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High-earning XP wriggling out of responsibilities: legal minefield. Can I appeal?

(10 Posts)
lastupenda Thu 28-Jul-11 17:40:40

I was divorced a couple of years ago: my XH is a narcissistic high-earner who had an affair with a woman at work. He was able to employ a firm of high-flying accountants to move his money around in international bank accounts and at the time of the settlement moved job, negotiating a contract which was lower than his previous salary (though it was still a CEOs position), in order to decrease his liability for maintenance. He has also negotiated his way round declaring bonuses and income by fighting aggressively in court, claiming I was lying about how much I needed/had lived on before and changing the wording of his terms of employment so that he could wriggle through loopholes (eg selling his shares in his company for a peppercorn fee, and insisting that a golden handshake or handcuffs were not the same as a bonus etc). I'm not a financier and this stuff is beyond me: it was across three jurisdictions and even proved too complicated for my lawyer. I gave up trying to figure my way out of it as her fees became astronomical. In the end I got a settlement that wasn't what we'd been living on - and meant my income was dependent on money I could make from my assets where he had the additional benefit of the assets plus a big career and no restrictions of looking after children - but it seemed workable - so I thought I'd rather forget the money and be free of the litigation.

Clever people out there - was I stupid? I now have a struggle to get to the end of the month on what he contributes plus what I am earning, and unlike him will not be able to contribute to anything like savings, pensions or trusts. He is converting a large house in central London and another designer house elsewhere, while I cannot afford essential renovations. He plans luxury vacations for himself, his girlfriend and her children which my DDs don't want to go on because they aren't comfortable with his new relationship - and we are now very limited in our holiday plans. While I know I am luckier than some in that our assets were carved 50/50 and I have some maintenance and a decent roof over my head, the children live with me fulltime (officially we have 50/50 access but he sees them on 4 nights a month and four to five weeks holidays in total). I carry all the day-to-day costs generated by the children, which exceed maintenance. He chose to move to a different city for his work, and insists on seeing the children at very specific times which keeps me entirely tied to his flight schedule. I am more qualified than he is (though by now less experienced and without the impressive track record he has been able to build throughout our marriage), yet I was the one who gave up fulltime employment for the children. Now he still has the high-flying career while have to fit my work and trying to retrain around looking after the children singlehandedly. On top of this he abuses me (always off the record, of course) for being a 'sponge' and talks self-righteously about how he provides for me and the children, without ever acknowledging what I provide for him - and his girlfriend (he barred me, legally, from ever working with his firm although we were in the same business, yet has promoted her through the company and has now helped her set up on her own). This is probably a well-worn tale, but this is supposed to be an equal world...I'm left wondering how that computes.

I stress that, while I consider regular, brief, contact with their Dad is essential for them, having the DDs living with me for as much of the time as possible is my choice - the DDs are better off in their home, and with (I'm afraid) minimal contact with my XH, who is entirely career-focused, has a personality disorder (abusive NPD) and who regularly upsets them. He has physically intimidated my 13 year-old, lies to them, has bullied us all into court on several occasions, bribes them and accuses me of alienation tactics to their faces.

However, he is now set to remarry the woman from the office: it's all big diamonds and elaborate wedding plans. I have always been concerned her motivation was largely financial (she has children of her own from a previous marriage: these will be moving in with my XH). My DDs have recently picked up messages between them regarding his will/prenuptial agreement which suggest he is signing property over to her. Our current settlement commits my XH to responsibility for the DDs education only up to the age of 18 (he refused to discuss any further commitments), and he was abusive when I attempted to discuss the children's financial future and security with him, telling me to 'butt out' and that it was 'none of my business' what he does with his money. His will is his will, of course. But surely, if we still have children together, there is still some cause for shared financial discussions?

A narcissist is devoid of empathy and is extremely competitive and vengeful. I am now concerned he will remain true to his previous behaviour, hide his assets and write many of them over to the new wife, retire early and thus force a sale of my home when the children reach that age to make me pay for their education.

Can he do this, and can I protect myself now from his future control by appealing against the existing financial settlement and negotiating a lump sum instead to compensate for having almost sole care of the DDs and my loss of career?

mumblechum1 Thu 28-Jul-11 18:26:09

Was the court order the result of a hearing or made by consent?

Did you agree to a clean break after provision of capital, spousal and child maintenance, and pension provision?

If so, then the only thing that may be worth pursuing would be an increase in spousal maintenance to bridge the gap. It depends, though, on whether you have made reasonable attempts to work, and that of course depends on the ages of your children.

I am working on the presumption that you did get spousal mtce? If not, and if there is a clean break on spousal mtce, and if he's paying child mtce in accordance with the order, then the only other thing possibly worth going for would be an increase in child mtce on the basis that he is an unusually high earner (I'm presuming £150k plus per annum?)

If your children are aged 11 plus and you're not working at least part time then I'm afraid the court would probably not look too kindly on you.

Forget the narcissist stuff, btw, it's a matter of arithmetic, not blame.

mumblechum1 Thu 28-Jul-11 18:27:20

Any provision he makes for the children after 18 or completion of full time secondary education, unless specifically agreed/ordered by the court, is voluntary, by the way.

lastupenda Thu 28-Jul-11 19:42:04

Thanks for this, mumblechum. This looks hopeful...and interesting.

I'm confused re the terminology - we had a listed hearing that never went before the judge: that is, we were at the court with barristers but the judge was only consulted. Is that a consent order? I think it was a consent order with recitals. Does that make sense?

The capital was split 50/50, there was child maintenance agreed and minimal spousal as they factored in child benefit and I already run a small business that employs a couple of people: now I also teach part time. There isn't a clean break on spousal mtce because there wasn't [evidence of] enough money. I believe that actually there is enough money for a clean break, though now it's post-cohabitation.

Perhaps you can help me with something. I can't see why, when my XH does not have the children very much, or pay me significant maintenance, while my potential was the same my career was sacrificed to a job which I do to fit in with childcare and I will be financially the worse off for life. Why is this acceptable? It looks to me like a pretty big imbalance.

I am out of the loop of my previous career and am currently paying fees for a course and supposed to be retraining fulltime, but can't because I have no time to do it due in part to work obligations and to the kids. In theory I'll have completed my training in 2014 but in practice that's just not possible.
I'll have to either get in childcare or rethink things.

I hear what you say re tarring the ex with the old personality disorder 'blaming' thing, and imagine this is a well-worn line - fair enough; it's an impossible thing to prove in terms of actual facts and even diagnoses are disputed - but in practice the narcissist thing IS relevant because there is an obsession with punishing, with keeping up the emotional abuse - and by keeping me on monthly payments he is able to retain tighter control and threaten me both with court and the possibility of suddenly retiring early or changing his status. I have been into court re finances just once, for the FDR, and have never since disputed the settlement. Meanwhile, he serves me with endless (needless) court dates regarding contact, in spite of being told to back off by both judges and CAFCASS. In the States, as you'll probably know, repeated and frivolous court action is now recognised as a from of post-marital domestic abuse, known as 'stalking through the courts', and is particularly prevalent amongst high-earners, for whom the adversarial legal process is an ego-feeder and a recognised form of legally sanctioned bullying. I know divorce does horrible things to people's heads, but 'normal' people just don't need to behave like this: with a 'normal' person you could work out a decent agreement that is not based on threats and control. My current partner has such an agreement with his XW, and they rub along (more or less) fine.

In an ideal world, I suppose what I'm saying is I'd like to be free of any maintenance at all from XH but can't afford to be at the moment. A clean break would reflect my equal status and would put an end to the feeling of being dangled over the snake-pit. I do also find it galling that, should he decide to support his new wife's children by another man in higher education and not his own, even if their (and my) home has to be sold to fund it - that will be his prerogative: is this really the case?

mumblechum1 Fri 29-Jul-11 07:23:19

Yes, you have a consent order. You haven't answered my question about spousal maintenance - do you have an order for substantive spousal mtce, or nominal, or a clean break? If you have an order for substantive s.m, when does that stop? It's usually around the youngest child's 14th birthday, at which point it's assumed that the mother will be working full time.

Re. his behaviour, you have a consent order which is basically final apart from some possible tweaking in terms of the amount of maintenance you may be able to get out of him. The court is not going to be remotely interested in either of your behaviour, but look purely at the figures, ie what's available and what each of you needs.

Why would you have to sell the house to pay for your children's uni education - they would have to get loans, like most people. They could make applications in their own right for further help from him but these applications are extremely rare, and in most cases the father will come to a voluntary arrangement direct with the children re. subsidising their expenses.

It sounds to me (and of course I haven't seen the order or any financial info) that your best course of action may be to see if you can get an increase in spousal mtce, but you will need to prove that your financial situation is significantly worse than it was at the time the order was made and that he an afford to pay more.

Other than that, you've agreed to an order and both of you must stick to it.

mumblechum1 Fri 29-Jul-11 09:15:56

Just to clarify, you can't appeal a consent order unless it was made on the basis of false evidence from the other party.

lastupenda Fri 29-Jul-11 12:58:25

Thank you for this: it does help to untangle the strands of actual justice and the blunt instrument of the law. Living in the situation it's not always easy to do that.

I have 5 years before my youngest is 14, I am already working round the clock, have a nominal amount until he retires (unless I marry) and would rather do without but need it for the kids because now I see that maintenance increases dependence and that can be abused in many subtle ways, even when on paper he's paying up. As children grow up other costs come into the equation and in a difficult relationship there is no possible negotiation. Cost of living rises. Etc.

When we were still married we had an education trust for the childrens' future. That mysterioualy disappeared. With current fees, I think most parents who can would like to feel they can at least contribute towards their children's education rather than racking up a massive debt before they've even begun, and that was our plan. I've had conflicting advice, too. I wanted to discuss setting up a trust for the children or doing a sort of three-way settlement to make sure they were OK, but my lawyer told me at the time that with his career and assets XH would have to foot any bills connected with their further education, which is why I'm also thrown that this isn't necessarily so...

Anyway. thanks again for taking the time to read and answer this thread. I know it's convoluted. But what you've said is is all useful.

mumblechum1 Fri 29-Jul-11 14:00:04

smile

Good luck

stickymits Fri 29-Jul-11 18:41:23

Last - You have described my XH (NPD and left for work colleague). The abuse off the record especially. He is a high earner and the first time there was a disagreement over access he was at the court within a month.
'In the States, as you'll probably know, repeated and frivolous court action is now recognised as a from of post-marital domestic abuse, known as 'stalking through the courts', and is particularly prevalent amongst high-earners.'
Wow is this recognised in this country? XH treats his children in the same vain as yours but his girlfriend and her children are treated to holidays and other luxuries.
I had a clean split divorce and no spousal maintenance as I was working. Unfortunately I know there is nothing I can do regarding him being financially responsible for his DC's once they leave education. Hopefully the children will see him for what he is when they are older and know I was always there for them.
I just wish he would stop the personal attacks and abuse.

lastupenda Wed 03-Aug-11 19:35:09

God, so do I. And lies to other people (including the children). And aggression. And ghastly texts late at night threatening legal action - for nothing - then letters to his lawyer the next day trying to make it look as though I have somehow been 'uncivil'. And pretending it's me who's unreasonable. It's barking mad - and exhausting. This is probably a discussion for a different forum...!
I'm fascinated by this notion of 'stalking through the courts' and am following it up, though...it may take some time.

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