For the past week, whenever I’ve been in my car, I’ve listened repeatedly to David Bowie’s Greatest Hits CD, but particularly to Space Oddity, a song about an astronaut who steps out of his space ship, loses his connection to Ground Control, aka reality, and floats into who knows where.
I couldn’t figure out why I was so stuck on this song, as I’ve never been a huge Bowie fan — until yesterday.
Yesterday I gave my request for Prince’s Income and Expense Declaration, along with a proof of service form, to a friend who, per legal protocol, will mail the forms to Prince for me.
Sending this form to Prince is the equivalent of me stepping through the door of my space capsule into the vast unknown.
I could discover that he has more financial exposure than I think, which could result in child support coming my way.
I could discover that his finances are now inextricably tangled with his family’s trust and he could legally say he has no money of his own.
I could discover that he would be willing to launch another custody battle, this time dragging Franny into the muck, all to keep from giving me a penny.
Whatever the case, without child support, or a contribution to the rent that keeps the kids in a safe neighborhood within walking distance of friends, once my savings run out, I will be floating into a reality around which I can’t yet wrap my mind.
* * *
Eleven years ago, when Prince realized there was no way to save our marriage, he snapped. Literally overnight, he transformed from a spoiled rich kid with occasional flashes of nastiness into a raging maniac.
I remember shaking at the top of the stairs in our old house that day, staring at the collage of black-and-white photos Prince had taken of the kids and me.
My favorite photo was one of me looking rather radiant, if I do say so, sitting cross-legged on the lawn, a 3-month-old Franny on my lap, and a grinning, 5-year-old Luca draped over my shoulder.
I stared at the photo and felt the life I had known slipping away. Luca was already falling apart. I had embarked on what would be a solid year of barely eating or sleeping. And Franny would never remember when her family was a family.
My life was morphing into something I couldn’t imagine, and couldn’t control. And there was no turning back.
* * *
I have become accustomed to post-divorce blitzkriegs over the past eleven years. Things that knocked me to my knees — cyberbullying, threats, parental alienation, afinancially devastating custody battle — also taught me to get back up.
So I suppose I will get back up once my savings run out and I have to make a tough decision. Do I move to a studio apartment, sleep on the floor with my kids and feed them Top Ramen for dinner? Or do I send them to live with their affluent dad and end up paying him child support?
Without delving into legal details, I recently told Franny that money was tight and we might need to move into a smaller place. I asked her how she would feel about sharing a room with Luca (Prince’s suggestion, which I find wildly inappropriate).
She burst into tears: “I don’t wanna share a room with Luca! Please don’t make me!”
She went on to tell me how how much she loved being able to step out our back door and visit friends who live around the quad. She told me she didn’t want to move at all, even to a smaller apartment in the same complex.
I told her not to worry, that I’d figure it out. I didn’t tell her that figuring it out might involve sending her and her brother to live with their dad.
* * *
“This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today.”
Those lyrics describe just how I feel. Once I send my kids to live with their dad, my previous incarnations — first a divorced mom with primary custody, child support, and a house; then a divorced mom with primary custody of just one child, no child support, and an apartment — will give way to a new incarnation that I can’t fathom.
Sometimes I lie awake at night and wonder how I ended up in this life, which feels so freakishly different from my family’s and friends.
Then I try to shift my perspective. Maybe this evolution is meant to be. The kids were with me when they were small, because I was the parent who could provide the nurturing and the attention Prince couldn’t. Maybe they need to be with Prince now, because he can provide the security I can’t. They won’t have to keep moving; they won’t have to share a bedroom, eat Mac n Cheese every night, or be too embarrassed to bring friends over.
When I think about this possibility, the prospect still feels surreal, but it doesn’t sting as much. It just seems practical.
I think it would be okay for Luca, who is sixteen, used to living most of the time with his dad, and has one foot out the door anyway. But I think it would be much less okay for Franny, who is not yet twelve and still needs her mother.
Regardless, sending the kids to live with their dad will change their life narratives and who knows what meaning they will make of that change.
* * *
I’ve been dating a fair amount and for whatever reason, I’ve been out with a few men who don’t have children. Each one of them weathered hellacious divorces, or the death of a parent, when they were young. Two of them legally emanicipated themselves at age 14, and the other two blew their way out of their family homes, got jobs and places to live, and did or didn’t complete high school.
Each of these men has gone on to have interesting, fulfilling lives. Which has taught me two things.
One: children from divorced homes survive, and can even thrive, possibly because of the upheaval they endured. And, two: not everyone in the world has children. And they’re still fulfilled.
Also, there are worse things than sending your kids to live with their other parent. Girls get shot in the head because they want educations. Parents watch their children blown to bits by bombs, or waste away from diarrhea due to inadequate healthcare.
The queasy, stepping-out-of-my-space-capsule part right now is not knowing what my life, or my kids’ lives, will look like in a year. The only thing I can do is control what I can, let go of what I can’t, and have faith that I’ll survive the next blitzkrieg relatively in tact.
I’m nervous for you. I really hope you get a great judge who can see through all the crap. I will be thinking of you for certain.
I’m going through similar, though not on such a grand scale. My ex was singing the song of poverty to me a few months ago saying he was going to submit to pay less child support and that he wasn’t going to pay his half of the out of pocket medical expenses for our special needs child. This past Monday, he drove up in a brand new Range Rover. It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut and a smile plastered on my face.
New Range Rover! I love it. That takes some balls. Or else just total obliviousness. Probably the latter.
I would like a new Range Rover, please! Now it’s showing up in an ad to the side of my screen. Nice.
Shiny new wheels aside, to expand on my first post (this has my panties all in a knot that you even have to be in this position and I can’t stop thinking about it), I’m sure there are a multitude of women on the other side of our computer screens just DYING to know who this sorry excuse for a father is so we can go as a posse to his doorstep complete with pitchforks and torches and make things right for you and your children.
What fries me the most is that a child support payment of say $1000 or $1200 a month wouldn’t even make a dent in his wallet. However – that would mean everything to you and the kids.
I know you have consulted people in the know, but do you have a competent attorney to see you through this particular stretch of outer space?
Hi Elle — I have a competent attorney who is advising me — she’s also a friend — but if I go to court I’ll be representing myself. No money for a lawyer.
Pauline, this strikes such a familiar note for me. Except my ex husband is broke and hardly pays any money for our kids. I am trying to learn to let go of the need for super control over all aspects of my life. Sometimes I even manage to think I don’t control anything. Letting go means to me living in today. I do worry I will not have enough money to pay the bills but then I tell myself: Agnieszka, you will get through, you always did and you probably will again. Also my kids have a saying in who they would like to live with and I suppose yours will definitely want to stay with you. As much as I have lots of things I like to do on my own, I do enjoy having my kids around. I love them but I also like them as human beings, Funny, inteligent, interesting to talk to. It might be that I am lucky that my ex has to money he could give me. This solves a lot of things but also makes other things harder like realizing I have to take care of my kids totally by myself. I think you did the right and brave thing to go after Prince for what is your and your kids right to receive. My best thought are with you. I do admire you as a mother, writer. You are so open minded and honest. And last but not least Space Oddity has always been my super favorite song.
Wow- representing yourself is a big step. I’m glad you decided to take this leap. It’s going to be difficult but for some reason, I get the feeling that this is going to work out for you this time. You should never stop trying to make a better life for yourself, or your kids. The choices you’ve had to make in the past were so difficult. I don’t blame you for feeling unmoored in this case. You’ll be in my thoughts, lady.
Elizabeth Aquino says
I will hope for sanity. That you’ll be able to live with your children in a comfortable home and be provided for — I will hope for that. Sending love and continued courage to you.
Denise Emanuel Clemen says
Pauline, It’s my sincere hope that you are as collected as you sound. You are right, I think, about the children being okay. You’ve laid a fine foundation, but I’m rooting for both of them to stay with you. It seems absolutely incredible that you are not receiving child support now. I’m in my own particular version of post-divorce disfunction, and it’s not fun. Wishing you all the luck in the world.
I know I could never live w/myself (& I mean that quite literally) if I dropped my end of the rope, abandoning Z to an uncertain fate w/his father…
I recognized as we ironed out the details of a weekend swap last night (I was inwardly seething since M had once again used Z as messenger to avoid speaking to me) – that the man is SCARED of me! It made me bare my teeth in an ironic grin – GOOD! He should be he never imagined the milquetoast he’d been married to could actually grow a spine & stand up to him…
I hate that you are having to go through this again, but, I think you will at least have the satisfaction of knowing that you tried, one last time, to get a fair and equitable arrangement. Regardless of the outcome, you can hold your head high when it is all through, knowing you did what you thought was best for your kids.
My heart is breaking for you and this seemingly impossible position you’re in. I’m so sorry.
it just doesn’t seem right that he can “claim” to have no income … in my state even if I got a job waitressing they judge would impute my income based on the fact that I could get a job as an engineer based on my degree/job history and I would still have to pay that amount on my waitress salary (the theory being that I would be forced to get a decent job instead of trying to avoid giving money to my ex)
He was imputed income, but essentially the same as mine. So the issue is really proving he’s getting money from the trust, which used to be — and I imagine is again — a hefty 5-figure monthly sum.
Thank you, Andrea.