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Separated Reflections

Posted on 29th October 2016 in children/ custody/ debt/ debts/ depression/ divorce/ ex-husband/ family/ money/ only dads/ onlydads

OnlyDadsI’ve been asked to reflect upon the experience of separation, how I handled it and if – upon reflection – I would have done things differently. The whole concept here is along a theme of ‘putting the children first’.

The questions are:

1. What did you do well?

2. What didn’t you do quite so well?

3. If you were to give one piece of advice to a parent going through separation what would it be?

4. How have the decisions you made then affected the life you are living today?

I’ve pondered this for a while. It isn’t an easy thing to look back on, and I wanted to be sure that my answers were honest and that I would only go ahead with the post if I felt it could be useful to someone else.

Here’s the thing, when I found myself in this position (out of the blue), I would have been desperate to read this kind of thing, there was literally nothing around at that point to tell me what to do, how to feel, what to think. And although, obviously no one can do any of those things for you, sometimes when you can feel the floor falling away from under you, you just need something, some shred of evidence that someone else has been through this and that they got through it ok.

So, my answers are:

1. What did you do well? Not much I don’t think. I wasn’t in control of my thoughts and so I floundered for a long while, taking advice from people who were ill-equipped to help. I did my level best to put the children first, in terms of caring for them, loving them, trying to retain some normality (some context: the house was being repossessed, my partner of 10 years had run off with someone he’d known for 2 weeks, I uncovered huge amounts of debt, my parter decided he needed to put his new relationship first, i.e. before the children). So retaining normality was hard, I was an emotional wreck with very little (almost zero) support but I tried to keep up with bedtime stories, walks, collecting leaves, play dates (while I sobbed in a supportive friend’s kitchen), and, I tried to facilitate my ex seeing the children. He would make plans, then cancel at the last minute, but I would still allow for new plans the following week and explain to my confused babies as best I could.

Actually, a better answer to question 1 would be:

It isn’t about you. It isn’t about your bruised emotions, your confusion, your pride or your finances, it is about the children. The innocents who need to be protected from as much of the impact as possible.

2. What didn’t you do quite so well? This little question is deceptively hard. I think I’ve touched upon a few things above so I am going to say that I should have sought better legal advice. I had a trainee solicitor who essentially told me I was screwed. She was no help to me emotionally or practically and as such I lost my home, my children lost their home and many possessions and I ended up responsible for a huge amount of debt. I don’t think I’ve heard of many other people who were dealt such a poor hand in this situation.

3. If you were to give one piece of advice to a parent going through separation what would it be? Time is a healer. Have faith that your personal wounds will heal and that the best thing you can do is invest time (not money/gifts etc) but time with your children. Make them feel loved and secured. If your ex is willing to have regular contact with the children, let them! Do not get caught up with petty arguments, point scoring and playing the blame game, let them feel loved by the two people who should love them.

4. How have the decisions you made then affected the life you are living today? I have a great life now but that is no reflection upon things at that time. If I go back say 6 months after he left, it is a very different picture. Then I was homeless, in debt, with very little support, even from the ‘system’. I was offered a, frankly, terrifying B&B (one room for all 3 of us, sharing a bathroom with strangers, you cannot be in the B&B during the day), which was in a completely different town to our old home, the children’s school and friends. At this point I literally couldn’t afford tea bags and toilet roll.

Now, the children don’t hear from him, he hasn’t seen them for at least 6 years (and the last time was for an hour even though he was meant to have been having them overnight). I still find that I beat myself up about the fact they don’t have a relationship with him – which is the main reason it has taken me so long to respond to the request to answer these darn questions!). I have to remind myself that it isn’t my fault he doesn’t see them, I have to remind myself that no matter how reasonably one person acts, no matter how easy they make it for another person to do the right thing, it doesn’t mean that they will. I am not responsible for his lack of responsibility.

One final piece of advice. When I was going through a particularly testing time, I decided that I needed some independent advice. Initially I went online thinking I was looking for a mums support group, or Homestart or Gingerbread, but I soon came to the conclusion that I needed to hear from a MAN. Someone who would be guaranteed not to be biased to my viewpoint, and that (along with being the reason why I am answering these questions) is how I ended up contacting OnlyDads and subsequently received some reasoned, grounded and sensible support from a man called Bob.

 

Take Control Of Your Finances: Step 2 #MoneyMonday

Posted on 13th February 2012 in #MoneyMonday/ budget planner/ debts

Hopefully you’ll be reading this post after reading the introductory post and then Step 1

So, you should be sitting down to this having completed a budget analysis form and now know whether you have sufficient income coming in to cover your outgoings, or whether you have a shortfall.

If you have sufficient income coming in – YAY – you just need to budget better. An easy way to achieve this is to live on just cash for a few months until you are back into the habit of monitoring your spending.

Make sure you have one main bank account that all of your income goes into and all of your bills come out of.

Once all of your income has been paid in, check the total amount due to be taken out (for bills, rent/mortgage etc – but not including money for food, petrol, clubs etc), add at least £50 to that figure (for contingency planning) and then withdraw the surplus. So if your income is £2000 and all your bills come to £1100 – you can withdraw £850.

Then split that £850 into 4 envelopes and seal them! Write week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4 on them and have one per week to spend. After a few months of doing this you should be back in the habit of living within a budget.

The £50 contingency is there to provide a buffer for any unexpected increases in your regular bills.

If you are left with a shortfall – ie your outgoings are greater than the money you have coming in – then we need to look at whether we can increase your income or decrease your outgoings.

Let’s start with income: Silly question but does anyone owe you money? Be it a friend, relation, employer, benefits agency, ex-partner/CSA – if someone owes you money and you can’t pay your bills then you need to be following it up.

If you have an ex-partner who should be paying maintenance, get onto the CSA. If your case is already with the CSA but no payments are coming through yet – chase it up! I know first hand how soul destroying it is to phone the CSA but it’s the only way to get things moved along. They are dealing with millions of cases; if your ex is being evasive then your case will get overlooked if YOU aren’t on top of it. It’s not right, but it’s the way it is. Did you know that you can email the CSA for chase ups? I found this quite useful on days when I simply couldn’t face phoning them! The link to the email page is here.

Make sure you are claiming all the benefits to which you are entitled. You can do this via this website or by calling your local benefits office. Even if you are employed, you may find that there are benefits out there that you aren’t aware of.

If you are employed, can you do an extra hours at work? Or is there anything that you could do at home to generate more income? The slogan ‘every little helps’ is so true in this situation, you may find that bring in an extra few pounds here and there makes all the difference. Could you rent out a room? Did you know that you can rent out a room (up a value of £4,250) tax free! In a lot of towns you can take in forgein language students for a few weeks at a time – this would enable you to get a quick burst of extra income without any long term commitment.

One last thing to consider is whether or not a family member might help you out?

Onto reducing your outgoings: Assuming you’ve managed to do some of the above, you may now find that you don’t have as vast a shortfall as you started with. If there is a massive shortfall, you need to decide whether this is a temporary problem or one that is simply not going to go away without intervention. If it’s temporary – ie you’ve got a lump sum due to you or your wages were less than usual this month, then simple budgeting should see you through. You could also phone your council tax department and see if they will let you skip this months payment (and add it onto the outstanding balance) as a way of temporarily easing the situation.

If it’s a much bigger problem, I would urge you to consider contacting the CCCS or your local citizens advice bureau – both of these will offer you free, impartial, non-judgmental advice.

If you decide to go it alone, you can consider whether you want to:

* freeze all your (unsecured) debts and offer a nominal payment amount

* offer reduced settlement figures

* go bankrupt

There may well be more options available than these, a quick phone call to the CCCS should help you to establish all of the available options before you proceed.

Whichever option you go for, you need to contact ALL of your creditors and advise them that you are currently experiencing financial difficulties. Most of them have a separate department for this who may even be able to offer you different terms – generally speaking they will want to discuss your current income and outgoings so it will be useful to have your budget planner to hand when you call them.

If you can’t pay your unsecured debts then make sure you deal with all of them equally, to give yourself breathing space before rushing into a decision like bankruptcy, ask all of them to freeze your account, freeze the interest and offer to make them interim token payments of £1 a month. This demonstrates to them that you are not running away from your responsibility to the debt, it shows that you are aware and in control. If they don’t accept it over the phone – put the suggestion in writing.

If you have decided that you want to file for bankruptcy rather than follow a debt management programme, I would again urge you to make a quick call to either the CCCS or the CAB, just get their impartial opinion. Don’t think that they will judge you or push you into doing something that you don’t want to, because they won’t. In fact when I rang both of them at a time when I was experiencing financial problems, they both recommended bankruptcy!

This post, like all my #MoneyMonday posts, is based upon my personal experience and opinion. Please seek as much advice and assistance as you can from other reliable sources before making any rash decisions. Any questions, feel free to ask.

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