Author Topic: Stepchildren  (Read 5917 times)

The Resilent Dame

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Stepchildren
« on: April 25, 2015, 02:15:36 PM »
I feel like such an evil stepmother sometimes, but usually keep things to myself as best as I can. But my blood pressure definitely boils. Hence, my vent today.

I have two stepdaughters who are 17 and 14. I've been in their lives since they were 3 and 6. They live in our neighborhood. Custody isn't very formal and their mother generally has not been great at enforcing the days they are supposed to stay at our home. My husband hasn't pushed it because it has kept the lawyers out of it for the most part.

The complication arises because when my husband and his ex-wife were divorcing, she had a very high paying job ($200k+ per year) in medical sales. She's kept this job until recently (another story). My husband was just starting his business and not bringing a lot in. She, at the time, was having an affair and her head was high in the sky and all she cared about was that my husband not go after her for alimony or child support. So he never was assigned to pay child support.

Through the years, he has paid for 1/2 of many of their things, takes them grocery shopping, etc. Ex wife stuffs piles of bills in our mailbox.

Recently, she has lost her job. Rumor has it she's cashed out a chunk of her 401k. In the meantime, my husband is expected to pay many of the following:
-1/2 of 8th grade graduation dress. When husband asked for there to be a budget for this, ex-wife texted "You don't understand how much these things cost. It won't be $250 but it will have to be $125+."
-Their endless trips to the doctor for "back aches," chiropractor appointments, physical therapy, etc.
-Personal trainer expenses (in the hundreds of dollars). Both girls are slightly overweight but athletic, and the ex wife INSISTS this is necessary. Despite the pantry full of junk food.
-Expensive haircuts & highlights
-Eyebrow and mustache waxing
-Endless trips to the mall for clothes & shoes
-Endless $20-$40 cash here and there for them to spend on sports concession stand food, other teenage expenses like this.
-Bought the 16 year old a car and fills the car up with gas as she asks. Kind of a trap because he isn't available to take her to sports practices, etc.
-Expensive daily contacts from the expensive eye place because she wouldn't dare go to Wal-Mart or the other cheaper options for eye exams.
-Alterations on the prom dress (dress was over $500, which mom paid for because she knew better than to ask)
-Hair & makeup for prom
And on and on. They basically only call when they need cash. Mom fully supports this behavior and is constantly complaining how my husband hardly pays for anything.

Stepdaughter had a job for over a year but recently quit because she is in sports and in some difficult AP classes and didn't have time to work.

I'm not exactly looking for advice because my husband really has no say in any of this unless he wants to lawyer up. In the meantime, we have separate accounts. We have a 5 year old and spend next to nothing on him.

Ex wife had this high paying job for years and has virtually nothing to show for it. Just before the divorce about 12 years ago, they had refinanced to a 15 year mortgage. Now the mortgage is a 30 year and almost more than before.

Now that ex wife lost her job, we haven't gotten served or anything yet but are nervously thinking she has some sort of plan brewing. It is sort of complicated because my husband and I own some businesses together, and he has some ownership in a business that I manage 100%, and I'm afraid she may go after that income.

Can anyone else relate?

Argyle

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Re: Stepchildren
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2015, 02:45:11 PM »
This is the down side of not having a legally drawn up agreement.  I think it's time to get one.

The Resilent Dame

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Re: Stepchildren
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2015, 02:58:12 PM »
The problem is that our income situation is pretty complicated and revising the agreement (they have one which they don't follow) would cost thousands of dollars. And he may not end up much ahead.

The bigger problem is that he has no say in the expenses. An agreement won't change that unfortunate situation. These girls are doomed from their mother's influence. :(

Kris

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Re: Stepchildren
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2015, 04:05:34 PM »
Oh, man. I can relate. Not so much to your specific situation, but as a stepmom, I can completely relate to the ex-wife feeling as though she is the one who dictates what is and is not a legitimate expense, and the father having very little power to refuse without a court battle.

Thankfully, my skids are grown now (22 and 21) but yeah... One of the hardest things about marrying someone with kids from a previous relationship is the lack of control over financial issues. 

Emilyngh

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Re: Stepchildren
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2015, 05:37:36 PM »

The bigger problem is that he has no say in the expenses. An agreement won't change that unfortunate situation. These girls are doomed from their mother's influence. :(

I don't understand this.

I have been a stepmother to a now 18 and 24 yr old for 13 years and have spent a great deal of time with others in similar situations.   I don't understand how an agreement won't change his "say" regarding expenses.   The typical court order sets a set amount of child support based on the income of each parent (or potential income if one is unemployed), possibly the amount of time the kids spend with each parent (depending on the state), a split of medical expenses, and possibly a split of education expenses.   It is not the norm for one parent to be legally required to reimburse the other for 1/2 of any random expenses they choose to rack up.   I would be very surprised if you wound up with an agreement that would leave him with no say regarding which expense he'd reimburse (outside of medical).

I know you said that you have an agreement and that it isn't followed.   But, IMO, if there's any chance of having to go back to court, what's key is to start following this agreement.   If he isn't required to pay CS, what is he required to pay through the agreement?   

Being in a divorce situation can be tough.   My stepkids have had far more spent on them by us than our daughter, and it's much harder to say "no" in such a situation, especially when their other parent is saying "yes."   

But, I really don't understand why your husband is paying half of ridiculous expenses, unless he's doing it because he's afraid he must do whatever she says so that she won't take him to court?   If so, (a) In the end, this might not be effective anyway in that he may pay for ridiculous things and she may take him to court anyway, and (b) If he's not paying what he'd be legally liable to based on standard state child support calculations then perhaps he should really be paying child support now that her income is not so high.   It might be painful to shell out regular child support, but perhaps at least expenses would be regular and less annoying mentally than bills for waxing.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2015, 04:39:10 AM by Emilyngh »

MrsPete

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Re: Stepchildren
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2015, 06:06:00 PM »
As the mother of teens, I have a couple thoughts:

- Teens are expensive, even if you've set reasonable expectations.  If you don't have a handle on your spending by the time your kids are teens, you're not likely to improve things during those years. 

- College is coming up soon (and senior year is more expensive than you're expecting).  It would be very wise to go ahead and plan a sit-down and discuss just what each party is willing /able to pay.  You need to talk about application fees ($40-70 per school), SAT ($55), school visits, downpayments to be paid when the girls "accept" their school.  Decide what schools you'll support (for example, we said up front we would pay for a state school for four years -- if they wanted private or out-of-state, they had to figure out the difference).  Discuss living arrangements and cars on campus.  Discuss what you expect the girls to cover, whether you expect them to work during the school year, and anything else you can think of.  If you're already having problems with agreeing on money, don't assume these things'll just work out. 

- He needs to say no to some things.  I guarantee you the majority of the girls at graduation will be wearing new dresses, but they won't cost $100+  Quite a few of our high school athletes DO have personal trainers, but the majority do not.  He just needs to say no. 

- None of this is surprising.  If he couldn't live with her, why would he expect to be able to work together with her now? 


Argyle

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Re: Stepchildren
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2015, 06:20:01 PM »
Yes, I don't understand why an agreement would mean that he wouldn't have a say in expenses.  The court will specify a monthly payment based on his income, and that's what he'll pay, full stop.  None of this dickering about dresses.

I recently got my own agreement amended and it cost $700. 

It sounds to me as if your husband's reluctance to set boundaries, coupled with the ex's tendency to overrun boundaries, was probably a problem in their marriage, and of course remains a problem.  Legal agreements are put in place precisely to avoid this kind of problem.  If he doesn't want a legal agreement, it's just further evidence of his reluctance to set boundaries.

SailAway

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Re: Stepchildren
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2015, 06:25:47 PM »
Evil stepmom checking in here.

I can relate. He needs to practice saying no. Are you in a state where child support would terminate at 18? If so, her legal time clock is running out anyway. I have maaaaany more years to go and my hubby pays a large sum of child support so I am sympathetic but envious. ;)

If I were you (or him) I would casually (or not so casually) start keeping track of what your husband is asked for, what he provides, and when he attempts to see the kids. I'd dig out the agreement, old and unenforced as it might be, and have a look at it, also.

The Resilent Dame

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Re: Stepchildren
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2015, 08:57:17 PM »
Yes, I don't understand why an agreement would mean that he wouldn't have a say in expenses.  The court will specify a monthly payment based on his income, and that's what he'll pay, full stop.  None of this dickering about dresses.

I recently got my own agreement amended and it cost $700. 

It sounds to me as if your husband's reluctance to set boundaries, coupled with the ex's tendency to overrun boundaries, was probably a problem in their marriage, and of course remains a problem.  Legal agreements are put in place precisely to avoid this kind of problem.  If he doesn't want a legal agreement, it's just further evidence of his reluctance to set boundaries.

It definitely wouldn't cost $700 to create a new agreement.  We have a few businesses and properties with a mix of ownership between my husband and i. Teasing out his income is more complicated than just wage income, and subject to legal wrangling. 

Yes, he's doing it to avoid the legal fight and cost. He has started writing everything down.

For college he has saved a chunk for 1 of the girls as was outlined in their agreement. I know the battle and emotional blackmail will continue even beyond his legal responsibility due to the lifestyle that the girls have come to expect.

Argyle

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Re: Stepchildren
« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2015, 09:14:53 PM »
His income should be discoverable from his tax return.  But if you think it will be cheaper to go this route, then that's what you've decided.

Zamboni

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Re: Stepchildren
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2015, 08:58:33 PM »
Quote
It is not the norm for one parent to be legally required to reimburse the other for 1/2 of any random expenses they choose to rack up.   

This!

There are massive boundary issues here and it sounds like they've been continuing for years.  He needs to seek advice from a counselor (psychologist) about effective techniques for setting boundaries with his ex.  I'm sure many counselors have seen this before.

It's fine for him to pay for dresses and grooming and sports. But only if he agrees to pay before the expense and then pays; not after the fact when someone shoves a bill in his mailbox. It sounds like his daughters got used to a pretty lavish lifestyle when their mom was making the big bucks, but they need to understand that her job loss means changes to that lifestyle.

If I was him, I would tell directly her I can't reimburse random expenses anymore and just let her come after me for child support. I'd also keep a pretty careful log of how the custody agreement was not being followed if my time with the children was being shorted. I wouldn't reimburse her for half of anything other than medical and school expenses as stipulated in our agreement.  A personal trainer is not a medical expense. If a child asked me directly for something like a dress, then we could discuss whether or not I can pay for that at this time and what is a reasonable budget (and I would just pay for the whole dress). His daughters are old enough that these discussion about spending his money on things like their clothes should be directly with them, not with his ex. If they are not seeing him enough to do that, then that is a huge problem that needs to be addressed and that should be the first priority.

It's only going to get worse with college, as an earlier poster pointed out.

It must be very frustrating for you, but try to remove yourself the fray as much as you can.

Pigeon

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Re: Stepchildren
« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2015, 07:02:57 AM »
I think your husband is dealing with this in a very irrational way. 

That said, if I were you, I'd try to plug my ears and back away.  It's really between him, his ex-wife and his kids.  You are wise to keep separate finances in this situation.

Candace

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Re: Stepchildren
« Reply #12 on: April 28, 2015, 07:31:56 AM »
One tactic he might try is to give their mom a choice. He can put money in a fund every month for the 14 year old's college, or the money can go for manicures and waxing and personal trainers now. Would the mom make the right choice?

Also, in order to get some predictability and rules set to this situation you may have to bite the bullet and get things sorted out by a lawyer and/or accountant. It might be worth it to prevent the stress you'll otherwise deal with for the next eight or ten years before they graduate college.

tarheeldan

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Re: Stepchildren
« Reply #13 on: April 28, 2015, 07:51:16 AM »
...she had a very high paying job ($200k+ per year) in medical sales....She, at the time, was having an affair...

Lawyers were very likely to have been, and may well still be a good idea.

CheapskateWife

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Re: Stepchildren
« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2015, 01:46:12 PM »
Another evil step mother chiming in here...

I suggest that he offer to ammend their arrangement to him paying a flat amount of CS per month.  It will give predictability to the primary parent, and there won't be more of this constant demands for 1/2 payments.  How you have managed to not go insane with all this is beyond me.  I also suggest immediately suspending the 1/2 reimbursements.  Thats just crap!

So most states have codes and formulas that dictate what child support should be.  Run the numbers and make an offer.

We have an ugly ex too, and when DH was promoted, we chose to up the amount of CS rather than go through the whole process of being served, lawyers, new agreements, etc.  He just called her up, said he was being promoted and was prepared to increase the CS accordingly.  She was remarkably THANKFUL for that and the measly amount of increase has bought us 3 years without legal fees, much less drama, and no more accusations of "your daddy doesn't do enough".  Hallelujah!

jba302

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Re: Stepchildren
« Reply #15 on: May 04, 2015, 02:15:00 PM »
As a stepfather, I would say you missed your chance by a long shot to go the easy route with a formal contract. Screw it, offer to go to court. It will be cheaper than the dithering around you are doing now. The older one is virtually out of the picture anyway, so you're looking at less than 4 years of court-mandated responsibility for your worst case. Get some reasonable figures together and make an offer. This type of stuff can be very easy given that the financials are severed already.

We dealt with this shit a little with my kid's dad, who is a nice guy overall but financially a complete idiot (money = love type of person). He tried to get us to pay into his family flex plan in order to buy a smart phone for our 13 year old. We offered $4 / month, half of what our phones cost on ptel. He went nuts and we countered by offering to buy a phone and cover one child ourself and he can handle the other. Lo and behold he already bought the phone and upped his plan, we never heard from him again on it.

Dee18

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Re: Stepchildren
« Reply #16 on: May 04, 2015, 02:36:00 PM »
To me, the sad part is, "They live in our neighborhood. Custody isn't very formal and their mother generally has not been great at enforcing the days they are supposed to stay at our home. My husband hasn't pushed it because it has kept the lawyers out of it for the most part."

Is your husband paying for these ridiculous items because he feels bad that he is not doing his share of child care?  I have a friend I dearly love, but he is doing exactly that.  It is not solely his ex-wife's responsibility to make sure the agreement is followed.  Also, if the girls spend more time with you and your husband and see how you spend your money, they will understand when he declines to pay for an extravagance. 

CommonCents

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Re: Stepchildren
« Reply #17 on: May 04, 2015, 02:48:12 PM »
To me, the sad part is, "They live in our neighborhood. Custody isn't very formal and their mother generally has not been great at enforcing the days they are supposed to stay at our home. My husband hasn't pushed it because it has kept the lawyers out of it for the most part."

Is your husband paying for these ridiculous items because he feels bad that he is not doing his share of child care?  I have a friend I dearly love, but he is doing exactly that.  It is not solely his ex-wife's responsibility to make sure the agreement is followed.  Also, if the girls spend more time with you and your husband and see how you spend your money, they will understand when he declines to pay for an extravagance.

+1

And you may find out that he's been paying for more than CS guidelines would suggest, when you add it all up.