Poor mommy, rich daddy after divorce

One of the reasons I love talking to women about life after divorce is each interview is different. I do have a set of questions to guide the conversation but it’s quite amazing how those questions produce vastly different responses and where those responses lead. As I’m writing this post, I’ve realize that the topic of money rarely comes up. I’m not sure why that is – maybe because it’s not a topic that’s discussed openly in normal conversations, maybe because it’s too personal for an interview. I know it’s not because it isn’t an issue.

Sue, whose story I posted a year ago felt a true sense of accomplishment when she sued her ex for back child-support. She saw the child support as being assets that belonged rightfully to her children. Securing those assets not only made her feel that she had done the right thing for her children, it also gave a boost to her own self-confidence.

LA Single Mama and I also got talking about money and specifically, the difficulties of her ex earning significantly more than her. I think that’s a challenge many single parents face and in today’s society I don’t imagine it’s always the man who’s earning more. Here’s what LA Single Mama had to say:


It’s been very difficult to support myself because it is very expensive in Los Angeles. My income was more of a second income but now I’m managing to support myself. I’m just starting a new job because more than anything, I needed to find something that paid more. One of my concerns is that my ex makes a lot more money than I do and my son is starting to notice the disparity between how he lives here and how he lives when he’s with his dad and that’s making me sad.

I try to talk to my son about it – I tell him he’s lucky that he has two nice places to live and there are many children who have much less than he has and don’t even have one nice place to live.

I’ve always tried to focus on giving to others and making sure he realizes he needs to be grateful for what he has because we are blessed. He said recently,

“I go out to dinner with my dad all the time. We never go out to dinner when I’m with you.”

I said something like,

“Well, your mom is a better cook than your dad and it’s very expensive to go out all the time, so we need to eat at home.”

Last night he was saying his dad has a newer and nicer place to live than I do. It’s interesting because he goes to a school where there are many children who are much better off than he is. So I’ve talked to him about how everybody has different things and we’re lucky to have what we have but some people have nicer things than others.

LA is a tough city to raise a child; it’s so expensive here and unless you have an amazing job or a lot of help from your ex, it’s very difficult. Most of the single moms I know are really struggling.


When I was in high school, the parents of one of my friends got divorced and my friend ended up living with her father. She also started showing up at school wearing new fashionable outfits each day. It was a long time ago so my recollection is blurred but the implication was clear that she’d chosen to live with her father, at least in part for what his money would buy.

I know/hope it’s never as black and white as that but LA Single Mama’s situation is representative of many single parents where one partner has a much higher paying job than the other. I think it’s a difficult situation for all parties. If I was the one could afford to eat out all the time and that’s what I wanted to do, why shouldn’t I? If I was a child, I wouldn’t say no to new outfits, a video game or iPod because my other parent couldn’t afford it. And if I was the parent who was struggling to support myself, yes, I probably would resent what my ex was doing.

Assuming there was an equitable division of assets I guess it’s all OK so long as the money isn’t used to buy your child’s affection, or disaffection from the other parent and is spent with the child’s best interests at heart. What say you?

PS. The other aspect to this is adjusting to a different lifestyle after divorce. I have significantly less income now than previously however that was due to a conscious choice to change careers and work/life decision. I found the book Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin helpful and in particular her philosophy toward deciding whether discretionary spending will bring you true satisfaction. It’s helped feel much more satisfied with what I have.

  • http://singlemommindy.blogspot.com Mindy@SingleMomSays

    This is a situation I have faced for years. My ex absolutely uses his financial status to entice and buy my kids. Not only that but he uses it to cause me further financial burden and loss with his litigiousness. And unfortunately the kids do fall for it – they're kids! It doesn't help that they live in an affluent area where their friends have iphones and get bmws when they turn 16 – things I could never buy them.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/SinceMyDivorce SinceMyDivorce

      Mindy – Having the difference in income is hard enough to deal with on it's own but what your ex is doing, makes it so much more difficult for you. I can't imagine having to deal with the litigiousness on top of it all. You really do deserve that break to Las Vegas. Did you see that Frontier has $69 one way flights on sale now?

  • http://viviannesvista.blogspot.com/ Vivianne

    My Ex has also used money to manipulate our children. He constantly buys them extravagant toys, meanwhile, he stopped paying me support over a year ago! This past christmas, he purchased so many toys for them, my son commented "Wow! Dad must really love us," and I felt a tinge of hurt because I could not afford to do the same. "Love us?" He does not feed them, buy them school clothes, pay for their school, babysitters, lunch, NOTHING! And like Mindy, I am back and forth in court, wasting time and money, and playing bill roulette each month. But what can we do as mothers but forge on? I told my son cheerily "Yep, dad loves you" and left it at that. (Now that is what I call restraint)

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/SinceMyDivorce SinceMyDivorce

      It can be very frustrating when children see the toys etc. as gifts of love and the time and energy you put into just a regular day doesn't even seem to occur to them. Aside from the things you mention, there's scheduling after-school activities and play dates and my big thing was helping with homework. My kids didn't relish the thought of homework so they weren't likely to say "Gee thanks mom for making me sit down and work through my spelling words." I told myself that I was going to do that because I wanted my children to succeed. My son does now tell me he's glad I read to him every night. So may be the appreciation is just delayed. I think you have to forge on as you say and know inside that you're doing right by your children.

  • Jennifer

    I also faced this problem after my separation. When my husband decided to end our marriage I was 2 months away from my university graduation (a stressful time in itself!) and I hadn't had a job since the birth of my son (three years prior). I managed to get a minimum wage job at a local grocery store which barely paid my bills…thank goodness for family help! On the other hand, my husband had a well paying job which he constantly rubbed in my face by purchasing new clothes, cars ect. On top of that, he was paying me next to nothing for child support!

    It has now been 11 months since our separation…and I am a true believer in Karma! I am no longer working at a dead end job, I finally found a career which utilizes my education degree and I can support my son in a way that he deserves. During the same time my ex lost his well paying job and has been through 4 + minimum wage jobs since. While I don't take pleasure in his misfortune I do find it ironic that our financial situations have been reversed. The big difference: I don't flaunt my income in his face!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/SinceMyDivorce SinceMyDivorce

      Congratulations Jennifer on finding your career – your hard work and determination obviously pays off. Does your ex's change in fortune make it easier for you to work together in your son's interests?

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  • http://italiandreams.wordpress.com/ Chandi

    I am having a rough time of it financially, in the post-divorce phase. I checked with women from my support group, from a year ago, to see how they're doing in the post-divorce phase, emotionally and financially. They're are having MAJOR struggles! I am starting a series of blog posts about this issue. Tune in here:

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/SinceMyDivorce SinceMyDivorce

      Hi Chandi – I wonder if the current economy is affecting newly divorced women harder? Maybe it's harder to find well-paying jobs?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/DivorcePlanner1 DivorcePlanner1

    I have been through this and really it is your own guilt that you need to get over and then enjoy the fact that the father can buy things you can't and don't need to stress over.
    My recent post Family Law and Your Divorce

  • Blue

    My daughter was 6 when i finally divorced her father for endless abuse and cheating. Until she turned 13, she and i were best friends and there was nothing anybody could do to come between us. I was her sole caregiver from her birth, as he did little to help me. I was a very loving, selfless and devoted mother to my girl and my two toddler boys. 
    After our divorce, I became  poor and he became very wealthy. i was very young and inexperienced in the world, early 20s. i taught my children that money was not important and that we had each other. i worked very hard and gave everything to my kids. i was fun-loving and they adored me.However, over those 7 vulnerable years, my daughter was repeatedly told by her new rich step-mother that i was bad and that i had ‘done bad things to her father’. None of it was true, but i guess brainwashing eventually pays off.The step-mother has no children of her own and was jealous of my tie to ‘her husband’: the kids. Over 7 years, she slowly turned my precious daughter against me with completely fabricated stories, and promises of a glorious life if she chose to go live with them. Her father started spoiling her to the extreme. Everything i did in the best interests of my little girl was used against me… for example if i did not allow her to wear fishnet stockings with a mini and stilhettos at age 11, the step-mother would hear of it and go out and buy those exact things for my daughter. Her father permitted all of this. Another example would be if i said No to a party with much older highschool kids, parties that only started at midnight, my daughter learnt that she could tell Stepmom about it, and she was not only sympathize but arrange for my child to do those things when she was at her father’s house. She and my ex caused my child to rebel against me by offering her a world of luxury and total freedom with no consequences. if i said no to something, she just had to ask them. One day my daughter made the choice to leave me, and it destroyed me emotionally… my only little girl, gone, and hating me because she’d been trained to believe i was a loser for having no money and ruining her life by having rules. i was so grief-stricken that i fell apart… i had to be medicated and taken to trauma therapy, however i could not afford it so i stopped going. Therapy did not bring my child back anyway. i would have been willing to let her make the decision to live with her father, just so long as she did not believe i was ‘bad’!! How could she ever think that, when i’d done nothing harmful to her EVER and surely she could remember our amazing life together before the step mother came along!  She got in with a wild crowd at school who were serious rebels, and i could do nothing. i wrote her loving mother-to-daughter letters, reminding her of all the fun we used to have and how much i loved her. i would suggest fun things we could do or ways we could get close again. She would show the letters to the step-mother and they would laugh at me and the step-mother said i was pathetic. People started telling me that the step-mother was spreading her awful stories about me to the whole community. This just seemed to engrain it deeper into my child’s mind. i did not know what to do! i felt so helpless. My daughter has now left school and lives with friends in another city where she is studying. Her father is of course paying for it and can afford to visit her all the time, whereas i can not get there to see her. She talks to me, but it is without deep affection or warmth. She seems permanently damaged by the stuff she was told over the years… so so cruel, so so wrong. Can’t they see they have hurt HER by turning her against her mom? How do i heal her now?? I treasured my boys after my daughter left me, and we had a very happy life. However, when they recently became teenagers, they started noticing how ‘cool’ life at Dad’s was, with every toy imaginable and designer clothes and restaurants and trips and and and… the tragedy is,  if the father was willing to pay for this stuff for his sons, he should have paid for it even if they lived with me. That’s what fatherly love is. But he wouldn’t, and he told them so. They were given a choice. They were not even allowed to bring home their birthday presents… so they could only enjoy those things when they were at their father’s house. In this way, he has now successfully manipulated them into choosing his house, and now i hardly ever see my boys. I am their mommy!!! i am so torn up inside, i feel robbed, because a mother should have her children for more years than that!  i feel i have lost all three of my children much too young, when my whole life was devoted to raising them, and nothing else. He was an absentee father when they were very young, but this they do not remember! i work endlessly to better myself, but i started at rock bottom and it has been an impossible climb trying to get out of this hole. i don’t believe in justice anymore, because the system failed me. YES i went to court, but it did not help. i was told that the children could choose as they were old enough. i was also told that it was better for them to have more money! Why don’t they make the father give me a fat maintenance so i can buy everything they need? My boys actually wanted to live one week with me, one week with dad, and have the best of both worlds.. the COURTS agreed with this, but afterwards my ex told the boys that was not an option! He said if they came to me for a week, they must stay with me and they can’t go back to him. Imagine what a terrible position to put children in!So they chose the money. it was just too hard not to. i don’t blame them, what with peer pressure n all… now they get to be the coolest kids around and get dropped at school in a fancy car.  Their once-beautiful compassionate personalities have changed, and they have become spoilt and cheeky and rude… these are the two boys whom the whole community used to say were the most well-mannered boys of all the kids. i love them with all my heart and just wish there was a miracle solution. What can i do? They don’t want to come to my house much because i don’t have the gadgets available to them at dad’s.  And what can i do to win back the love of my daughter? Family say that one day when she’s a woman and can think and reason like an adult, she will realize the truth and come back to me. But i don’t know so much. And that does not give me back her entire teenage life that i have lost. Most of all, i just want my girl to wake up and remember that i was a kind and loving mommy to her, all the years, and would have given my life for her.And i don’t even live in America, i live in South Africa. is it the same, or similar, the world over? Is there one country in which this would never have happened? This tragic world’s justice systems have hurt our children. Who will answer for it?

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      Dear Blue,
      Your story deeply saddened me and the problem is not unique to South Africa. Your ex (and his new wife) have used your children as pawns to hurt you and because the children don’t see, he’s succeeded. I hope your family is right – keep taking the high road and keep the door open for your children to reestablish their relationships with you.

  • zigzag

    You mean rich mommy and poor daddy. That is where i am following divorce to a fem. I no longer see my three beautiful daughters and have to scramble to survive all the while the cant undersrand normal thinking of an ex wife is spoiled through her millionaire parents. I lose about 60 percent of my income to child support and taxes. I will not get a good job for it will not pay to do so. I never lived below the poverty line in my life. Kids and me will suffer. Not much a man can do. If u have any ideas…please let me know.

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      You probably don’t want to hear this but I wouldn’t let the child support issue stop you from getting a better job – why wouldn’t you want to live to your full potential? On the child support, if you don’t agree with it then the key is good recordkeeping, understanding clearly what is and what is not covered by your child support agreement That your ex has wealthy parents who are happy to support her may irritate you but it really has nothing to do with your financial responsibility for your children.