Sunday, July 27, 2008

Maybe Having Kids Is A Bad Idea After All

When my daughter was five years old her mother Karen (her maiden name was Knight) and I divorced. We only had one car and I left it with her when she asked me to leave. I took only my musical equipment and clothing. I didn't hire myself a lawyer for the divorce, I hired a lawyer for Karen and paid him in advance. She got the house, everything in, on or around it, the car and custody of our daughter Catrina. I think Karen managed to break even on the car but she sold the house for enough to clear several thousand dollars in profit and liquidated everything in/on/around the house in a garage sale.

When Catrina was about 13 she decided she wanted to live with me. After a protracted battle, Karen capitulated and allowed her to come live with me on condition that I not ask her to pay child support. I couldn't have cared less about the money but I did insist that Karen sign a waver on the child support I was paying her. Karen did, in fact, sign a temporary child support waiver. A few short years later, my second wife, Kathy, and Catrina declared open war on one another. They refused to compromise, or even discuss their differences. At my wits end, I finally decided that my only option was to send Catrina back to her mother.

Catrina moved out, Karen rescinded the temporary waiver, and the state promptly came after me for back child support for the entire time Catrina lived with me. Of course there was no way I could pay it and I was self employed so they couldn't garnish my wages. I asked Karen to please do something about this. She agreed it was unfair but insisted there was nothing she could do.

After the shop closed I worked at one or another entry level job for the next few years and the state always took a little out of my meager check to apply to my back child support which, by this time, with penalties and interest, had grown to around $26,000.00. Karen agreed it was unfair but continued to insist there was nothing she could do about it. I finally started taking odd and part-time jobs that paid cash and that's how things stood until a few months ago when I decided to see if a lawyer could do anything to help me. I'd tried to hire a lawyer on several occasions over the years but they'd all refused me the minute I said the words "child support". This time I got lucky.

Linda Bayless, a brilliant lawyer from Kingsland Texas, acquired the records from the state of Texas, did some research and advised me that, in fairness, I owed Karen about $3,000 if you subtracted the child support she was morally (if not legally) obligated to pay me from the child support I owed her. She then made one phone call and the $26,000.00 the state was demanding suddenly dropped to $10,000.00. Karen, of course, declined to concede that she owed me any child support for the time Catrina lived with me so $10,000.00 it remains today. She'll get it eventually, but I'm in no hurry to accelerate the process. Am I wrong to feel this way?
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