Last Saturday was a glorious day in my neck of the country: a sparkling blue, sun-spackled sky, eighty degrees of dry heat, and acceptance letters to four of the private schools to which Franny applied.
I was bouyed by a wave of “I told you so.” Prince had been convinced Franny would not get in anywhere. She did not have great entrance exam scores, she has never played on a sports team, and she is not a rock star academic. And because I had pushed to send her to a progressive elementary school that eschews lots of tests and homework, I had ruined her chances for Harvard and future greatness — proof that I am mentally ill.
Despite living in one of the most insanely competitive private school cities around, I never doubted Franny would get in to at least one of the seven swanky institutions to which we applied. She rocked her interviews with her poise and good character. She is an enthusiastic, engaging, confident team player with a strong work ethic who takes ownership of her education. She is the kind of kid who will be helming the greeting committee. She is an asset to any community, which is why four schools accepted her, including her first choice: a prestigious all-girls school that I will call Talbot.
There was one problem, however: Prince had not signed the stipulation I had sent him two months prior absolving me of all private school costs. A few days before the acceptance letters were due, he sent a revised stipulation packed with too many gray areas for me to sign. My lawyer didn’t have time to review the document, and when Saturday rolled around with its wave of acceptance letters, Prince sent me a barrage of text messages telling me he needed me to sign a document solely to hold her place at Talbot, not to sign the actual acceptance letter. He told me if I did not sign the document before today, Tuesday, his lawyer would rush into court on an ex parte.
Franny was at Prince’s, so he had her call me — I could hear his high-pitched voice squeaking in the background — to ask me if I would agree to Talbot. I told her we were in the process of figuring that out, but that was the direction we were headed.
When I showed up at Prince’s house the next morning to sign the “it’s-just-to-hold-her-place letter,” Franny greeted me in her bathrobe, chattering about uniforms and bus schedules and hot lunches. Her excitement was contagious. So contagious, in fact, that I initialed and signed several pages of a document I had not reviewed because, for some reason, the acceptance packet was mailed only to Prince.
Later thay day, Prince sent me a video of Franny riding her bike, and I thought, “isn’t this great! Now that she got into a school he can brag about, he’s calmed down and we can share a moment normally reserved for amicably divorced parents!”
But that’s not what the moment was. The moment was: “Ha! I pulled one over on you yet again!”
This is where being a reasonable, non-nefarious person up against Mr. House of Cards gets you: in a legal quagmire.
* * *
Last night I was sitting in bed, about to write an upbeat blog post about Franny’s victory, when a sinister flashback disrupted my blogging process.
I remembered an anecdote Prince told me when we were dating. Once, when his parents were out of town, he was approached by a location scout wanting to use the Machiavelli compound for a film shoot. So he went to the home of his sweet, gullible aunt, and, at only 15, his fast-talking mojo was so advanced that he tricked her into signing a location agreement without understanding what she was signing.
A bolt of panic struck me. I grabbed the “place-holding” document and completely lost control of my blood pressure. Why did I not see what he was doing? He stalled for two months on the stipulation, creating a storm of urgency and a threat to take me to court if I didn’t sign an agreement that would insure “your daughter’s place in the school of her dreams.” This did not bode well.
I frantically e-mailed my attorney and told her what had happened. She e-mailed back — and when your attorney e-mails you at ten at night, it’s a very, VERY bad sign — horrified at what I’d done. She informed me I was now responsible for half the tuition and I was to call the school first thing in the morning to tell them Prince had misrepresented the document and they were to hold off on the enrollment until we could work out how tuition would be handled.
Then I broke my own rule, the rule that every person with a high-conflict ex must employ: a non-emotional response to craziness. I sent him a bunch of hyseterical texts, with lots of all-caps, about how he had LIED! And he was DISGUSTING! And his actions REPREHENSIBLE!
You can imagine what kind of response that invited. I called my friend Laurie and sobbed out the story, hoping she would help me locate and lower my blood pressure.
She did not.
“I just got finished watching House of Cards,” she said. “He’s worse than Kevin Spacey!”
* * *
So here I sit, bleary-eyed after bolting awake at 4:45 this morning, kicking myself for falling for Prince Machiavelli’s machinations. I can’t quash the nightmare scenario playing in my head.
Prince will tell Franny I don’t want her to go to private school.
He will try to get custody of her, convincing her that her mother is trying to ruin her life, seducing her with promises of a trip to Paris and her own Arabian Stallion.
But I was f**cked no matter what. If I hadn’t signed the agreement, he would have told her I didn’t love her enough to let her go to Talbot, and he would have hauled my sorry ass into court to force me to sign the agreement.
There is no way to win with this level of crazy. The best one can hope for is survival, fueled by wine, Klonopin, and Thin Mints.
* * *
News Flash: I just got off with the very understanding Talbot Finance Director who assured me that she deals “with this kind of thing all the time,” but since they have already received the enrollment from Prince, I have until April 10th to work out our legal agreement, or I will be held responsible for half of the THIRTY-THREE THOUSAND DOLLAR TUITION.
To be continued…
Lisa Drier says
OHMYGOD we were married to the same man. Except yours has a lot of money while mine is just plain mean, bat shit crazy and middle class rich. What the hell, truly WHAT THE HELL is wrong with people like them? (I wanted to say ‘men’ like them, but realized they aren’t real men.)
Charity Hollingsworth says
Once a Judge reviews your financials, I cannot imagine he/she would hold you liable. I am so sorry you have to go through this. The “Ha, I pulled one over you again” comment wouldn’t go over too well either I would imagine.
Kelly Martin says
Whenever, I check your blog I keep hoping to hear that things are getting easier, simpler and heck just not so much blech you are having to deal with. I cannot fathom the type of person who would be doing all this (well, I can but it makes my skin crawl). I hope a judge sees some sense in this.
Jocelyn Simon says
The school won’t rip it up for you, even though you called right away? That is horrible.
Cuckoo Mamma says
OMG. He needs his ass kicked into next week. He’s must a mean, horrible, miserable excuse for a person. He will end up alone. What a total waste of skin.
Pauline Gaines says
He’ll always have a wife and an entourage because of all the money. But there’s always hope that he’ll find his rightful place under the wheels of a bus 🙂
Angela Edwards says
I thought everybody has three days to get out of a contract?
I do get the difficulty that Franny really wants this, and you want it for her too.
He’s horrible, but he’s not Kevin Spacey yet. That character murders people.
I want you to know that you’ve helped me dodge practically this same bullet, when you wrote about working with your lawyer to make sure this wouldn’t happen to you! It made me realize that by agreeing to Waldorf, by filling out the financial application, I could next be held financially liable for the tuition. We went around and around in OFW while I tried to get him to state his commitment, his mother’s commitment, and what would be expected from me. He absolutely would not make a statement, and then his last email, while still not really saying anything, implied, ‘and why shouldn’t you also be held responsible?’ after which I told him to get a mediator. Then I talked to my mom and a friend, decided not to cut off my nose to spite my face, and filled out the application without submitting it, while I waited for answers from Waldorf. I didn’t tell him I’d done the work, and heard nothing from him in the ensuing 3 days, until all of the sudden, I was served an ex parte TO FORCE ME to do the application I’d already done. I had no choice but to respond legally– which cost $840. The upside was the judge ruled that though I did not have to do the financial aid application– he denied the ex parte– I could submit one without creating a financial obligation for myself or any prejudice to the final school choice. So I submitted it. Now he writes, if only we could agree to Waldorf, it could save us so much money not having to cover this at trial. And I have to say: again, what is your financial commitment? I have received no response.
Luckily, my son is too young to pressure me about Waldorf. He’s just upset that he doesn’t get to go to his current school next year (it’s a preschool/kindergarten and he is bound for 1st grade).
My ex isn’t rich at all. I do not believe he can afford Waldorf. The whole time we were together, I was the one paying most of the bills– and I got stuck with them too (we weren’t married, so tough shit). I think his Mom is financing him (she always did), but she isn’t rich either. Plus she’s really old and has lots and lots of other grandchildren. And with no legal commitment from either, it is just a matter of time before I am expected to make it happen. I can just see my son having to get jerked out a school he loves because his parents can’t cover the tuition.
It is a horrible feeling to not be able to take care of your kids the way you think you should be able to take care of them. And it’s no wonder you can’ t just let go of the fact that there really is so much money available for their care, but the people who have it would withhold it from the kids just to spite you for walking away. It’s just sick. But it does seem that there are a lot of people like this out there.
Anyway, back to you. Shouldn’t you and your lawyer be getting in there on an ex parte to flush out these issues? You can’t afford the school, that’s all there is to it. Or some contract law reversal of what you signed–maybe before going to family court? (Realizing the contract window has probably closed by the time you wrote and posted this, but I’m not a lawyer.)
Of course there is Bella, who shows what can happen. Your experience and hers scare the shit out of me. Things haven’t turned around for me either, they just keep getting worse. We haven’t even had our final hearing yet. I know that won’t be the last.
I wonder if Klonopin is the best drug for you. Doesn’t seem to be working the way you need it to. You’re not calm, and when you knew better, you still got tricked into signing by a man that you knew was a trickster. No judgement, I know how it happens. And that is why, you should not even be in a room with him without a neutral third party EVER. Preferably lots of them. Not ever. I mean, if he is like Kevin Spacey’s character, it’s not safe for a lot of reasons.
Don’t beat yourself up, just do something. Something different.
Ugghhh. I feel your pain and frustration and fear all too well.
Pauline Gaines says
Well, I’m glad my crazy story has helped somebody! I was on the phone with my lawyer last night, have a plan. Also, he has to share custody of L now because I have him all the time. It’s more dramatic license with the Klonopin — I don’t take it much anymore because it makes me feel so skeevy the next morning.
Lori Thompson says
I read this and my heart just sank. My kids are in private school – all on my dime – and when I recently lost a massive amount of income, he still wanted them to stay in their school. When I put public school out there, no response. Now he’s offering to give up his “Starbucks money” with, of course, no agreement, which means I’d be stuck with the bill AGAIN. Every communication gets no reply and it’s just the most frustrating thing (though less so since we’re at least divorced).
Anyway, I’m crossing my fingers you can work this out and get out of the financial obligation as I understand, far too well, the complexity of financial struggle and having an ex who denies and hides the money he has (my situation). It’s really frustrating and at times, I feel hopeless. I’ll be thinking about you and praying for a good resolution for you. It’s about time something went your way.
Nicole Trail says
I, too, was once married to the prince of darkness. His latest attempt to sabotage my relationship with our children (age 13 and 17 – I have full custody) is to goad me via email until I lose my cool and reply in a less than professional manner…and then copy those emails to our kids with the preface of “see what I had to put up with during our marriage. Your mother does not live in reality…she is hateful to me…blah blah” I have had to go on the defensive and not respond to anything he sends by email (text only so that it is short and VERY to the point because I hate texting) and also sit my boys down to explain how unbelievably wrong it is for their dad to be involving them in our private marital/divorce issues. Now may be the time that you have to do the same. Sit your daughter down and explain to her in no-nonsense terms what happened and let her know that there is no way you can pay for 1/2 of her tuition at that private school or ANY private school. She will be upset. She will cry. It is totally, completely unfair that she has to give up her dream of private school because her shit of a dad will not pay for it when he clearly can afford it. It sucks that kids are used as pawns by evil narcassists to hurt the ex-spouse who dared to wiggle out from under their control…but it is what it is. Your daughter knows in her heart the type of mother you are. She knows she is loved beyond measure and you are doing the best you can. She also knows her dad has the $ and knowing that he chooses not to spend it on her will resonate in her mind as she matures. I am so sorry you have to deal with this and wish you Godspeed in doing all you can to make it right!
kristi blastoff says
Pauline! My heart goes out to you! I’ve read your blog ever since I stumbled upon it down the rabbit hole of the internet a couple years ago… I’ve never been married, and I’m not a parent, but I’ve watched your story unfold over the years and have so much respect and admiration for you! I’ve always especially enjoyed posts about Fanny; it’s remarkable how poised and grounded she seems in spite of the family turmoil, something I see often in you through your writing actually. I am always rooting for you, and I hope this is one more situation in which Prince’s evil plans are foiled again by the forces of good (and just sane, logical reason!) in the universe. And I’m sure no matter where Fanny winds up attending school, she will continue to be the bright, light little lady she seems to already be. Crossing my fngers for the best outcome for you both!
Pauline Gaines says
Thanks, Kristi! You made my day. xo
Lee Whitt says
What happens if you shrug your shoulders and say “I can’t afford to pay for this. Discard the enrollment. I’m done.”
“Prince will tell Franny I don’t want her to go to private school” … So? … Franny is a smart gal. She knows better. Luca, too.
What happens if you call his bluff?
Pauline Gaines says
Yeah…it’ll all come to a head in the next couple weeks. I sent his lawyer a letter with a deadline. I can’t stand the thought of her not going because she worked so hard for it and she’s so excited. We’ll see.
Marie Nunez says
The way Prince is probably hiding assets is through posting losses on his tax return. It is imperitive that your lawyer ask for a full return including the Schedule E as well as a transcript directly from the IRS. He can put anything on a return and send it to you, then amend it later. In addition, a very competent lawyer could give him millions from the trust and make it look like a loss. His family is probably helping him with this. Let me give you an example: the trust buys 1 million shares of coca-cola for $1 and holds it for more than a year. They give the shares to Prince, but now it is only worth 99 cents. He pockets $990,000 and takes a $10,000 loss on his taxes. Please please please do not lose sight of the big picture. You need to see his entire tax return. Google the schedule E to see what might be on it.
I have been thinking of you a lot. How does a mother stop fighting for her children? Every time Prince wages war, the kids lose. I don’t have the answers. But I know if you re-read the paragraph you wrote about Franny, it may give you hope. Even if she goes to public school, she will be fine. Even if she goes to public university, she will be fine. Your kids sound amazing. They are both with you now, and no matter what happens, Prince will be Prince, and the children will come home to you, but in the meantime, the drama and upheaval is heart-wrenching. I am so sorry.
Pauline Gaines says
Never heard of a Schedule E! But thanks for the tip.
Marie Nunez says
You probably filed the schedule E when you were married to Prince. The K1 (income document) he receives from the trust would go here. It is not enough to see the return because it will only show taxable income. Think about it, there is a reason you are not getting the full return. He will then give you a little more after you fight, but not what you need to show his income. From what you describe, he lives a lifestyle that requires at least $350-500K/ year. It comes from the trust and the numbers are in the supporting worksheets that are filed with the IRS. He is showing negative income on line 17 of the 1040 to lower his AGI. This is the key. Get the transcipts directly from the IRS so you can show what his true income is, not his “taxable” income.
Pauline Gaines says
Thanks for the inside scoop, Marie!
Pauline Ward says
You can be sure of one thing – even when things have calmed down, and your daughter is enrolled and he is paying the bill – he will be planning something else. My son is 18 and I had to go to court (we’ve been to court 12 times since our divorce was finalized,) because he was trying to steal our son’s college fund. You will be under attack from this man until both your children are out of college. All you can do is accept that the next 10 years will be really bad for your health and peace of mind.
Pauline Gaines says
You’re not the first person to tell me their ex pilfered the college fund. And, actually, he used some of L’s trust to pay his legal fees during the custody battle. Cut from the same cloth, these people.