Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | January 3, 2010

What’s agreed, so far…

First Thing’s First: We are both underemployed. Our business is not bringing in enough money to pay for much of anything, let alone cover our monthly expenses. We’re in arrears on the mortgage payment. So, the first priority is: we agree that we both need to find new (separate) sources of income.

Toward that end, we are both committed to sending out a minimum of three resumes per week and cultivating our respective networks as best we can in the month of January. We may need to revise our strategy for February if we haven’t found traction by the end of this month. To the extent that a possible sale of our business might include golden handcuffs for Penny (and maybe residual payments to me), so much the better for both of us.

The House: If Penny can find a way to earn enough income to keep the house on her own, she can have it. If she can’t do so, but I can, Penny agrees that I can have it. We both acknowledge that the house currently has no equity — is, in fact, likely underwater. That said, I have my concerns about keeping the house, which I tried to express delicately. It goes like this: what if I do manage to find such a source of income, but she does not find any source of income… and she does not pursue finding said income particularly vigorously? This is something we are going to have to work out, but the long and the short of it is: if there’s even a hint that my attempt at keeping the house interferes with us truly separating our living situation, I’m done with the house.

Oh, and we are agreed that if either of us is able to keep the house: whoever gets the house gets the debt that goes with it. And we need to find out how to transfer ownership legally to the one who keeps it, and remove the other person from the mortgage, the HELOC, and the deed.

We are both agreed to the notion that all of this will likely be resolved sometime in the first half of the year.

Our Debt: We are agreed that our shared debts, like our shared assets, should be divided up equally. Penny did express some concern about what would happen if one of us should snag a substantially larger income than the other, but she did not make any suggestion as to how else we would divide our debt in such a situation.

Our Stuff: We are agreed that anything she brought into the marriage, for the most part, is hers, and anything I brought into the marriage, for the most part, is mine, and that we will endeavor to divide the rest of our assets equally. We will endeavor to be fair with regard to setting up new households. For example, we bought a dining room table that we both love, but I recently inherited a useable dining room set (originally purchased by my great grandparents), so it would make sense to allow Penny possession of our dining room table. Likewise, all of the stereo and television equipment we have, I brought into the marriage, but it might make sense for me to allow that to go to her. (In exchange, I might end up with the lion’s share of the books we own together, although she might have “visitation rights” for those, etc….)

The kids: We agree that we will be equally responsible for our children financially and custodially. We agree that neither of us really likes the “every other month” or “every other year” plan that we’ve seen others attempt. Penny says she hasn’t really considered the details of what kind of plan she’d prefer, but the two we talked about as being most viable were the “every other week” model or the “Monday-Tuesday with one parent, then Wednesday-Thursday with the other parent, alternating the weekends” model. I am leaning toward the latter, but both have their advantages (and disadvantages).

We are also agreed that as we begin to develop new romantic relationships, we need to be thoughtful and careful about how we introduce any new paramours to our children. I made it clear, and Penny seems to agree, that whoever we end up bringing into our lives, Penny remains the children’s mother and I remain their father, and no other relationships are to interfere with that.

We also agree that if one of us falls on hard times financially, the other picks up the slack as need be until the other can resume contributing their fair share (and make up for the slack that was taken up, as appropriate.)

The Business: If we sell it, easy: we split the proceeds fifty-fifty. If we merge the company with another (which is an avenue we are pursuing), it could be that Penny will end up with secure employment as a result at a reasonable salary. But, this would result in a lower buy-out dollar figure. I told Penny that if that comes to pass, I’m going to want more out of the residual payments than a mere fifty percent, since she would, in fact, end up with the lion’s share of the benefit from the merger with her guaranteed employment. But until those talks take more shape, it’s too soon to speculate what would be a reasonable split.

How to Divorce: We live in a community property state, and a no-fault divorce state. This means we can, if we are agreeable enough, write up our own divorce plan and submit it without the necessity of having a battery of lawyers and long, drawn-out court dramas. (Friends of ours who divorced here recently used divorcewriter.com to draw up their papers, and we will take a look at that.) Penny does want to have a lawyer at least review what we come up with, and I think that is both reasonable and prudent.

Dating: It is a little premature to start talking about dating other people when neither of us has sufficient income to take care of household expenses. Yet. But I don’t expect our underemployment to last much longer.

Penny’s preference is to revisit this topic later. She seemed to prefer that we not start actively dating while we are still both living in the same house. This topic was the least resolved of all of them. I did point out that I had no intention of sacrificing, say, another year of my romantic life while waiting for everything else to fall into place. But at this point of the conversation, Penny had pretty much shut down. I’d like to say she acknowledged the point, but I don’t know that she really did.

I did not announce drawing any line in the sand on this matter. But as I’ve noted earlier, I am mentally drawing such a line, and I am going to work toward it.

My birthday is at the end of March.

This issue is cleared up by then.

—–

PS: I forgot to add this, and rather than make it a separate blog post, I’ll tack it on in this edit (11:25pm, January 3rd). We also discussed…

Intellectual Property: Penny and I have both developed some intellectual property over the course of the last few years, and we are both agreed that any work I’ve created will remain mine, and any work she has created will remain hers. Thus, when her novel becomes the next Harry Potter, I can wish her well from the sidelines and know that my children’s college will be paid for, but I don’t share in the royalties. Nor would she have any stake in this here blog, of which she has no knowledge nor, now, any need to know.

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Responses

  1. I think it’s great that you are being so level-headed about the practicalities (and that Penny is too, so credit to her also). And I think it’s good to get all this down on paper before any of the potential emotional fallout.
    However, if I were you, I would hold off on that dating thing. I can feel how much you want to connect to someone else, and be seen and heard and I understand that. But for one thing, do you think it’s completely fair to involve someone else at this stage? It’s inevitable you are going to go through some tough times emotionally, and that’s a LOT of baggage to start a new relationship with. Also, there’s nothing like a bit of jealousy to make a divorce turn nasty. And finally, even if you keep your kids out of it, you’d be amazed how much they pick up on. What if the first person you date is someone you ultimately fall madly for and settle down with? Trust me, if there isn’t some distance between the clear end of your marriage and when you get together, your kids will always see her as the woman who ended their parents’ marriage, and that has a lot of implications for their relationship with her.
    If it’s just sex you’re after, I can understand that, and fair enough. But I’d really think very carefully about dating, at least for the first half of the year. Just my two cents though!

    • Thanks, as always, for your thoughts, Rules. I’ve decided to make my next post about this very topic, because I think I may have been rather unclear in what I meant.

      I will say this: my goal isn’t necessarily to be dating by the end of March, so much as to have a mutual understanding laid out by then.

  2. Wow, I’m so glad you have really thoroughly talked about all of this and laid it out pretty clearly. As for the house – that was the biggest sticking point for us, as our house was DEFINITELY underwater (a lot worse than we thought – ended up selling for 157K or so, when we paid 330K for it and put in 40K over the course of 4 years – BIG OUCH). That’s probably why it took a year for our divorce to really come to fruition, because we had to try other options first – refinance under my name – no dice – under his name only – no dice (one income wasn’t enough to support the mortgage), selling for what we paid – no dice – and finally, short sale. Check my blog and type that keyword in to read a bit more about it (or shoot me an email…I can share some other thoughts too, if you want). Beyond that, dividing everything as you have is exactly what we did, and worked out well. Not having animosity, anger or fighting involved made it MUCH easier to get through. I can’t imagine going through it with viciousness and anger, especially with so many factors involved. Good luck!!!

    • I’ll be scouring your site, and pinging you offline for your additional thoughts, as well. Thank you, Jolene!

  3. hello… stumbled in here.. you are a bit a head of me with the sorting things out. I am dreading having the conversation you just laid out… I sure hope it goes as amicably. Best of luck to you..

    • Welcome, jumpingtracks, and thanks for chiming in.

      I few posts ago, all I did was lament how much I was dreading that Talk. I’ve been dreading it for longer than divorce has even been spoken of, because I’ve known for a long time that Penny was not fully engaged in our marriage.

      In conversation a few weeks ago, Penny talked abut divorce as if it were her idea (even though I was the one who finally broached the subject). So, my entree to the Talk was to roll with that: “It’s taken me a long time to finally come around to accept the direction we’re heading, but now that I have, we may as well start to figure out what the divorce should look like.” Or something along those lines.

      And while Penny has clearly been checked out for years, she, too, has dreaded the Talk, and she remains afraid of how the divorce could go. So, my advice: remember that your soon-to-be-ex also has fears, and also is dreading the Talk. Empathize. Be compassionate. It takes a team to divorce well, just as it takes a team to marry. Start with where you agree, and ask yourself when you get to contentious issues: is winning this fight worth years of potential acrimony and unpleasantness? In some cases, the answer may well be yes. But I’ll be that for most, the answer will be, “No!”

      Keep your eye on the end goal, rather than on the little stuff between here and there. Is your goal to get out with as little bloodletting as possible? Then keep your cool.

      Oh, my. This little comment is turning into a post of its own…. Let me wrap up by saying: best of luck to you, as well.

      • Hey – thanks for the feedback and warm welcome – and for leaving a comment on my blog. I sort of changed locations, though, and URL’s in the process… so, I lost it. But, did see it.. and did appreciate your thoughts. Take care.

  4. May I just stay that I know you *think* that you want to date but really you don’t. You have only to read my blog to figure that out! It’s nice to connect with someone else, true, but rarely does that connection last and turn into something significant. In fact, rarely is that person on whom you develop a crush the same person that you break up with. I should know, I’m one of those crazies still dating at this age…

    I have never been through a divorce but I did read somewhere about a couple who let the kids live in the house but the parents cycled in and out. Could that work for you guys?

    • Regarding the kids keeping the house and we cycle in and out: we’ve actually discussed this. It has many problems, not the least of which is requiring us to pay for *three* households — unless we also wanted to cycle in and out of a shared bachelor/bachelorette pad.

      It’s not a bad idea, and we did consider it, but the drawbacks outweigh the advantages, in our case.

      And, no, I’m under no illusion that dating is going to be a wonderful experience….

  5. I like most of what you have already agreed to. I have serious red flags waving vigorously in regard to your concerns about Penny’s job hunting, how you settle the ownership of the business, and dating.

    Getting dating out of the way first, I agree with those above who say to put it off. You are going to go through a lot of emotional turmoil, and you will drag that along with you on any dates you arrange. As rules* says above, it’s understandable that you would want sex considering your recent past, but how you handle (or not) this specific frustration is going to affect absolutely everything else you are about to do. My suggestion is to seriously examine your specific motivations and what needs you want to satisfy before you take any steps toward realization.

    Moving on the financial issues, it appears to me that either Penny has to find a job OR she becomes a partner in your formerly shared business. I would recommend pursuing this merger and see where it takes you, because the job hunting thing is NOT going to go well for anyone considering the current state of the economy. She could be trying very hard to find a new job and not appear to be doing so due to a lack of response. You mention sending out three resumes a week, which is at least a start. But I have been reading about people with some excellent qualifications and lengthy experience sending out hundreds of resumes over the span of a few months and getting absolutely no response. The merger at least sounds like it has potential, but if that falls through what are you really out by waiting to start Penny’s job hunt? It would also not divide your concentration so that you can give your best to one option over what you can manage for both simultaneously.

    For what it’s worth to you.

  6. Regarding the dating scene: It doesn’t seem to me that you are after sex. What I hear you saying is that you would like to connect with a member of the opposite sex, (someone other than Penny) who can validate that you are still a man who is desired by women (physically, emotionally and intellectually.)

    Heck, we ALL need that!

    Might I suggest you find and enroll yourself in a Divorce Recovery Workshop?
    This is usually a 6-8 week course, offered free or at a very small fee, at a church (that you don’t have to be a member of) or a community center. Ask around, you’ll find one.
    What it offers is a place where you can “grow” through divorce, instead of just “go” through divorce.
    You’ll be with other men and women in the same situation and you’ll watch them grow as you grow….It’s eye opening.

    It was the most valuable thing I did when I got divorced.
    It changed the way I looked at my life and possible new partners, and I can honestly say, I’m grateful for my divorce, if only for the opportunity to attend this workshop.

    • Thanks for the suggestion about looking for a Divorce Recovery Workshop. I’ll follow up on this soon… and I may end up asking your advice off-line if I have questions!

  7. Congratulations on having the “talk” and coming to some very mature ideals on how it is going to work. I wish the best for you.
    I also get that being in a physically starved relationship makes you want/crave some intimacy. Take your time with this. You getting healthy should be your priority so that you don’t get involved with yet another, not what you want, relationship.
    In the long run, you being healthy will get you more of what you are looking for.

    • Danielle, this reminds me of a line from a Frantic Times comedy sketch:

      “‘Learn Patience.’ Yeah, yeah. How long will that take?”

  8. Hi! I just stumbled upon your blog. I haven’t read much yet but so far I am amazed and impressed with the amicable tone the two of you are handling your situation with. So many people get all wrapped up in their hurt and emotions and things get messy quickly.

    One comment I do have though, is about the unresolved “dating” issue. It’s common knowledge that men tend to move back into dating a lot faster than women do. I ask you, actually- I plead with you, to please be sensitive of her feelings. It’s not easy for either party to see the person you spent so much of your life with, move on with someone else… and being emotional creatures, us women don’t always react as well as we would hope in these situations. If anything can turn your divorce messy in a hurry- it’s this!! It’s also not fair to any prospects for you to be dating while your life is still being sorted out.

    Other than that, kudos on a very mature divorce plan. I wish my parents had been a little more like you.

    IntrigueMe

    • Thank you for your thoughts, IntrigueMe, and you make a very good point. And yes, I realize I need to tread delicately. My desire is to move on with my life, not to upset Penny. I’m not really an “I’ll show her,” kind of guy. And, insofar as we both want what is best for our children, discretion is definitely necessary.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. […] I mentioned previously, Penny and I both want to share custody and are agreed, at least in principle, to do so […]

  10. […] Earlier today (Sunday, that is), Penny and I had a long talk about key details — what happens if we don’t declare bankruptcy (because then there are real concerns about how we divide our credit options), the ways a fifty-fifty split of custody of the kids is going to look, and that sort of thing. To my relief, we remain on the same page. While we didn’t necessarily set up very specific answers, we are further committed to making the details conform to the general principles we had previously agreed to. […]


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