Colorado, S2, D1
On and off over the last 11 months, I've asked and gotten advice here. I appreciate all of the advice and did think about the advice, along with talking with my lawyer, and my gut feelings.
The immediate parenting plan is far from ideal, the saving grace is that it does ramp up to 50/50. We had a Parental Responsibility Evaluation done last year, despite all of my research on the Psychologist my ex (no longer STBX
) and her lawyer suggested, I've come to the conclusion that she was the wrong person to perform the PRE. She has published books and did an online radio show for several years. Every where, she repeated that kids needed 50/50 except in extreme circumstances. Turns out one of her extreme circumstances is "tender years". The other issue I have with her, is from everyone I've talked to her level of investigation was more like a Child Family Investigation with added psychological testing performed by a different doctor.
I'll admit that one piece of advice that I ignored was not to use med/arb and just have the hearing. Overall, I'm certain that med/arb was the right answer for me, I'm likely the outlier based off of everything I've read here. A couple of the reasons I got my ex to agree to med/arb with the same mediator who did our required mediation last fall is her comments. We did shuffle room mediation, the mediator told me that she reviewed the PRE report and the only reason I wasn't getting 50/50 now was the age of our children. She also was frustrated with my ex and has worked with my ex's lawyer before. The mediator told us that she has pulled my ex's lawyer aside after mediation and had talks with her about taking unreasonable positions.
I doubt my ex learned her lesson, the parenting plan is better than even the PRE recommendation and on all but three of the financial pieces the arbitrator awarded me more than the proposals I was willing to accept, if she hadn't kept pushing for less and less for the kids with me and more and more for her financially I would have agreed to something less than the award.
On parenting time, my daughter is going to follow my son's schedule with a 6 month delay until next April, when they go on the same schedule. My ex lied about what time I got off of work and what time I got home last year when I finally got a temporary parenting schedule in place, so I've been doing Monday / Wednesday 4pm - 6pm and recently got the 9am - 5pm on Saturdays that I was supposed to have last fall. She blinked when it got about three (3) weeks away from the emergency hearing I got from the court because she refused to allow the full Saturday's.
Starting immediately the weekday parenting time is changed to 5pm - 7:30pm, I got the PRE recommended start time and the arbitrator added a half hour on top of it. Starting 4/22, my son has an overnight with me every other weekend from Saturday 9am to Sunday 5pm, 6 months later his parenting time expands to Friday 5pm - Sunday 5pm and my daughter starts the same weekend with daughter on the Saturday 9am to Sunday 5pm. Personally, I think this will be harder on the kids to have this sort of separate schedules. The PRE and arbitrator both think it is the right thing to do.
There are several other ramp-ups in parenting time until we hit the key date and parenting time. May 2020, the parenting plan switches to 50/50. The arbitrator again awarded me more than the PRE recommendation. The PRE had it "nearly 50/50" without looking at her report it was either 6 or 5 overnights out of 14.
Due to malicious behavior my ex has engaged in, such as changing the 2 1/2 check-up appointment to a week earlier without telling me and then claiming she didn't change the appointment and wouldn't have scheduled the appointment at the time it was originally. The pediatrician's office keeps a record of cancelled/changed appointments, they were able to provide me that my ex changed it back in February. The arbitrator was waiting on my ex to pay her half of the fees, I worked with my lawyer and put together a communication that outlined what happened and I sent it to her. The pediatrician's office has dealt with this before and now both kids have a notification alert in their records to contact me when appointments are cancelled/changed.
That resulted in a statement in the arbitration award that I presented credible information that my ex hasn't notified me of appointments and that I have missed appointments because of her actions. It also got a clause that we both have to add to the OurFamilyWizard calendar all appointments and extracurricular for the month by the 1st of the month.
One bad thing about the two portals the pediatricians office uses is that both of them only allow one email address to have access. I convinced the arbitrator that I will maintain an email account that we both have access to and for any online system that only allows one login, we use that email.
I also got included in the emergency medical notification that we must inform the other of the location. Last fall my ex took the kids to an ER for a rash that they supposedly got at my place and told me she was taking them, but refused to tell me where. Since this was over text messages, I submitted the text messages to the arbitrator.
Again because of games my ex pulled, we have a clause that parenting time can not be cancelled for sickness unless a medical professional says it is right and we both have a chance to talk to the medical professional. I think this is a bit extreme but my ex has used this twice in the last 11 months. Related to this, I also got a make-up clause.
I know some people are going to fault me for not getting 50/50 now. I'm not happy with where the parenting plan is at right now, but I'm better off than a lot of father's because I have a court order outlining the increases in parenting time to 50/50. After talking to my lawyer, his opinion is a judge would have implemented the plan exactly as written in the PRE recommendation, so the kids did come out ahead with me.
On the financial side, I got most of what I thought was a reasonable settlement. Two areas that I didn't included the value of our house and the value of my Camaro that my ex got. For the house, my ex was able to convince the arbitrator that it was only worth 390k, I presented evidence that it was 415k at a minimum. Not a huge difference, but a minor disappointment. Given her income, unless her parents intervene with around 150k, which they might be able to do, she won't be able to refinance and get my equity out and my name off the loan. If she does refinance, I have to sign a quit claim deed once I have the cash and she has a loan solely in her name. The arbitrator looks like she partially agreed with my position that my ex can't afford the house and should sell it now. My ex only has until early July to do the refinance, otherwise the house goes up for sale and we get market value. The area the house is in is very much in demand, so I'm hopefully it will go for enough to cover commission and come out further ahead.
On the Camaro, I had it before we started dating and before we got married. Based off of a CarMax offer, I got the value set as 15k. I argued that my ex should get 1/4 of that, the arbitrator gave her half with it to come out of my house equity.
For some reason my ex never filed for temporary alimony or child support. I did the math and paying the bills was at least $300 a month less than those would have been. The only downside is my ex was using our single joint credit card for her and the kids expenses. She tried to get both back alimony and child support out of me. I documented everything I spent keeping up the bills and paying on the credit card. The arbitrator wrote for both of her requests "this request is denied".
For the credit card, the arbitrator assigned 80% of the balance to my ex and 20% to me. Also my ex has to start making the minimum payment once the first alimony in May is paid to her. The balance of the card is to be paid at the time of the refinance or sale of the house.
I also got assigned about $200 less a month in alimony than I had calculated. It took me a few minutes to figure out why. The arbitrator averaged my income from my first financial statement last year and the one I completed in February. Also due to the marriage only lasting 4 years, by statue I have only 15 months of alimony. Until I get the equity out of the house to pay off most of the credit card debt for my legal fees, things are going to be tight. As soon as that is paid off, I'll have enough to start building a savings account up again and my goal is in 2-3 years to buy a town home.
We both requested attorney's feed. My ex did it under a statue about income differences, I did it based on several court precedents about one party causing a massive increase in fees through their behavior. Not surprising, we were both denied.
I've got mixed feelings on the parenting plan, I can't figure out what and how I could have done much different. I made a couple mistakes with the PRE home visit, I focused too much on showing I could take care of my daughter. False accusations of DV and child abuse forced me out of the house and with the temporary restraining order, it wasn't made permanent but was made a mutual no contact order.
The financial settlement I'm much happier with. I wish my ex hadn't forced me to spend so much that the equity I get if she refinances isn't enough to pay off the credit cards. If we have to sell, I suspect I'll actually have some cash left.