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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.

 

CMS / CSA – Update

Posted on 31st May 2016 in boys/ children/ CSA/ divorce/ ex-husband/ parenting

In February of this year, my case with the CSA was passed on to the new CMS (Child Maintenance Service). This was purported to be the new and improved version of the CSA…

Having still not heard from them, or received any payments, I rang them today for an update. Unsurprisingly, the update is that nothing has happened. You may recall that in March they advised me I would begin receiving payments from the 1 April and that as expected the 1 April came and went without any payment arriving, as did the 1 May and I would imagine the 1 June will be equally devoid of payment.

So today I have phoned them to query what is happening and why they haven’t responded to the two letters I have sent them. The answer is that they sent payment details to my ex and that he hasn’t responded. As to why they’ve ignored my letters, well they ignored that question.

As a result of my phone call the case will now be referred to the direct collections team who will, in their own sweet time, write to my ex again and give him 14 days to respond. They will then write to him again and warn him that if he doesn’t respond with 14 days of this letter that he will be referred to the deduction of earning team.

I can only guess what happens at that point… I would place my bets on it being either a) nothing or b) they write to him and give him 14 days to respond.

So, since transferring to the CMS in February they have established that my ex IS in employment and that he SHOULD be paying but they’ve done nothing to make that happen.

Also, with the CSA a substantial amount of arrears had accrued. When the case was transferred to the CMS I was asked if I wanted the arrears wiped off or if I wanted them transferred to the CMS (yes, I really was asked that question), needless to say I asked for them to be transferred. However, the CMS have no record of the arrears. Apparently they are now a separate issue and will be transferred at some point in the future at which point the CMS will write to my ex and ask him to pay…

Consequently, my advice to anyone who is being transferred to the Child Maintenance Service is to keep on top  of them, set yourself diary reminders to chase them up as they do absolutely nothing without continual prompting.

I am now off to write to the CSA to ask them where the arrears are and why they haven’t been transferred to the CMS!

 

Grandparents – Could You Save The Relationship?

Posted on 26th January 2012 in divorce/ grandparents

The statistic I’ve seen most of today is that ‘1 in 5 children from a broken home lost touch with a parent forever‘.

There are many reasons for this and I don’t want to get into the whys and hows as I believe that every case, every family, every situation and every child is different and has a right to do what is best for them.

So although you may be tempted to intervene, or to question a decision, you can bet that you don’t know the half of it and that everyone involved is hurt, confused and needs to make their own decisions in their own time.

If you are a grandparent, looking in from the outside, it must be incredibly tempting to take one side or another. Even more tempting to get involved and try to patch things up.

I’m wondering if the estranged grandparents could play a huge part in saving some of these relationships.

Rather than arguing with the ex partner to defend your child, think smarter and keep your comments in check (let off steam later in the privacy of your own home if you need to!).

Use the benefits of the wisdom you’ve gained over the years to see that someone needs to be a bridge between the two parties and therefore a bridge directly to the children.

Even if you are told you can’t see the children anymore, send cards, send notes, remember birthdays and generally keep in touch. Be polite if you correspond with the mother (or father as the case may be) whatever went on between them and your son/daughter they are now raising your grandchildren. Every now and then offer support – babysitting for example if you live near enough – one day your offer may be taken up. Even if it isn’t, over time you will find that the relationship is built up rather than broken down.

I’m not suggesting that you should be disloyal to your son/daughter in the process. Let them know you are keeping in touch, let them know why. Rather then fanning the flames when they are incandescent with rage about their ex, try and calm the situation and encourage them to take a long term view on the situation rather than a short term one.

I really think that, wherever possible, a loving extended family is best for the children.

However, having grandparents who are nasty about their mum (or dad) is emotionally damaging – if you love your grandchildren surely you can bite your tongue. Is it worth ‘scoring a point’ if the consequence of it is that you hurt and confuse the children?

So my plea to all the grandparents out there: build a bridge, you never know when someone might decide to use it.

 

 

 

D is for… Dealing with Debts

Posted on 19th May 2010 in adultery/ benefits/ counselling/ debt/ divorce/ house/ lies/ solicitor

If you are in debt and feel that you need some help, I hope that reading this will reassure you and offer some useful suggestions.

If you’ve read A is for… And then he left me you will recall that my ex husband left me quite hideously in debt. This was in 2004 which was just before the bankruptcy laws changed – I have to say if it happened to me now, rather than then, I would given serious thought to going bankrupt. Even in 2004 (when the after affects of bankruptcy were much harsher) every debt advisor I spoke to told me to file for bankruptcy.

So, he left on 9 July 2004 (the night before our youngest son’s 3rd birthday). I had no warning of this and, although people find it hard to believe, I had absolutely no idea that it was going to happen.

I knew we had debts, money had been somewhat scarce for several years as he had been frequently ‘off sick’ with a bad back and depression. We had re-mortgaged the house several times, once to consolidate all the debts – except that when the money came through he managed to convince me that he NEEDED some tools (although only dewalt ones obviously), that he DESERVED a playstation, and an x-box, and some games, and some new clothes, and we NEEEDED a new lawn mower etc. So only a small amount of debt ever got repaid.

His attitude to money was always poor. Even when he wasn’t working he would think nothing of spending £5 on a playstation magazine and then say that we couldn’t afford proper  nappies. I stood at the checkout in tesco more times than I care to remember with flaming red cheeks when my debit card was rejected, because he had withdrawn cash to spend on HIM without telling me and without caring if it left enough money for bills and food.

My mum set up a bank account and started paying £20 a month into it, she said it was for me to treat myself with, I didn’t tell him about it, it didn’t seem deceitful as I only ever spent the money on food shopping anyway. Once when I went to withdraw the £20 to use for shopping I was stunned to see there was no money available – when I checked further I saw that the £20 had already been withdrawn. I asked him about it, he said that found the card in my purse and we’d needed milk so he took the money out. The pin was my birthdate – he had guessed it. From then on he would wait for that £20 to land and whip it out straight away. He often drove to the cashpoint at just gone midnight to make sure that HE got the money.

Below is a list of the debts I was left with, this is just from the paperwork that I can find now, I think there were more:

Nationwide negative equity £12,000 – paid £4,600
Halifax overdraft £1,555.54 – paid £1,150
Barclays business overdraft £1,840.69 – paid £921
Barclays overdraft £974 – paid £750
Barclaycard £2,292.35 – paid £1,375.41
Debenhams store card £2,635 – paid £2,355
Dorothy Perkins store card £1,435 – paid £910
Capital One Visa £879 – paid £425
Capital One Visa £1,529 – paid £1,100
Business loan £5,000 – £2,000
Woolwich overdraft £1,841 – paid £1,400
Alliance & Leicester Loan £1,428.71 – paid £800
M&S store card £893 – paid £715
Thames Credit £932 – paid £800
Welcome financial services £781.20 – paid £781.20

As you can see, even with just the debts that I can remember, I was left with £36,016.49 of debt outstanding which cost me £20,082.61 to pay off. I’m pretty sure the total amount I spent paying off debts was closer to £28K so there must be a few that I’ve missed. It took me 6 years – the last debt was cleared in February of this year.

My ex took one debt, an Abbey National current account overdraft of around £700. This was in joint names but he made me sign the account over to him so that he still had a bank account – this, of course, left me without one and with a completely shagged credit rating which meant that I couldn’t get one.

My divorce Solicitor told me that I wouldn’t be able to assign any of the debts over to my ex. She advised me to go bankrupt. The CAB helped me set up a payment schedule – paying £1 a month to each company and advised me to go bankrupt. The CCCS agreed with the CAB.

I didn’t answer my home phone for several years unless I was expecting a call, as most of the time it was a debt company chasing money, I still find it hard to answer it now. Some companies are ok to deal with – some are terrifying.

What makes it even more complicated is that most companies sell on debts, meaning that it was almost impossible to keep track of who I had paid what to – I’m quite sure that I repaid some of the debts twice! For example – the £1,840 debt to Barclays was at one point being chased by Aplins Solicitors, DLC (Direct Legal & Collections), Hillesden Securities Ltd, Buchannon Clark & Wells and Ruthbridge Ltd. That is 5 different companies all chasing 1 debt. All 5 companies claimed theirs was a different debt and that I HAD to deal with them. Sometimes they phoned, sometimes they wrote, sometimes they sent baliffs round – mostly it was a combination of all three methods. Like most of the debts, this particular one was a joint debt so I gave all of them my ex’s details too – I had to laugh one day when a guy from Buchannon Clark & Wells rang me to say that he thought my ex was a complete c*** and that he knew someone who could ‘have a word’ if I wanted him too… Even funnier when my ex rang me the same night in a right state to say that he had just received a threatening phone call and it sounded just like the guy from BCW…

The point of this post is twofold, one to say don’t ignore your debts. They truly don’t go away they just get bigger and more unmanageable. Get a copy of your credit file – this is a huge step towards taking control, yes it will probably tell you things that you don’t want to know, but do you know what? The debts are there whether you acknowledge them or not! You can get one month’s free trial from Experian. Get an A4 ring folder and some dividers and make a file for each debt, then make an appointment to see a debt adviser. A FREE one like the CCCS. DO NOT PAY ANYONE TO ‘SORT OUT’ YOUR DEBTS! Either phone them or write to them asap. Tell them you are experiencing financial difficulties. Tell them your income and your outgoings – make sure you include everything that you have to pay out for. They will help you. If you have some money to repay a debt, NEVER repay the full amount – always offer a reduced settlement figure – 99% of the time they will either accept it or negotiate.

MY DEBT FILE!

Secondly – do not let your solicitor leave you with all the debts! I am so angry that my solicitor allowed me to be left in this situation. Now, 6 years on, my debts are all repaid. I will never have an overdraft or a credit card again, ever. I won’t let my new husband have them either. It isn’t always easy like living like that but we do. We currently rent a house as we now have to save up a deposit to buy, this has set me back massively in terms of ‘steps on the ladder’.

But, having said that, the past is all behind me now, I’ve learnt from it and I can concentrate on the future.

I am very happy to try and help if you have any queries that you think I may be able to answer – just let me know on the comments section below and I will reply to you.

UPDATE – 2oth May 2010 – To answer some questions that have arisen from this post:

1. The negative equity was from a flat that I owned before I met my ex. It was rented out but I had a few problems with tenants and often  had to meet the mortgage payment on that as well as on the house I shared with my ex. When he stopped working for frequent and ever increasing periods, my salary was insufficient to pay both mortgages. He persuaded me to hand in the keys – the second biggest mistake of my life – if I still had that flat and sold it today it would net me 85K profit.

2. All of the debts except the dorothy perkins/debenhams cards were in our joint names. However due to joint and several liability the debt companies had the legal right to pursue me for the entire debt. They chose to do that as because as a mother of 2 young children I was an ‘easy target’, threatening phone calls and visits from big scary men terrified me.

3. Why didn’t I leave him? That is always so hard to answer! I didn’t feel it was acceptable to leave him for being off work – he was depressed, you can’t leave someone for being depressed can you? I couldn’t leave him when his business failed – that was just bad luck, wasn’t it? I couldn’t leave him – because it was christmas, fathers day, mothers day, the kids birthdays etc etc. I couldn’t break my marriage vows – I came from a broken home, I didn’t want me kids to as well. But mainly, I couldn’t leave him because I didn’t have enough self esteem to realise that I should accept all his shit.


V is for… Volunteer

Posted on 2nd May 2010 in Blog/ cats/ child/ divorce/ self esteem/ writing workshop

Am a bit late with my entry for Josie’s Writing Workshop. Like most people (have been reading through the entries!) I have gone for ‘5. Pick an emotion that best represents your state of mind right now and write creatively on that theme.’

The emotion that represents my state of mind is ‘meh’, yes yes, meh is definitely an actual emotion – don’t bother checking the dictionary, it’s there ok!

Am feeling ‘meh’ because sometimes I just don’t feel that I give enough.

I’ve always said that if I ‘won the lottery’ I would:

a) buy my dad a house with a big garden

b) put ‘a chunk’ of money in the bank for my children

c) buy colchester cat rescue

d) buy myself a house

e) do volunteer work for charities

But then it occurred to me that I could actually do volunteer work without having won the lottery. Ok, so I don’t have the time or money to devote my life to it, and I can’t change the world even a teeny bit but I could do something.

So, for the past 6  months I have been a volunteer for a charity called Cat Chat. Now, in my head this should involve baskets of kittens – each of a different colour, but sadly it doesn’t :(

It does, however, involve lots of pictures of cats which is nearly as good! What I do for them at the moment is make their quarterly newsletter, which helps to spread the word about their good work and lets people know about rehoming success stories, as well as highlighting those poor kitties who just can’t seem to find a home. If you do happen to be looking for a feline family member their rehoming pages are a good place to start.

If I ever did win the lottery and could afford devote more time to volunteer work I’m not sure what I’d chose to do. I’d like to help poorly children, or children affected by sadness whatever the cause. Having experienced the shock of having my world turned upside down – I’d like to help support women who find themselves in a scary world after a partner has left them. Today, after reading the article about single dads in Stella magazine, I’d have to say that I’d also like to help men who find themselves in that situation too. I wish I had the brains or the cash to help find a cure for cancer. I wish I could stop bullying. I wish I could cure depression. I wish the world would share it’s money so that we don’t need action aid, or water aid, or even band aid! I wish I could make paedophiles – JUST BLOODY STOP IT. But in the meantime, I’ll settle for cats cats and more cats!

And squash the feeling of ‘meh’ as best I can.

M is for… MADs!

Posted on 25th April 2010 in adultery/ benefits/ Blog/ caffe nero/ cats/ Cattery/ child/ Christopher Biggins/ coffee/ cream/ Cry/ customer service/ debt/ divorce/ doctors/ eczema/ Elvis/ Feral/ guarantor/ health/ house/ Itchy & Scratchy/ James Blunt/ Kreativ Blogger/ MADs/ Rihanna/ self esteem/ skin/ son/ starbucks/ steroids/ Take That/ Titanic/ Twitter/ Vets/ writing workshop

Blimey O’reily my name has popped up in the MADs list!

I wonder if it was my rants about coffee and customer service?

My frustration over my son’s battle with eczema?

My honest account of my recovery after the breakdown of my marriage?

Maybe it was learning that Dermot O’leary used to lay on my desk?

My tale of a random act of kindness?

Maybe someone liked reading about my cats Elvis and Maisy?

I doubt it was my infinite playlist….

Whatever it was I am very grateful to Twitter and the blogging world because it is really fun to share experiences with people, I’ve been reduced to tears (both of sadness and laughter) from other peoples blogs and I know I don’t stand a hope of winning with my 7 posts, but it is still pretty cool to take part!

If you would like to vote for me – I’d be delighted! Just click here and then enter my blog name www.coffeecurls.wordpress.com into the areas where you’d like to nominate.

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE

R is for… Random Acts of Kindness – Pay It Forward

Posted on 22nd April 2010 in adultery/ benefits/ child/ counselling/ Cry/ debt/ divorce/ guarantor/ house/ self esteem/ son/ writing workshop

R is for… Random Acts of Kindness – Pay It Forward

I looked at the lovely Josie’s Writing Workshop prompts again this week and thought – nah there is nothing there I can write anything about… Kept looking back and running through the list and kept coming up with the same answer – nope nothing there for me. But it was obviously still in my thoughts, as when I was getting dressed this morning a random act of kindness came to mind.

So. R is for… Random Acts of Kindness – Pay It Forward

If you’ve read A is for… And Then He Left Me you will know that in 2004 I was left in a bit of a bastard situation.

During that time although I experienced some incredibly low points I also experienced some amazing acts of random kindness that served as a lesson to me that I will never forget. That lesson being – pay it forward.

As mentioned in A is for… And Then He Left Me I was bailed out of having to move my children to another town to live in a B&B by a ‘friend’ who stood guarantor for me on a rental agreement. What I didn’t say was that this person, who we shall call W, had only known me for 2 weeks when they did it. I never once asked them to do it, in fact I seem to recall that I refused point blank, but W insisted. The letting agency initially turned them down because they had only known me for 2 weeks but, undeterred, W somehow magically sorted it out and my tenancy was approved.

It isn’t normally in my nature to accept things off people, especially people that I hardly know, however there was no financial risk to W (unless I missed payments which I knew that I wouldn’t) and I really had no other option so I begrudgingly accepted this kind and generous offer.

The generosity didn’t stop there though, after learning that my ex-husband wasn’t contributing financially, W then bought my 2 boys ALL their school uniform for the new September term – including PE kit, pencil cases, lunch boxes, shoes and winter coats! PLUS new Star Wars duvets sets and PJs. (And a mysterious deposit of cash – although W denied any involvement in this….)

This is where it got a bit tricky for me and my morals as suddenly money was actually involved. W had bought things and I had no money with which to pay W back. When I, repeatedly, raised this as an objection W’s one and only answer was always: “Pay it forward – if at some point in the future you are ever in a position to help someone who genuinely needs help, you can pay me back by helping them.”

I know this post probably sounds a little unbelievable, but I assure you it is completely true. There were absolutely no strings. I only ever knew W for a short period of time but they made a huge difference to my self-esteem and my belief in human nature and the kindness of strangers.

W used to say that it was redressing the balance, just ‘righting a wrong’, ie my ex-husband had wronged me and W was putting it right. I thank you W from the bottom of my heart.

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