Don't hold yourself back to get more child support and spite your ex
I hear from women who want to game the system, not earn too much so their child support or alimony payments won't be compromised.
I also hear from women who pay their ex support and alimony, and they, too, limit themselves out of worry of having to pay out more than they care to. And, they may find themselves doing that very thing.
But … who cares?! Ask yourself this: When you are 82 years old, looking back at your life, what do you want to think:
Wow, I really stuck it to my ex all those years and cashed his checks. So awesome!
I am so proud that I seized on my creative ideas, worked really fucking hard, created not only a really amazing life for myself and my kids, but also gave them the gift of financial comfort and a role model for making their own dreams a reality — and never being in the crippling situation of financial dependence on another person.
Full transcript of Like A Mother podcast with Emma Johnson
Welcome. I am your host, Emma Johnson. I help moms who think navigate the finer points of life, feminism, dating, sex, parenting, and you know what, let's face it, these things often intertwine. You can't talk about getting ahead in the workplace if you're not talking about who's doing what at home, and if you're negotiating who's doing what at home, the underlying current is who's having sex and who's not having sex. This is one giant ball of wax. You can't tease one out from the other. This is totally apropos of today's show, which is based on a reader note. These are often universal challenges and problems. This one is about alimony, child support, and earning.
On alimony, child support and earning
It says, “Dear Emma, two years ago after my divorce, I started to make some changes in my business and dream really, really big for 2016.” Hey sister, I'm with you. 2016, it's the year. I don't know about what's going on in your world. Everyone I know is talking about 2016's the year. She says, “I'm writing this at my desk, staring at my dream board. I set up my circle of awesome female entrepreneurs who are my support network, invested in a coach, and I have a plan for killing it this year. I am so excited to live my full potential and show my kids what they are also capable of. Also, I want to be rich and I've stopped feeling guilty about it.” Loving it.
“However though,” she goes on. She says, “However, if I earn above a certain amount and my ex finds out about it, he will take me to court and have my child support and alimony payments lowered or even taken away. I really depend on that income now, so if by chance my business does not take off or has a downturn, I will really hurt. Plus, he owes me and the kids that money. I sacrificed my career for many years to be home with the kids. He cheated with a colleague and he left me. I cannot let him off the hook. Do you have any ideas how I can hide my income or be successful while also making sure that I get support from my ex? What do other women in my situation do? Thanks, Shari.”
Making too much money to receive child support and alimony payments
I mean, is she asking me to help her with tax fraud? I mean, I'm not in that business. I'm in the business of empowering women to go and earn your own money. Now Shari, I get it. Alimony, I've said this many times before, alimony was a coup for feminism. It was a coup for women back in the 50's, 60's, 70's when all that law was coming through, when women did not have financial economic opportunity. There were not women in C-suites. There were hardly women in the workforce at all, so women needed alimony. Divorce was happening, but there was no way for them to support themselves if they did not have child support or alimony, so that was awesome.
But the world has changed, and today women who are reliant on alimony hold themselves back. I have never met a woman who collects that check every single month and is also living to her own potential professionally and financially. These two cannot coexist because living to your full potential means taking full responsibility for yourself, and you do not say things like, “He owes me.” You have opportunity and therefore you have obligation to earn your own income.
So, your question for me was, what do women in my situation do? Well, they do one of two things. They can either one, collect that financial support from your ex-husband indefinitely, but that will forever keep you tethered to a man who you are no longer romantically involved with, and chances are, you might even hate him. So, why would you want to perpetuate that? Now I get that alimony and child support might be a great step for you coming out of divorce, getting back on your feet, getting back into the workforce, reestablishing a home. There is a period of transition where it is a fair and moral thing for you guys to sort things out, spread the money around in a way that makes sense for both of you to get on your own feet, but by relying on those funds long term you will limit yourself financially and professionally and have your life dictated by this other person and I don't want that for you. I want something else for you, something better, something in that dream board.
Live your full potential and stop accepting alimony
But back to your question, what do women do? The other thing they do is they get the fuck over it. They decide that they are an adult, autonomous adults who are willing to live their full potential, take risks, go after what they want, and make it happen. These women, they know that they cannot live that full potential until they embrace that autonomy as scary as it is. It is scary. It is more financially precarious to have one wage earner in a household as a single parent than when there are two living in that household, even if one of them is a stay-at-home parent. It is a scarier financial proposition, but it is doable. I know because I'm communicating with women who are doing it and much, much more every single day.
These women that make that decision to do it, they do not throttle their own success for the sake of punishing your ex because by doing that, by punishing your ex or your boss or your mom, or punishing anybody else, that would be giving away your power. And that is absolutely absurd. So, this is what you're going to do, Shari. You're going to fire up that dream board. You're going to plug into those goals, into your network and do everything that expensive coach is telling you to do every day. You're forgetting about your ex and his checks and all of those sums that are deposited into your checking account every day, and you are going so big, so big that those will be irrelevant. This is about you and your dreams, and going big time.
Be a financially independent single mom – for yourself and your kids
For the record, I hear about women like you every single day. And I hear from women on the other side of the coin, women who are paying their exes alimony or child support, and they ask me, “Well how can I go and build this amazing big business that I'd like to do or go for that giant corporate promotion, so at the same time not having to pay my ex any more?” And I tell them the exact same thing. You cannot limit yourself out of anger for your ex because that is giving him or her your power.
Finally, I want you to do what I do, which is when I'm at a crossroads, I think, “What would I think, looking back on my life when I'm 82 years old? When I'm an old woman, my body's giving out on me and I look back on my life and how it went. What do I want to think about this period of my life?” Shari, what do you want to think about this period of your life when you're an old woman looking back? It's gonna be either one, “Oh wow, I really stuck it to my ex all those years and collected his money,” or two you're going to think, “I am so proud that I seized on my creative ideas. I worked really fricking hard. I created not only an amazing life for myself and my kids, but I also gave my children the gift of financial comfort and a role model for making their own dreams a reality. I was never in the crippling situation of financial dependence on another person.” That's what you really want, Shari, and that is what I want for you.
Tune in next episode. Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. Talk to you next week.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.