Can’t pay my bills after CS and SS in California

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Can’t pay my bills after CS and SS in California

Unread postby ventzi » Fri Jan 27, 2017 2:02 am

Hi,
I’m in the middle of the divorce proceedings with my STBX and my lawyer is just now trying to negotiate a settlement for CS and SS.

The trouble is that the even the best we can settle on doesn’t leave me enough to pay my bills and the lawyer claims that going through the court hearing might give me worse results.


The situation is that I moved to the SF Bay Area with my family in Aug 2015. Besides the STBX I have two children—4 1/2 and 8 1/2. I moved here from Europe to work as a software engineer and signed up the kids in a private school, not properly anticipating how much everything was going to cost. At this stage, I could have managed to cover all our needs—not saving anything, but not starving either—but my wife decided she needed a divorce after 9 years of marriage. Unfortunately, she’s here simply on a dependent visa and has no legal right to work, so I’m basically in for a lot of misery.

I’d appreciate any advice on potential escape routes that could allow me to reduce/escape CS and/or SS, so I can actually cover my living expenses. Currently, I need to pay about $5,500 monthly just for recurring living expenses that I cannot get out of—rent, utilities, phone, internet, commute, car, minimum debt payments. The CS+SS that I’ll need to pay comes up to $3,463. With my current net monthly income being about $8,500, I’m in the red already before accounting for food, clothing and school fees for the kids.
On top of that, over the years my STBX was a bit of a prima-donna and, after obtaining a PhD in linguistics, wasn’t satisfied with life and the job opportunities and got an MSc in computer science on top. This, of course, meant that she couldn’t work, so instead of savings all we have is debt. Meaning, I’ve nothing to tap into to cover the monthly deficit after CS and SS payments.

Unfortunately, as we only moved to the US in Aug 2015, I still don’t have a green card and so my STBX still can’t legally work. She has managed to find free accommodation for her and the children, but because of her inability to work, the court is firmly on her side with regard to support.

She first said she wanted a divorce as early as last June and since then she’s harassed me into surrendering my time with the kids, to the extent that the custody is now at 30/70 in her favour. I hope to get more in a review, but that’s only in March.


So my plea is for any advice on potential wiggle room I could gain in this case. I’m quite desperate, because it turns out that I’ll be left unable to pay my obligations, despite my ‘huge’ software engineer salary.
Any suggestions welcome!

Ventzi
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Re: Can’t pay my bills after CS and SS in California

Unread postby FlyGuySLO » Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:15 am

Vents,

Sounds like a tough situation. Questions...

1. Why are you not fighting for 50/50 equal custody? This should be first and foremost what you settle. Unless there is some domestic violence on record, then you should have 50/50. Nothing else is acceptable.

2. How much do you make?

3. Are you and your wife from the same country? What country are you from?

4. Do you have any assets such as real estate, investments, retirement plans?

5. Does your wife have any separate property assets such as a trust, investments, bank accounts?

6. Have you asked your lawyer, or an immigration atty, about a plan to get her working asap? If she has the degrees she does I have to believe the court would impute her income to something substantial if she had a work visa. CA is a state that encourages the non- earning spouse to become self supporting as soon as possible. You can research "Gavron Warning" and see what I mean.

You may have to move and seriously downsize your life, including finding a public school for your kids (that has to be 50k right there for 2 kids).

I suggest you and your lawyer make an offer that is REALISTIC and based on your current income. I know there are stories of the court ordering support in an amount that exceeds the paying party's income, but from my experience the court will take all factors into consideration and order something that is possible and realistic, even if it means moving to a one bedroom apartment and trading the nice car for a Yugo.

Bottom line: you can't draw more water from the well than is there.

This forum is a great resource and there is a lot of wisdom and experience here. Keep coming back.

Good luck...
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Re: Can’t pay my bills after CS and SS in California

Unread postby BrilliantBastard » Fri Jan 27, 2017 11:36 am

Your attorney is probably right that the deal is good. That looks like 40% of Net income, probably 30% or so of Gross? Often in cases with multiple kids and the other spouse is not able to work (or have income computed) the support amounts are well over 55-65% of Gross income that states typically allow to be garnished. I don't think you can get income imputed if it is impossible legally to earn the income that would be imputed.
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Re: Can’t pay my bills after CS and SS in California

Unread postby ventzi » Sat Jan 28, 2017 1:10 am

Thanks for the thoughtful message FlyGuySLO!

Here are my answers:

FlyGuySLO wrote:1. Why are you not fighting for 50/50 equal custody? This should be first and foremost what you settle. Unless there is some domestic violence on record, then you should have 50/50. Nothing else is acceptable.

For a couple of months after my STBX first asked for divorce, I (misguidedly) tried to keep the family together and explain that I simply don’t have enough income to provide for two households. She called my explanations ‘emotional abuse’ however and used to totally put me down in front of the kids. We finally had a big quarrel one day and some neighbour called the police, so now I have an arrest on record. Nothing particular happened, so I wasn’t even arraigned, but the arrest is still there. Plus, I probably waited too long to ask for a custody decision and—on top of it—landed an unsympathetic mediator, so the mediator just basically kept the schedule my STBX had forcefully imposed on me, rather than try to figure out what exactly was going on. I hope to get increased custody on 3/21, but that’s still a while off.
FlyGuySLO wrote:2. How much do you make?

I have $12,917 gross base income that—as I wrote in my original message—goes down to about $8,500 net. I also get quarterly stock that can give me another $2000 net if the price stays as is, but the STBX owns almost half of this, as it was granted during marriage.
FlyGuySLO wrote:3. Are you and your wife from the same country? What country are you from?

I’m from Bulgaria and she’s from Russia. Married in Bulgaria and the children have Bulgarian passports only.
FlyGuySLO wrote:4. Do you have any assets such as real estate, investments, retirement plans?

I have a retirement plan, but that’s only since Aug 2015 and at a bare minimum. All my retirement savings up to that point went to finance the move to the US and childcare so my STBX’s could study.
FlyGuySLO wrote:5. Does your wife have any separate property assets such as a trust, investments, bank accounts?

Nothing whatsoever, just debt. Back in the day, when we began living together in Germany, we started everything from absolute zero.
FlyGuySLO wrote:6. Have you asked your lawyer, or an immigration atty, about a plan to get her working asap? If she has the degrees she does I have to believe the court would impute her income to something substantial if she had a work visa. CA is a state that encourages the non- earning spouse to become self supporting as soon as possible. You can research "Gavron Warning" and see what I mean.

When we moved to the US, the immigration lawyers said my STBX should expect a work permit within a year. We struck bad luck with USCIS, though, and now the work permit is at minimum 2–3 months away, without any guarantees. As my employer is paying for the immigration work, I’m trying to get them to spur the lawyers along, but it takes time…
My divorce lawyer knows about the immigration situation and did tell me that my best option is for my STBX to get the work permit ASAP. If only I had any real influence on that… There will certainly be language put in to require her to do a reasonable effort to find a job, but I cannot ask for a deadline before she gets a work permit. Truth is, however, that with her credentials she could find a willing employer that’d get her an ‘extraordinary ability’ O-1 visa, but she hasn’t lifted a finger to look for a job like that.


With the private school, etc. I’m in trouble in two ways.
1. I still have several instalments to pay just to cover this school year—about $2,550 a month.
2. If these fees are not considered as add-ons (even counting that from a future date, say from next school year), the support calculation will mostly allocate my ‘surplus’ to the STBX and I’m again left with insufficient funds to pay my recurring expenses.

The crazy part is that one of my STBX’s (ex?) poly partners filed a declaration with the court, saying that she can live in his home with the children for as long as is necessary, i.e. until she finds a job. I, on the other hand, have a year-long rent lease that I’ll need to pay on until September. So she provably can have accommodation she doesn’t have to pay for (even though she moved out this week—no idea why), whereas I won’t have enough money to maintain mine and may get evicted… And my lawyer says the court probably won’t take this into account. To me this is the biggest puzzle in the whole situation. Shouldn’t there be some provision for leaving some bare minimum for food?!?
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Re: Can’t pay my bills after CS and SS in California

Unread postby FlyGuySLO » Sat Jan 28, 2017 1:45 am

Ventzi,

Wow... your situation is quite a situation. But it's obvious you're sharp and have thought this out and are aware of everything.

There's a lot to digest here but in focusing on your last paragraph I'll offer you this...

I am also in CA. My income situation was uncommon in that I'm self employed and what I earn varies greatly. My lawyers also told me that I may have to pay more than I took in - which baffled me and seemed illogical and frankly impossible. They kept saying that this is how the courts and laws often work.

In preparation for my case (which never went to trial) and on days when I had to be in court for simple matters, I would spend a couple of hours watching other cases appear before the judge. What I found was quite the opposite. Though the judge was no nonsense and didn't listen to any crap, what I saw (during several observing sessions of about 2 hours each) was that the judge usually looked for a reasonable solution that was realistic and something possible for the parties to do.

I saw one guy who was laid off and the wife was saying how he made 100k last year so he should pay support based on that. The judge gave him the third degree to see if he was actively looking for similar employment and when it was clear that he was, the judge said was that as long as he's trying then that's fair. The judge ordered support based on far less than his previous salary and ordered an appearance 3 months later to re-evaluate. She also told the wife (who was college educated and had skills) that she would have to find employment.

My point here is that your lawyer may be telling you one thing as a "worst case scenario" or who knows why. The reality is that the judge may see the reality and ask your wife "Do you want your kids in private school, or do you want support payments?" and then deem your tuition to be considered child support. Again, you BOTH may have to downsize your lives considerably.

In my case, I provided OC with THOUSANDS of pages of financial discovery that was true and correct. I said "Ok... you claim I have all this money and can pay her what she's asking? You have my records there - YOU show me how it's possible." They had no where to go.

In the end I gave her a one time spousal support buyout of $15,000 plus a retirement account I had with about $50k in it. I pay no alimony.

There is always a solution. But your stbx sounds like a handful so that solution may not come easy. Stand your ground, be honest about your numbers, be tough on her (via your lawyer), and never, ever, put her financial well being above yours.

You've got a rough road ahead but I have a feeling you're going to be fine. Stay strong...
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Re: Can’t pay my bills after CS and SS in California

Unread postby ScaredNConfused » Tue Jan 31, 2017 11:03 pm

One thing that may help is you can adjust your with holdings. I know there is an IRS calculator to help you figure out the right amount. A key is that alimony is not taxable to YOU, it is taxable to the person receiving it. You'll have to figure out how much of that $3,400 is alimony and how much is child support.

I know I need to start this process myself because come March or April, I'll be done with this stage and paying both.
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Re: Can’t pay my bills after CS and SS in California

Unread postby lionel2013 » Wed Feb 01, 2017 10:57 am

ScaredNConfused wrote:One thing that may help is you can adjust your with holdings. I know there is an IRS calculator to help you figure out the right amount. A key is that alimony is not taxable to YOU, it is taxable to the person receiving it. You'll have to figure out how much of that $3,400 is alimony and how much is child support.

I know I need to start this process myself because come March or April, I'll be done with this stage and paying both.


If the $3400 is unallocated (combined) CS and SS all of it is treated as SS and therefore is tax-free to him. I'm in a very similar situation (paying $4k/mo in UASS) and had to adjust my withholdings to something like 11 exemptions, and I still get a big tax refund every year.

But the OP's problem is his very high expenses - yes San Fran is beautiful (been there) but very expensive to live in. My suggestion would be to press for the STBX to find meaningful employment, it's not like she lacks education.
Whenever you think divorce is bad, remember there are worse things than divorce.
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Re: Can’t pay my bills after CS and SS in California

Unread postby RustBeltCrooner » Wed Feb 01, 2017 1:22 pm

I suggest moving to a bad neighborhood. I live in inner city Cleveland and the rent is quite reasonable. There are probably parts of Oakland you afford.
Five years of litigation if you include Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Only kid is s28.
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Re: Can’t pay my bills after CS and SS in California

Unread postby yeller » Thu Mar 30, 2017 4:34 pm

RustBeltCrooner wrote:I suggest moving to a bad neighborhood. I live in inner city Cleveland and the rent is quite reasonable. There are probably parts of Oakland you afford.


Agreed.

I myself had to move to the inner urban area where rent was cheap. It wasn't all that bad, besides the constant noise of a bass during the day and sometimes during the night. The occasional gun shot here and there, but in the year that I lived there I only heard about three. There was an actual drug house across the street from me and was defiantly a fine area for my child to live in for the time I had. It was good that the police were patrolling the area every week or so - I kinda felt safe.

As long as my ex-spouse was living in section 8, receiving medical from the state and $300 in food stamps I was fine with it knowing my child was doing just fine. Me failing college due to working and my case worker threatening jail if I didn't pay up, wasn't bothering knowing that my (ex-spouse was living off my child) child was doing fine.

OP. You just have to work through it and be a man. Don't let the threat of wage garnishment, tax garnishment, the suspension of your license(s) and possible jail time for falling behind get to you. Just keep reminding yourself that your children are being "taken care" of without you or with you (if you're lucky and the child support hasn't forced you to venture elsewhere, basically eliminating any form of relationship with your off-spring).

Hopefully this helps you.
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