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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.

 

Free Money? Yes, really…

Posted on 26th June 2015 in children/ debt/ family/ money

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 18.41.14Free money! Yes, literally and yes, really… I have been using KidStart when I buy things on the internet – M&S, Amazon, Sainsburys, Expedia, Mothercare, Boden, Disney, Boots, Wickes, Debenhams, for tickets, furniture, clothes, hotels, trips, gifts, shopping, clothing, comparision sites etc etc etc. So long as I click through to the site via KidStart then they pay me a percentage straight into a bank account for one of the boys.

It is literally that simple, you just need to remember to go via the KidStart website first. At Christmas and holiday times you can receive quite a lot of FREE money – it makes it kinda rude not to :)

Take a look for yourself

Panic On The Streets Of London! Well, £10 Notes Shaped Into Dogs Anyway.

Posted on 31st March 2015 in money

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In an amazing feat of generosity and sensational marketing, @BeagleStreet have released the hounds with their #ReleaseThePounds publicity stunt.

What more reason could you need to visit London this Easter?

According to the Telegraph: A total of 500 tenners have been released in different locations across London as part of a stunt by online life insurance provider Beagle Street

“Hopefully our £10 note Beagles will put a smile on people’s faces and pounds back into their pockets,” said Matthew Gledhill, the company’s managing director. 

More of the £10 note origami canines will be released in other cities around the UK in the next few weeks. 

Let’s hope they don’t all blow away.

People have already started finding them and sharing the news, will you be next?

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SpaceBunker Needs YOU!

Posted on 23rd March 2015 in KickStarter/ money/ moon/ Space

spacebunker logoSpaceBunker is the brainchild of my son who is 15 and attends school in Cambridgeshire. He has always had a passion for understanding the universe, even from a very young age (approx 5) I’ve had to try to explain things to him like why there is a straight line on the moon when it’s a half-moon and why the sky is blue.

Fortunately for me his love of the universe has progressed far beyond my rudimentary knowledge and he is constantly seeking new information and questioning the world around him.

He wants to be an astronautical engineer in the future and has plans to be pioneering in the UK space program – even to the point that he wants to be launching rockets from the UK with a view to gaining a better understanding of the formation of the universe and interstellar travel. He has other plans but apparently they are secret 😉

Rocket sketchThis project is currently more about sharing the knowledge that he already has via a dedicated blog and YouTube channel that can bring new and interesting facts about space, science, maths and general geekiness to the mainstream. It would, I imagine, be popular with a variety of age ranges and abilities and would have educational value.

A bit about my son – other than the above, he is a very bright mathematician and has been studying an accelerated maths course and is a member of the school maths team. He has recently discovered that he has Synesthesia.  He plays badminton, enjoys drumming and is currently partaking in the Duke of Edinburgh scheme.

Telescope sketch

The KickStarter is currently 20% funded and he needs help reaching more people to make it work. Please consider backing the project, even if you can only afford a £1, because it will be so good for him to feel supported and also every little £1 will add up and between us we can reach the target!

Click here to take a look and back the project.

Please share this with your friends and colleagues and anyone you think might be interested.

Thank you x

Do YOU have to reapply to the CSA?

Posted on 20th March 2015 in child/ children/ CSA/ money

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 19.16.04From June 2014 all new applications for child maintenance are processed via the Child Maintenance Service.

However, a representative of the CSA has confirmed to me today that ALL existing CSA cases are going to be closed.

ALL CASES.

She advised me that this process has commenced and that within the next six months to two years ALL cases with the CSA will be closed and anyone wishing to use the service will have to reapply to the CMS (Child Maintenance Service), for which there will be fees.

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It has rules, like Fight Club, the first rule of the Child Maintenance Service is that you must talk to the Child Maintenance Service before you can talk to the Child Maintenance Service…

Fees

There will be a £20 fee to apply to the CMS and then there will be a deduction of 4% from the maintenance paid to the person receiving the payment and there will be a 20% fee charged to the person making the payment.

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So a little example for you – if the person making the payment has 2 children and therefore pays 20% of their salary, they will then pay and extra 20% of that amount in fees to the CMS. If that person is already in arrears, the CMS will endeavour to capture those arrears as quickly as possible, often increase the amount taken by a further 20% – leaving the person making the payment with virtually none of their salary!

I queried this with her and she said it is meant to encourage people to make family arrangements rather than use the service. That’s fine, except that most people using the service do so because the absent parent refuses to pay and is often out of contact entirely. So this system will penalise those who actually need it most.

This is utter madness.

Below is a list of what this new service will do for its money. Yes, it is exactly what the CSA does now.

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For further information please see this article by Gingerbread.

Or visit the Government information page here.

Peer to Peer lending – brilliant or insane?

Posted on 15th June 2012 in money

I’m quite fascinated with the emergence of Peer-to-Peer lending.

Excuse my ignorance if I am wrong but isn’t this essentially how banking started out in the first place?

Ok, I’ll admit I got that information from Deadwood, but moving swiftly on the overall premiss as I understand it is that instead of saving your pennies at your local bank or building society, you invest it in one of the (currently) three companies Zopa, Rate Setter and Funding Circle offering peer-to-peer lending and they then loan it out in very small increments in order to offset your risk. So if you invest say £5000 they might spread that across 500 different loans to protect your investment as much as possible and the interest rate is higher than you can currently get from the banks. Plus, at the moment, you even get to choose what rates you would like to set!  Here is the BBC’s take on it.

Personally, while I do think it is a lovely idea, I wouldn’t want to take the risk as the investments are not regulated and the investments are all made at your own risk. Therefore there are no guarantees that you would be able to get your money back! I do think that a lot of people will make a lot of money from this but I also think that at some point (possibly as less scrupulous companies get involved) it will go horribly wrong and people will lose their investments.

What do you think? Would you invest in one?

Take Control Of Your Finances #MoneyMonday

Posted on 30th January 2012 in #MoneyMonday/ debt/ finances/ money

As January draws to a close, I keep hearing people say that they are struggling financially. For some it is the age old problem of over spending at Christmas, for others it is simply because they are finding it hard to make ends meet.

I’ve had lots of experience of budgeting for various reasons and want to share with you a series of posts (all tagged #MoneyMonday) which I hope may help you regain control of your finances.

So what qualifies me to give advice on this subject?

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.

I wont go back over the details on this post regarding the circumstances, they’ve already been posted here.

Below is a list of the debts I was left with (along with the figure I paid to each lender to clear the debt in full):

Negative equity £12,000 – (settled at £4,600)
Bank overdraft £1,555.54 – (settled at £1,150)
Business overdraft £1,840.69 – (settled at £921)
Bank overdraft £974 – (settled at £750)
Credit card £2,292.35 – (settled at £1,375.41)
Store card £2,635 – (settled at £2,355)
Store card £1,435 – (settled at £910)
Credit card £879 – (settled at £425)
Credit card £1,529 – (settled at £1,100)
Business loan £5,000 – (settled at £2,000)
Bank overdraft £1,841 – (settled at £1,400)
Bank Loan £1,428.71 – (settled at £800)
Store card £893 – (settled at £715)
Credit card £932 – (settled at £800)
Personal loan £781.20 – (settled at £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 2010.

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 ruined credit rating which meant that I couldn’t get one. For several years I had to use a building society passbook account and had no cards of any kind. Now you can get bank accounts specifically designed for people with bad credit that help you build your credit rating back up.

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.

I will go over these points in more details over the next few weeks, not necessarily in this order:

1. Don’t ignore your debts. They truly don’t go away they just get bigger and more unmanageable.

2. 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.

3. Take control. 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.

4. Dealing with people chasing debt.

5. Debt ‘selling’ – it may looks as though different companies are chasing you for the same debt; that’s because they are!

6. If you have some money to repay a debt, always offer a reduced settlement figure – 99% of the time they will either accept it or negotiate.

7. Managing your budget.

8. Start saving!

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.


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