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Family Court Strategies: When Your Partner Has BPD OR NPD Traits. Practicing lawyer, Senior Family Mediator, and former Licensed Clinical Social Worker with twelve years’ experience and an expert on navigating the Family Court process.
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Author Topic: Update and a few questions about how to deal with my ex  (Read 336 times)
BKDamon

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« on: May 13, 2022, 11:45:42 AM »

Hi everyone,

It’s been a few months since I last visited the forum: I have moved to a new house and been overly busy at work. Now that things are a little less crazy, I can provide some update of my situation on which some of you will surely have interesting insights.

So as a quick reminder, I have left my partner and mother of my three children a little more that a year ago after discovering that she was cheating on me again. She’s always shown BP traits and the phrase "walking on eggshells" has been in my mind almost every day of the 15 years of our relationship. I was devastated by her betrayals and specially by the lies and manipulation that went with it.

I’m in a better place now, but dealing with her is still difficult, though really less emotionally draining. I have to mention that we were not married and that we tried to find solutions between us for the custody and budget regarding our kids.
With hindsight, this wasn’t a good idea at all.

For example, I had to be really assertive for several months just to stop her from having/not having the kids whenever she wanted and to have a pseudo long-term custody plan (I received unexpected help from her lawyer for that).

To solve those issues, we agreed to go to family mediation but she went to a lawyer instead, who referred the case to a judge and refused to engage in an out of court settlement. There’s a 18 month delay before the case starts to be treated. Meanwhile, we managed to go to family mediation, but she cancelled it after the third session.

Our main disagreement now is money. We initially agreed on a 50/50 split of the budget related to the kids (we have 50/50 custody). She unilaterally changed it to one third for her and two for me, on the basis that she doesn’t earn enough money and that she constantly have to ask her parents to help her to buy clothes for the kids.

The thing is that she’s a physician with a private practice. Sure, she doesn’t work a lot, but the fact that someone with this kind of job says that they can’t afford to buy clothes for 1.5 kids is beyond me. And when I ask her why she doesn’t work a little more instead of remaining economically dependent on me, she argues that I am not allowed to criticize her way of living and that I don’t respect her boundaries. Given the fact that she used to text me about a 100 times per month despite of my many requests for her to stop, I have to admit that I find her remark about boundary respect a little misplaced, but whatever. I have also mentioned that she earned a fair amount money when we sold the house and that she could use it instead of asking me or her parents for money but that remark is also off limits.

Anyways, she sends me bills every month for the school restaurant, after school activities, clothes for the kids, etc. It’s annoying, but to avoid any problem for my kids, I usually pay. I lent her quite a lot of money when we broke up so that she could buy things for her new place (again, with hindsight, it was stupid) and even though she and her lawyer acknowledge this debt, she never proposed any solution to pay me back.

I find my lawyer’s advice on all of that a little disturbing: she said that I should never ask my ex to pay her debt in writing or it could be used against me, and that I should find a way to earn less money. I find it all pretty dishonest and I’m planning on asking a second opinion.

One great thing is that my kids are much better now. Someone in this forum told me that my role as the non BPD parent was to give them emotional stability. I really try to do that when I’m with them and it seems to pay off.

I know that my ex has a hard time dealing with the kids and that she blames it on me: my 5 year-old told me so. I’m a little concern with parental alienation but so far my kids always say that they missed me when they were at their mom’s and that they love me at lot, so it’s pretty reassuring. I try to correct some of the things that she says to them (that my mom never took care of me, for example...) without saying anything bad about her, and I’ve succeeded so far. My 5 year-old is a little confused about the fact that I don’t validate everything that her mom says. She still believes that grow-ups don’t lie, so that’s a little disturbing to her.

I’m a little more concerned right now about my eldest daughter who’s 12. She began junior high school this year and got a cellphone for practical reasons. I don’t know how often it happens, but I have noticed several times that her mom calls or texts her when she’s at my place. I don’t think it’s appropriate and knowing my ex, I’m worried about the development of an emotional dependency of my kids to their mother (she is herself emotional dependent to her mother), but I also want my daughter to be able to discuss with her mom whenever she needs.

So as you can see, I’m doing much better but I still have a few things to worry about. If you have any advice, I’ll gladly take it!

Thanks to you all
« Last Edit: May 13, 2022, 11:51:12 AM by BKDamon » Logged
ThanksForPlaying
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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2022, 02:53:06 AM »

Not a lawyer - but my understanding is that in most jurisdictions, child support is solely dependent on the custody spilt (50/50) and can potentially be modified if someone shows they can't afford to pay. So she COULD get her contribution lowered, but only if she shows low income for herself - and even then, there's a minimum wage floor - you still have to pay the minimum even if you have zero income. It DOESN'T depend on the relative income of the parents. One parent making a lot of money may be required to pay more themselves, but that doesn't LOWER the other parent's contribution. But obviously talk to a lawyer (maybe someone other than the one who says to quit your job haha).

Anyway, it sounds like you're doing a really good job of managing the manipulation and taking care of the kids' mental health. Nice work! The texting with the 12yo is going to be hard - does she have a therapist? That could take some of the burden off you of always having to be the "bad guy" - and that's just a teenager thing - not even BPD necessarily. Keep up the good work!
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alterK
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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2022, 03:02:11 PM »

Financial relations with a BPD partner can be complicated. My W and I agreed to separate our checking accounts, charge cards and so forth, about 2 years ago. Her complaint when we shared finances was that I was "taking all her money" and spending frivolously. My version was that she didn't want me to know how much money she was spending on her daughter, who has BPD and other mental health problems, and with whom she has a strongly co-dependent relationship. She also received an inheritance she doesn't want me to know the details of.

You don't have to hear the whole long story. Here's my point: She still periodically complains that I'm not being fair to her, usually when a big bill is in the offing. My momentary impulse is to JADE, but I am generally able to resist it. Instead, I tell her that if she wants to sit down and have a serious conversation about finances I am willing to do that. After some muttering on her part, that's always been the end of it. She understands that such a conversation would require her to offer different solutions, as well as putting all her cards on the table, and she doesn't want to do that.

It's my impression that people with BPD usually hate negotiating. I'm not sure of the reasons for this (will have to think about it!). There are dozens of threads on these boards that mention failures of joint counseling. Generally the best you can hope for is to be able to set boundaries in a minimally threatening way.

A pwBPD lives in a world where the ordinary rules of human relationships are tenuous to non-existent. They are struggling to keep their head above water, and are resistant to life-preservers anyone tries to toss their way. A huge amount of their difficult behavior is fear-based. A strange result of this is that they may respond well to limits or rules you set, because this brings order into their chaotic and frightening world.

Kids, of course, complicate the picture tremendously. I'm not sure of the origin of the saying, "Children are hostages to fortune," but it is certainly correct. Off the top of my head, I'd think Thanks is correct, that if you have a 50-50 custody arrangement expenses should also be 50-50. To change that a parent would have to make a clear case before a judge.

I don't know if there's a reason why Bill Eddy's books aren't listed in the Tools section of this website, but I would recommend you look at them. He is a social worker turned lawyer, and specializes in difficult separations involving people with personality disorders, which he says many lawyers aren't very well equipped to handle.
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BKDamon

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« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2022, 07:05:01 PM »

Thank you both for your replies!

Thanksforplaying: Thanks at lot for your encouragement. My 12 year-old has a therapist, in fact my three kids had at least a few sessions with her after the breakup. It was indeed quite helping for the parental alienation aspect, the therapist literally telling my ex that she had to stop saying things about me to the kids behind my back. She hasn’t really stopped, but at least my children have heard that it wasn’t a good thing.
I think you’re right about how child support is calculated, it is not based on the ratio of each parent’s income. This 1/3-2/3 balance that my ex tries to impose isn’t even what her lawyer argued for in her request to the judge. Just a sort of fixed idea of her I guess. And I don’t even question the fact that this 1/3-2/3 thing could apply to unplanned/exceptional expenses. But I have a problem with the fact that her choice to work less than most people allegedly prevents her to financially support her kids when they’re with her (as I said in a previous topic, she went as far as asking me to pay for two thirds of her food, once). Why would it be my role to financially assume this choice? That was the point we were at when she decided to stop our family mediation sessions. I’m sometimes a little confused, it is JADEing to ask that?

I completely agree with you, alterK, my impression is that my ex also hates negotiating. It’s "my way or the highway" most of the time. But when I don’t give in and simply present what appears to me as sound reasoning and alternatives, she usually doesn’t reply to my email. And in her next messages, she usually doesn’t mention the issue that was at hand anymore. It’s sometimes a good thing, but other times it’s a little frustrating to leave an issue unclosed. I have learned by spending time in the "separating" board of this forum that pwBPD have a problem with closure, probably a similar fear-based mechanism that you wrote about. I don’t know if my ex will ultimately respond well to the limits and rules I’m trying to set, but she definitely tries her best to ignore or circumvent them.

I think Bill Eddy’s book is in fact in the tool section, or at least it is somewhere on this site listed as a ressource, cause I have started reading it. I had to put it aside due to a lack of time, but I’ll definitely pick it up again, thanks for the reminder!
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I Am Redeemed
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« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2022, 08:23:55 PM »

So, you are not court ordered or legally obligated to pay, but she sends you these bills and you pay them because you fear that it will cause problems for your kids at school if you don't?

What would happen if you only pay for what you are obligated to pay? What if you were to send the bills back and tell her that she is responsible for x amount of the cost?
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BKDamon

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« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2022, 05:23:55 PM »

What would happen if you only pay for what you are obligated to pay? What if you were to send the bills back and tell her that she is responsible for x amount of the cost?


Well, I’ve tried that but it usually ends up in her saying that I owe her money based on her 2/3-1/3 split (not taking into account the money that I lent her) and that she can’t pay anyways.

The thing is that I don’t have a good tracking of the shared expenses anymore. We originally used the tricount app for that but she changed every entry to a 2/3-1/3 balance after seeing her lawyer. She also added expenses that were not in our original agreement and never added her own debt towards me (as this tricount was used for kids related stuff, I didn’t enter her debt either initially). I am now really hesitant to use this tricount that’s completely skewed. I know I should try to come up with my own version or even a simple spreadsheet, but I need to find the time to do it.

Here’s the last est example of how she misuses the tricount: we agreed to jointly buy coats and shoes for the kids. We also agreed for joint expenses to inform and seek the approval of the other parent beforehand. About a month ago, she texted that she was planning on buying a raincoat for our eldest daughter and asked if I was OK, which I was. But she latter told me that she bought at the same time coats for our two other kids as well as underwear. I asked if she was telling me that just for my information or if she was asking to pay for those expenses that we didn’t agree on. She replied that, for the two extra coats we should discuss it in the next mediation session, and for the underwear, she was just "sharing the results of her research".
But after a couple of weeks, I discovered that she did in fact added those expenses to the tricount, with the same uneven split. It wasn’t the first time this kind of things happened so I contested this move from her part. After a couple of emails about that, she just emailed me today that she is tired of debating our kids’ primal needs with me and that the coats are now no longer part of the joint expenses. Of course, she can’t just choose by herself what is or isn’t joint expenses and I clearly stated that I didn’t debate our kids’ needs but her manners, but it is the kind of tiring discussion that happen when I challenge the bills.

There’s also something unrelated for which I’d be glad to have an educated opinion: when I picked up my youngest daughter at school today, I discovered that she had sunburn on her back and shoulders after a picnic during the weekend with her mom. I wouldn’t normally do anything about it, it could have happened with me, but it’s the second time this happens this spring and my eldest even told me that she avoided the picnic because she didn’t want to be sunburnt again. In your opinion, should I talk about it with my ex or would that just not be worth it?

With anyone else I wouldn’t mind just mentioning those points, but it’s always so complicated with her and I don’t want it to seem like I’m nitpicking.
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alterK
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« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2022, 08:58:57 PM »

BK, it is very frustrating, but I think you are banging your head against a wall when you try to work out an agreement with your W. Redeemed has a point. What would happen if you just did what you thought was correct?

Here's an example of mine. My uBPD wife is, to put it politely, subject to fits of anger. She's never attacked me physically, but she can say astonishingly nasty things when she feels minimally challenged. For years I begged her to control herself, count to 10, whatever. It never worked.

A couple of months ago I sat down with her and said, "OK, I know I can't control what you do or say. But I can control what I do. From now on, whenever you speak to me nastily I simply won't do what you want. Doesn't matter even if what you want is no big deal, is reasonable. I won't do it. I won't argue. I'm not doing this in anger or trying to punish you. This is just the only way I can stay sane."

She made no reply. Strangely enough, her hissy fits, while not entirely gone, have become less frequent since then.

If you can assert a boundary in a calm way, don't expect her to say, "You're right, dear. I'll go along with it." You can't force her to do what you want. But you can control what you do. Che Guevara said guerillas should never get involved in a battle they don't expect they can win. Start by setting a boundary you think you can succeed with. Don't let it be a fight. You won't win that. It doesn't have to be a big thing, but success will give you confidence, and you can learn from every success or failure.
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« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2022, 09:09:34 PM »

Excerpt
I think you’re right about how child support is calculated, it is not based on the ratio of each parent’s income.

I think TFP's point was that the difference in income doesn't mean that the lower income parent has little or no obligation.

My lawyer used the Dissomaster software, and the calculation was close to what I estimated from the state of California's website which uses the same software.

https://childsupport.ca.gov/guideline-calculator/

With joint custody, my obligation was at the time about $700/mo for two kids. It was stipulated that I paid medical and dental and that was included which lowered my cash support. I made about $45k/year more than her at the time.

When we "showed our hands" so to speak, she said she thought that I made $20k/ year less, despite my budget being very open on an excel spreadsheet. No, I don't spend like a drunken sailor past my paycheck. She still does.

IIRC, it's based upon net income, so minimizing pre-tax contributions (like 401(k) or IRA) lowers the amount. We are supposed to split medical co-pays or non covered $ evenly. Nothing was stipulated about clothing, something my ex tried to nail me for saying that she bought more clothes, so she didn't have to split ABA therapy co-pays or orthodontics. She owes me about $3k, but I just let it slide rather than going to court. Funny...I actually have receipts!
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BKDamon

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« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2022, 04:56:58 AM »

I think TFP's point was that the difference in income doesn't mean that the lower income parent has little or no obligation.


Yes, I get what you mean. My point about the ratio was that it is precisely because we initially thought of a split based on a ratio (50/50) that she was able to reduce her contribution by claiming a lower ratio for her. But indeed, that’s not how it works.
I understand why you let some things slide, I do it quite often and it’s exactly what I find uncomfortable: finding where I should put up strong boundaries and where I should just let it go.

BK, it is very frustrating, but I think you are banging your head against a wall when you try to work out an agreement with your W. Redeemed has a point. What would happen if you just did what you thought was correct?
 

Thanks for you for your advise, alterK. I guess that’s what I am trying to do, although I’m still inclined to give her at least basic justification for my stances. For the coat thing, my response to her was always along the lines of "we agreed that coats were joint expenses, we agreed that those expenses were to be decided conjointly. this agreement was not respected, so I am not willing to pay. If you have a different opinion, I’m completely ready to hear it". I’m probably JADEing a little, I guess, but again I think I should tell her at least my basic reasoning. And I don’t want to come across as stubborn or close-minded if our exchanges were to be presented to a judge.

For the school related bills, I don’t know what the correct attitude should be, so I let it slide. For now at least. One battle at time, to follow on alterK’s guerilla analogy.
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« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2022, 12:35:40 PM »

In my state both a ratio of parenting time and income are included in the calculations.

In my divorce temp order... I had alternate weekends, so about 22-25% time.  My ex never revealed her income so it was imputed at minimum wage.  I earned a good wage, I paid child support.

A few years later when I got full custody.  GAL decided we should stay at the post-divorce equal time.  My ex still did not revealed her income so it was imputed at minimum wage.  I earned a good wage, possibly plus some raises.  Though this time she had less time, only 50% time, I paid $50 more child support.

A couple years later when I got majority time during the school year, CS ended.
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« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2022, 06:55:15 PM »

I understand why you let some things slide, I do it quite often and it’s exactly what I find uncomfortable: finding where I should put up strong boundaries and where I should just let it go.

I learned the hard way to stick to a boundary even if it might eventually inconvenience me. Boundaries became the backbone of how we functioned. Boundaries came first middle and last.

Make a list of the ways in which she steamrolls over you, what requests aggravate you. Put put them in categories if that helps and then have a stock response when those boundaries are violated. Then stick to what you say you will do/won't do.

When you set a boundary she will likely go to the kids with a distortion. Have you read Divorce Poison? That may help you come up with stock phrases with the kids so they are not left believing one narrative (your dad is cheap, your dad says you can't be warm/have a new coat, etc.).

It's a one-down, one-up mentality and every time we loosen a boundary, we are seen as weak. The efforts are then likely to intensify and spread.

Can you go back through the expenses and average them out to see what things look like and use that number going forward? It seems the system set up is ripe for high-contact co-parenting. I cannot imagine being engaged at that level of minutiae -- it would be abused nonstop and used as a way to remain in a high-conflict limbo.
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BKDamon

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« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2022, 10:43:20 AM »

My ex still did not revealed her income so it was imputed at minimum wage.  I earned a good wage, possibly plus some raises.  Though this time she had less time, only 50% time, I paid $50 more child support.

Thanks for sharing, ForeverDad. The fact that your ex could just hide her income and be imputed minimum wage is jarring! Was there no recourse
for that or did you just decide that it wasn’t worth the fight?

I learned the hard way to stick to a boundary even if it might eventually inconvenience me. Boundaries became the backbone of how we functioned. Boundaries came first middle and last.

Make a list of the ways in which she steamrolls over you, what requests aggravate you. Put put them in categories if that helps and then have a stock response when those boundaries are violated. Then stick to what you say you will do/won't do.

That’s very helpful, thanks a lot!
It is indeed very high-contact co-parenting, and it used to be even more so (about 100 texts and 30 emails from her every month, sometimes as much as 250 texts). She wanted to discuss everything, share everything and when I wouldn’t reply, she would start acting like a bully with the schedule and the budget. This passing year has been a long and constant struggle to reduce the level of contact and disentangle myself from this invasive relationship. It’s still a work in progress, as you saw. And I believe her engaging joint expenses without consulting me beforehand is at least in part a sort of retaliation to the fact that I asked her during a mediation session to stop texting me so much ("how can I ask for your agreement if I can’t send you texts? See, your demands are irrational!").

it would be abused nonstop and used as a way to remain in a high-conflict limbo.

Yep. Exactly. The first few months after our breakup, I was so devastated that couldn’t prevent this kind of dynamics to be put in place. Now I’m doing my best to catch up and get the balance right.

Thanks for recommending Divorce Poison. I have not read it, but I’ll definitely will, and I have another book called "Co-parenting with a toxic ex" in my to-read pile.
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« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2022, 01:08:53 PM »

We used imputed income because the first time around I really didn't think she had much income.  She was trying MLM and wasn't even making minimum wage.
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« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2022, 08:48:45 PM »

We used imputed income because the first time around I really didn't think she had much income.  She was trying MLM and wasn't even making minimum wage.

Some people make money from MLMs, and a few can make a lot, but I've seen that MLMs tend to draw in magical thinkers, as the two pwBPD in my life were. My mom first tried selling "space food" when the space shuttle program and SkyLab were a big deal. MREs, basically. But in shiny packaging like the astronauts eat!

My ex and her beau after she left tried selling life insurance and spent money and time going to motivational training conferences to get their "business" off the ground. I know how those things go, LGAT (Large Group Awareness Training) techniques to break people down and control them. The only people that tend to make a lot of money are those very far in your upline.
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« Reply #14 on: May 19, 2022, 09:41:06 PM »

…techniques to break people down and control them.

That sounds like BPD to me! Laugh out loud (click to insert in post)
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