Here is the problem. My ex-husband and I have been divorced for 5 years, and getting money from him is like pulling out teeth with tweezers. We have two teenagers who go to expensive schools. He partially pays for school, but is always underpaying because he says that he doesn’t have to pay for any “extras.” He just refuses to give me anything for medical expenses. At this point he owes me nearly $50,000, but he ignores my requests for reimbursement.
He is a businessman who makes and spends a lot of money, so tight finances are not the problem. Since I make very little, the only way I can make it financially is with help from my parents, who are not wealthy but were always frugal and have savings.
Part of it is that he is getting back at me for divorcing him, and the other part is that in his world, “suckers pay.” He wants the whole world, and especially me, to know that he is the man and that he’s in charge. What should I do?
Tired of Getting Stiffed
When I was in business school, I distinctly remember classmates who took pride in “making the other guy pay” as a business strategy and general modus operandi to show how shrewd and savvy they were as businessmen.
The reason I say “businessmen” is that I can’t remember every hearing a woman espouse this machismo philosophy of commercial one-upmanship. It must have something to do with sublimated inadequacies of certain males in the “performance” department.
You have a divorce decree which I am sure specifies what your ex is responsible for paying. From what you say, he fits into the category “Masters of the Universe” who think that the rules don’t apply to them and do whatever they think they can get away with. (Does he drive a BMW?) I am guessing that he pays for only what keeps him out of jail, so appealing to his sense of obligation probably won’t work. He’d probably just see you as weak.
What you need to do is show him that you aren’t weak and instead of asking him to pay, start forcing him to pay. Itemize what he owes you and give it to him as a last chance to reimburse you. If and when he doesn’t, let him know that you have hired a lawyer who is ready to take him to court. Contact Legal Aid or look into pro bono work because you can get competent legal counsel with having to incur prohibitive legal costs. Some attorneys particularly relish going after dead-beat dads who can pay but don’t unless somebody holds their Ferragamos to the fire.
From what you have described, I suspect that once he is served with court papers, he will come up with the disputed amount. You’ll also set a precedent for how you do business from now on. No longer a pushover or “sucker”, you’ll be providing a little lesson in the performance department as well as one-upmanship yourself. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find that he’s a little less cocky about what makes one a man and, even more important, what determines who’s “up.”
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