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Today was the big sign off. I was in a pissy mood, and I didn’t bother to even try to hide it. I’ve been thinking about this all week. I’ve spoken to different people online, friends, co-workers… I haven’t found a single person who agrees with the way things are. Not completely, anyway. So I sat there at that table with obvious disgust on my face, and signed my life away. Then I left.
I had forgotten that my ex has a lawyer, so she was taking the paperwork over to see her. I wanted to say “I can’t afford one.. but I’m pretty sure that I’ve paid for yours, so could you put in a good word for me?” but I thought that might be a little too bitter, even for me. So now I just sit back and wait for those papers to be served to me. I’m not a big fan of that “served” word. Actually, I’ve found that I’m not really a big fan of much of this process.
Yes, that’s a lemon.
So yesterday was our first joint session of mediation, regarding the children. They basically have three main areas that they want to cover: custody, access, and financial support. My ex and I are generally on the same page with this stuff, which made it a relatively simple process. As the mediator reminded us, though… “That’s great that things are good now.. but they might not always be, and when there are disagreements, whatever is put down on paper is what must be followed.”. Makes sense.
There was no question that the children’s primary residence would be with their mother. That was a given. It gets a little wordy with regards to shared vs joint custody, but ideally what I want is joint decision-making on the “big stuff”, while accepting the fact that the children can not realistically spend equal amount of time between both households. It’s simply not possible. So that’s fine. Insert checkmark and move to the next topic.
Access isn’t really an issue. My ex has always been more than accommodating with my shift schedule. She looks forward to a break from our little rugrats, so there’s never an issue of me not being able to see them. And the children are free to contact either of us when they are at the other respective residence. We don’t try to hoard “our time” and isolate them. Checkmark. Moving on…
Financial. Here’s where my blood pressure started to rise. Let me throw it right on the table so there is no confusion… I love my children, and want them to grow up being cared for in every way. Having said that, I also believe that the system is flawed. Figuring out the amount of child support is easy. The Government of Canada provides a simple chart to follow. If you’re interested in taking a look at it, click here. So knowing your income for the year, and the number of children you are providing for, you come up with a magic number. Mine is $975. Yup. $975. That’s a mortgage payment! That’s fine… I can stomach that… but here’s the real kicker: That amount does not include “special expenses”, for things like daycare, medical things, etc… I can appreciate the medical stuff, but I was flabbergasted to find out that child support does not cover daycare expenses. For those expenses, each parent must provide a percentage of the cost, based on their salary. Thankfully I had been warned prior to going into the mediation, so I was prepared when the mediator went over that point… and she did not have to witness me in that flabbergasted state. But I’d sat there biting my tongue long enough. I had to ask the obvious question…
“If child support doesn’t cover that stuff.. what DOES it cover?” Her answer was “the day to day necessities for the safety and security of the children” or something close to that. I don’t buy that argument.
“I’d just like to say that I’m fine paying whatever the chart says, but I find it REALLY hard to believe that my children will eat, be clothed, and require lodging in the amount of nearly $1000 every month.” She tried to tell me that was the Federal guideline, and that’s what New Brunswick chose to follow. That’s great, but what that means is that the father in Vancouver or Toronto gets put in the same category as the one from the Atlantic provinces? That’s just wrong. And the best part? Child support continues right through post secondary education! I’m sure that I won’t be the only parent telling my kids “University is over-rated… Community College is a waste of time… just go flip burgers for a living or pan handle… Here, I’ll pay you $1000 NOT to further your education!”
I know that all of this seems petty and I am sure that some of my readers are going to disagree with me, and that’s fine. Long before I ever found myself in this position I’d already heard stories of one parent living the high-life, while the other struggled to make those payments. That’s certainly not to suggest that every parent receiving child support fits into that category, because they do not. For many, the support payments are the difference between a decent meal on the table, and KD every night. I understand that. But when I look at that chart, there becomes a point where it just seems ridiculous to me. And the parent who pays does not have any say in how that money is spent. If we were still married, of our combined income, nearly $2000/month would go “toward the children”? Wrong. That’s just not realistic! I can feel my blood pressure starting to rise again…
In fairness to my ex, she had already offered to forego the daycare special expense, so that keeps the payment below $1000. It’s a token gesture because the daycare expense isn’t very much at this point anyway. But still… every little bit counts, I guess. I’ll need to stash that money away to pay for their doctorate studies in a few more years…
So next week we sit down again and go over a written version of what was discussed yesterday. At that point we can choose to have it filed with the court, or not. I don’t know why someone would bother to go through that process without filing it, but she said that some people do. Ours will be filed. Then it’s off to fill out a Do It Yourself Divorce kit, and get THAT filed.
Obviously, the word “closure” really isn’t fitting… but it will feel good to finally have reached whatever comes next…
Now that the good ole postal strike is behind us, I’m starting to receive some of the more important pieces of mail that I’ve been waiting for. (still waiting on Revenue Canada’s decision on my child support claim, and whether they owe me money, or the other way around…)
When I picked up the mail yesterday there was a letter from Family Court Services, which sounds all scary, but really is just a formality. I think that we’re pretty much in agreement about everything. It’s just time to get it all down in writing, and have someone officially rubber-stamp it so that we can begin to move on more than we already have. She is very happy with the man she’s with, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all that they end up getting married, sooner rather than later. And me? Well… Barring some minor miracle I don’t foresee happening any time in my lifetime… I’ll just leave it at that.
So this letter started by thanking me for providing the documentation previously requested (Notices of Assessment from Revenue Canada for the previous 3 years, and a current paystub), and informing me that an appointment has been scheduled for late next month for me to come in and speak with the mediator. Apparently I’m the only one in this meeting (She has already had hers, in May I think) and it’s expected to take approximately 90 minutes.
90 MINUTES?!? What on earth are we supposed to discuss for 90 minutes? Just tell me how much I have to pay for the kids, for how long, and show me where to sign. I don’t imagine that taking much more than NINE minutes, let alone NINETY. But we’ll see.
It feels good to be making a little progress. This has been dragging on for far too long.