Q. My husband and I drifted apart over the years and now that our two kids are in college it makes no sense to stay together. We decided to mediate instead of spending a ton of money on legal fees since we don’t have a ton of assets. We sold our home, divided the proceeds and each rented apartments, although mine is larger because when the kids are home from school, they stay with me.
I stayed home initially to raise our children but once they were in school, I went back to work. Over the years I worked two jobs to make ends meet. My husband always worked as a plumber. I took courses over the years and was able to climb the corporate ladder at my day job. I also picked up additional shifts at night and over the weekends at a restaurant. I saved all I could and have been able to pay for the kids’ college expenses. I continue to work two jobs so I can pay for their college but once they are done, I fully intend to stop waitressing.
I was hoping to receive child support since the kids stay with me when they are not in college, and I have to have the larger apartment. Recently I got a raise in my day job that is enough to allow me to pay for college and quit my second job. But now my ex wants alimony and insists I have to keep two jobs.
The mediator is just letting him change the narrative over and over, and I’m getting frustrated. How can I make some progress, and will I have to keep working two jobs to pay him alimony?
A. Sounds like it’s time for an ultimatum. The best way to prove you never intended to work two jobs long term is to quit the second job now. Since your day job is now bringing in the same as your two jobs combined used to, there is no reason to keep it — sure extra cash is nice but his threat to seek alimony is not.
Second, you do not have a sole obligation to fund college expenses for your kids. Tell him it’s time for him to start contributing at least half the cost of UMass Amherst even if that means he now has to work some overtime.
Finally, the mediation process should not drag on beyond its useful life. If you cannot reach a final agreement soon — like in the next session, end it. You have no obligation to mediate forever. Go into the next session armed with a plan (see my suggestions above). Also consider consulting an attorney beforehand so you have someone in your corner to fall back on if your line drawn in the sand does not result in a fair resolution. Be prepared to file a complaint for divorce quickly if the next session is fruitless — sometimes getting served is the best reality check you can give a person.