I spent the rest of the Friday after E’s CMS bombshell, in shock. I knew I should be calling the CMS again to find out more about why E had applied for a financial variation, I knew needed to call the Secured Loan Company about the fact that he’d defaulted on the loan (handily a second letter informing me about the default was in the post that same day), I knew needed to speak to everyone that I pay bills to to see if there was anything I could do to avoid arrears or at least mitigate them, I knew needed to look at my accounts and work out how long I could survive without E paying any child maintenance at all for up to six months. But, all I could do was sit there. I was literally frozen.
I don’t remember anything about the Friday afternoon at all – I know I made tea for the kids, I know I washed up (Oldest Son’s aversion to the dishes appears to be catching), I poured a glass of wine, but I couldn’t drink it. I think I did everything I would usually do on a Friday evening, but all I remember is the worry about what happens next and the bewilderment and hurt I felt that someone could deliberately do this to me, and – much, much worse – deliberately do this to their children.
I think I got about two hours sleep that night, but I woke up on the Saturday, determined to start sorting things out. That was, until I got out of bed. I stood up and the world literally span. At first I thought I’d just stood up too quickly, but after an hour or so, I realised that I wasn’t very well. It felt like I was walking on a boat, I felt dizzy, I felt sick and I had a killer headache. On top of that, everything was making me feel exhausted – even walking up the stairs made my legs feel like jelly, and left me needing to catch my breath. It was pathetic and really frustrating, I had things to do, but my body was not letting me do them.
I know it was my body’s way of making me rest. Since the day before, the anxiety I’d been struggling with was off the scale (amusingly my fit-bit heart monitor, was showing several peaks of heart-rate of over 120 bpm whilst I was lying down – “Oooh, fat burn!” said Oldest Daughter wisely, “welcome to the E Diet“), and I knew I needed to take it easy. The problem was, being confined to the sofa like a Victorian Faint-y Lady, was all very well, but physically resting wasn’t stopping my mind going into overdrive.
In the end, I compromised and brought the files I needed into the living room and made all the calls I had to make whilst lying prone on the sofa (I was quite the picture – Star Trek TNG on Netflix, me in slipper boots and PJs and buried under a duvet, a couple of cats, a massive bills file and shed loads of paper, whilst I tried to make notes and try to sound in control of my life).
My first call was to the Secured Loan Company. I’d already spoken to them earlier in the month (when I got the first default notice) so this one was relatively straightforward. I went through my finances in detail with them and made a token payment of £100 to try and protect my credit record whilst we waited to see what E would say to them when they called him (and what he would do in March). I then called around all the companies to whom I pay bills. They were all very understanding, but not one of them could do anything, until I defaulted on payments and went into arrears.
I then called the CMS.
I suspect this might be the beginning of a long and problematic relationship.
I spoke to a man (who sounded about 16), who told me that I would shortly be getting a letter regarding E’s claim, he then informed me that E had applied for a special financial variation on the basis that he was ‘paying the mortgage’ (to clarify I’m paying the main £1,700 part of the mortgage from my account. He was paying the £775 secured loan from his. Ironically, the £775 is the payment he’d just defaulted on).
I asked how he’d been able to do this, as on their website (here: child maintenance website), it clearly states that a paying parent can only apply for a financial variation based on a mortgage if they “have no legal or ‘equitable’ interest in it“. Now, the last time I checked, E very much had a legal and equitable in the property he’s paying the mortgage towards (that would be why he’s putting me under so much pressure to sell the bloody thing). He then, rather patronisingly, replied “a mortgage is like a joint car loan, if you’re using it but he’s paying for it then he can claim“, I pointed out that his own website specifically differentiated a car loan (defining it as a ‘debt from the relationship’) from a mortgage in which the paying parent has a financial interest. To which he seemed confused (“which website?“) and insisted that a mortgage in which E had an equitable interest in was exactly the same as a car loan. At this point, I realised that either the rules had changed (and the website needed updating) and now a joint mortgage was considered the same as a joint car loan, or the person I was talking to didn’t know his arse from his elbow, either way, I was getting nowhere.
I realised I was onto a loser and gave up trying to ascertain how E could claim against the mortgage, when the website specifically said he couldn’t, and instead asked, how, if it would take them three to six months to investigate, was I supposed to survive for this time without any child maintenance? I could almost hear his disinterested shrug. He told me that E was supposed to keep paying child maintenance, at the level they’d originally requested, whilst they investigated his claim, and then if they agreed with his claim, they’d reduce his payments. I pointed out that E wasn’t paying anything (and that he’d defaulted on the mortgage he said he was paying), and I just got another “He’s supposed to keep paying“. I said “but, he’s not, and frankly, I’m going to struggle to feed my kids, let alone pay my bills, if I get no maintenance, what am I supposed to do?“, at this point, probably to get rid of me, he said he’d ‘contact E’ and remind him that he’s supposed to keep paying whilst they investigate the claim. I’m not holding my breath.
It’s now eleven days since the initial call from the CMS and I still haven’t received a letter from them regarding E’s claim to respond to. It’s also eleven days since my solicitor wrote to E to ask how he’d like to proceed and he hasn’t responded. I’ve also sent three emails to E over the last two weeks, none of which have received a reply. It’s now March, and no payment has appeared in my account from E – making it four months out of five where he has literally left me penniless.
I feel like I should be doing more. I feel like I should be sorting something out. I feel like I should be being proactive. But in some ways I’m still as frozen as I was that Friday afternoon. I’m not sure what E expects me to do or how he expects me to look after our children with no money to feed them. I can’t even ask him face to face (I’d steeled myself to try and talk to him when he saw the boys yesterday, but he sent a cab to collect them and take them to the station to meet him, and then sent them home on their own in a cab again – it’s almost like he doesn’t dare face me). I’m faced with a wall of silence and all my attempts to break through have been ignored. For the first time since E left, I’m not sure what to do next.