Nov 2006, I was granted a divorce by Nassau County in NY. I have three children, and I am currently paying my ex-wife $2500 / month for maintenance and $2500.00/month in child support. In addition, I pay $5000.00/year towards extra-curricular activities for the children. My gross annual income before paying alimony and child support is $110,000. I have two questions that I would love to have answered. 1) Shortly after the divorce was finalized, my ex-wife informed me that she was starting a county job after the New Year. (she was unemployed throughout our 15-year marriage). I don’t know what her salary is at this new job, but I can estimate that she is making about $35,000 – $40,000/year. My question is, can I petition the courts to reduce the child support payment or the $5000 extra-curricular payment? How soon can I do this? Is there a waiting period with the courts since the divorce was finalized three months ago? 2)My children’s ages are 12(G), 9(B), and 6(B). My ex always complains that she doesn’t want to ‘waste’ money on a babysitter. Recently on my ex’s scheduled weekend, my daughter was participating in a dance competition in another state, which my ex was attending. This was for two nights. I offered to take the two boys for the weekend, but my ex told me no since she had it under control and taken care of already. When questioned, who would be watching the boys, she told me to “F” myself and that it was none of my business. I kept asking, and she eventually hung up on me – never returning my calls. The next day she went off to the dance competition in another state – I drove past the house no my way home from work, and no one was there. I called the house five times and left two voicemails, but no one answered, and no one returned my calls. I then called my ex on her cell phone and left her a voicemail telling her that I wanted to know where the boys were. I explained that I just wanted to make sure they were OK. Long story short, I had to threaten her, telling her that I would call the cops since she was out of town and I couldn’t find my two boys. She then called the boys and told the oldest (9 yrs) to call me. When I questioned her about the contact details that she gave to this person watching them, she told me that “Dan (9 yr old) knows how to contact you – your number is in the book”. I never heard from my kids that night. I called their house early the next morning, and my oldest son answered. My ex’s boyfriend of 3 months was watching them for the weekend. When I asked my son what number he had for me, he confirmed it was a cell that I haven’t owned in 4 years. I am truly upset that (1) she went out of town without telling me who was watching the kids (2) that she didn’t make sure that the person watching them had my contact details and vice versa (what would happen if something went wrong with the kids and my ex is out of state??? I am very active in their lives. I go to every (try to)sporting event. I have them every other weekend and every Tuesday. During the Christmas break, I took time off from work and had them for the entire week. I was generous to my ex financially because I wanted to make sure the kids would be taken care of, when in fact, my youngest comes with holes in his shoes. My concern is this summer. I am already paying a bunch to her, and I am fearful that she won’t get proper babysitters. What can I do? What are my rights?
Concerning your first question about petitioning the court for a reduction in child support and spousal support, unless you have experienced a dramatic drop in income, I do not think you are going to be very successful in your efforts. Still, in any case, you probably should wait until the first year has passed.
Concerning your second question regarding the presence and welfare of the children, you have every right to know that they are being taken care of properly and to know their whereabouts, especially when they are left in the presence of a stranger. If you had proper legal counsel when you got divorced, your attorney should have made sure that such issues were addressed in your Separation Agreement or the Judgment of Divorce. There should be a provision in the Separation Agreement providing for access to the children by telephone when they are not by you and concerning their presence and the nature of supervisory care that they are receiving when the resident parent is not with them.
I strongly suggest that you consider mediating these matters with your ex-wife rather than going into court. The mediation will be cheaper and quicker and less traumatic. If you are living in the New York City metropolitan area, please call me at 212-370-1660 to arrange for a meeting for us to discuss mediation.
Leonard M. Weiner, Esq./Divorce Solution