Working through the agreements that need to be made in an informal way, perhaps through conversations at your kitchen table.
DIY· Autonomy· Informal· Cost Effective
Tony & Rebecca
Sitting across from each other at the table things were tense. Tony felt like Rebecca’s eyes cut into him. He had brought some statements so they could talk about the accounts. Rebecca tried to stay open to possibilities, but she knew she wanted to keep the house. The house was all she could think about as she watched Tony pulling papers out of his briefcase. They both were hoping to settle things without a fight.
“Can we start with things that we agree on?” asked Tony looking up from the papers he had stacked on the table. Rebecca felt a knot forming in her throat. Pushing it down, she nodded. She knew there were a lot of values that didn’t need to even be a discussion. The amount left on the mortgage, the value of Tony’s pension – some numbers are just numbers. Rebecca and Tony made a list of all the values of things they were confident in. Anything they weren’t sure about or had different ideas on what it should be valued at went on a list to talk about later.
“Can we also talk about the bills? Now that you’re moving out, I need help paying for things around the house” Rebecca said. “I need to get groceries for the kids and pay the mortgage and everything else.”
“Well is that child support or spousal support?” asked Tony. He wanted Rebecca and the kids to be ok. That was a given. But he also knew he would need to pay his rent and buy some furniture for his new place. “Can we start there and see what’s left to be paid?” Rebecca had done some googling and knew that there were Child Support and Spousal Support calculators online. When they looked at it, it was hard to know how to put in Tony’s income – was it gross or net? Annual or monthly? With or without employment expenses included? What about his bonuses?
They decided to go with the simplest option they could come up with: base gross salary. When they put it in the calculator, it gave them a range, not a specific number. They needed more information, but they had committed at the beginning of the conversation to just talking about what they could figure out right now first. “Would that middle number cover things for now?” asked Tony. If he were honest, even the middle number was more than he wanted to pay. But he knew Rebecca would be more stressed about money right now. “But that would barely cover the kids’ activities. That’s like the cost of just hockey” Rebecca didn’t want to have to go into debt just to keep food on the table. If he was going to be this cheap about everything maybe just talking it out wouldn’t work.
“You know I don’t want to screw you over, right?”
Rebecca was stunned for a moment. Could Tony really still read her mind like that? It wasn’t that she had really thought of it like him taking advantage of her but now that he said it, she realized that was what she was afraid of.
They agreed on how they would pay their immediate expenses and agreed on the value of most of their property in that first conversation. They would still need to talk about parenting and long-term plans. Plus, they would need to finalize their support and property. But they had gotten a good start.