt when dealing with him which I hope can only make things easier for me in 2019.