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My divorce was over 27 years ago. My ex-husband paid very little child support or alimony. My current husband paid for my children’s college, weddings, taxes I owed from my previous marriage, and even loans my ex-husband had borrowed from my parents and other family members.
He has told church leaders when getting a temple recommend that I have forgiven him this obligation to pay all of his back child support, which is a lie. Consequently, he’s able to have a current temple recommend.
He has never been able to hold down a job but is now employed by my son-in-law. My children are grown and have children of their own now. I am retired and have a wonderful life. However, it still bothers me that he never had to be financially responsible when it came to me or our children.
I have always encouraged our children to have a relationship with him, which some of them do. I still have to be around him and his new family at family gatherings. It still bothers me that he has never had to be financially responsible.
So, the questions are: After so many years should I pursue getting the back child support and alimony I never received? Will this affect my relationship with my children if I do? Should I consult my children about pursuing this? Or, should I just forget the past?
This is certainly a painful story of one man’s failure to take care of his financial obligations to his ex-wife and children. It makes sense that you would want some type of accountability and closure from years of struggle to make it on your own without his support. Regardless of whether you seek financial restitution, you carry a heavy burden and need relief.
I’m not an attorney, so I can’t give you legal counsel about your options. However, if you do a cursory Internet search on collecting back child support and alimony, it appears that most states have statutes of limitations around enforcement of collecting unpaid child support. Depending on your state, you may not have legal recourse even if you decided to pursue that option. Of course, you can always check with a qualified attorney to explore your options.
I have no idea how complicated or expensive it would be to recover any money from your delinquent ex-husband. As you already know, you can only take so much of the emotional and physical toll of trying to get someone to face reality. He’s made it clear that he has no intentions of telling the truth or fulfilling his financial obligations. While I certainly advocate for justice and fairness, you’ll want to measure the personal cost of trying to hold him financially and emotionally accountable.
It appears that you’re seeking more than just financial restitution, correct? You mentioned that you’ve created a wonderful life despite frustrating odds. You’re worried about the impact on your children, but as you consider the impact this has already had on you, what will change with your current life if you turn your focus back to your ex-husband’s delinquency? Thirty years is enough time to know the truth about your ex-husband. It’s unlikely your efforts would produce anything more satisfying than the life you’ve already created.
You’ve been unfairly misrepresented to your children, to church leaders, and countless others. It’s understandable that, more than anything, you want the truth to prevail. The extent of the damage is impossible to measure and there’s really no way your ex-husband can undo what he’s done (even if he paid back the money). I find great comfort in Dr. Wendy Ulrich’s counsel on these difficult dilemmas:
“In most cases, and certainly in the case of serious wrongdoing, those who have injured or robbed us are not in a position to restore what they have taken. They cannot make full restitution for our lost peace of mind, self-esteem, or sense of well-being. They cannot give us back lost trust, hope, or safety. They cannot restore our lost options or heal our worldview. So if the people who hurt us cannot restore these things to us, how can we ever get back what we lost?
This is where mercy comes in. I have come to believe mercy is primarily for our benefit, not just the benefit of the wrongdoer. In fact, the more we have been wronged, the more we deserve to forgive, for forgiving others is what gives us access to the storehouse of the redeemer, from which all debts can be finally and fully repaid. As we grant mercy, we gain the right to reclaim our lost blessings from Jesus Christ himself. We can further allow him to reassure us of our infinite worth, our capacity (with his help) to heal, and our opportunity to also sin and repent without being eternally cast off. When we forgive others, Christ assumes their debt to us, and we can then look to him for the healing, peace, security, hope, trust, well-being, and self-image he alone can restore. He is willing to take this debt if we are willing to release the original debtor to him to deal with on his terms and with his infinite wisdom and perspective on all the factors involved in their choices. We allow Jesus to deal as he sees fit with those who owed us, for now the debt is between him and them alone. We get out of the middle.”[i]
There’s no need for you to stay engaged in a battle with your ex-husband. You appear to have a good life now and it would be a tragedy for you to disrupt it with a crusade to restore something that may never be resolved. You’ve suffered enough and it’s important for you to enjoy the relationships with your children without burdening them with the crimes of their father. Neither your ex-husband or your children can restore the peace you seek.
President Joseph F. Smith said the following after years of being publicly criticized and accused in newspaper editorials: “Let them alone. Let them go. Give them the liberty of speech they want. Let them tell their own story and write their own doom.”[ii] His peace was more important than getting the final word. Your peaceful life is your response to both your ex-husband and your children. You are safe and secure and it’s important to protect the life you’ve built.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]
If you or a loved one are struggling with the devastating impact of pornography issues, sexual betrayal, and relationship trauma, I have created a 6-part audio program to help married couples strengthen their recovery. You can purchase the 6-hour audio program here for a limited time at the reduced price of $29 – https://geoff-steurer.mykajabi.com/marriage-recovery
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). Geoff also hosts the Illuminate Podcast (https://soundcloud.com/geoff-steurer/sets/illuminate-podcast) and has produced programs and resources to help couples rebuild broken trust. He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
You can connect with him at:
[i] Excerpt From: Ulrich, Wendy. “The Temple Experience.” CFI, An Imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc., 2012. iBooks.
[ii] Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939, p. 339.
AnonymousAugust 20, 2019
It's easier to forgive the debt when the creditor has moved on and no longer needs the money. But is it fair to tell a parent who scrimped for years, working two or three jobs and making huge personal sacrifices to raise several children alone that they are now expected for forgive the debt while the other parent has spent years living a spendthrift life and ignoring all family responsibilities? A parent who lived paycheck to paycheck supporting the family alone may now be facing retirement age with little to no savings because of the lack of support from the other parent. Forgiveness is important, but so is taking responsibility. It is possible to legally pursue the debt after the children are grown. Too many deadbeat parents are learning that if they just wait long enough the whole thing will go away. And too many custodial parents are facing financial ruin because of it. Therefore, I don't think it's fair to give a one-size-fits-all answer that it's best to forgive. For the letter writer, sure, she's got a good life and lots of other resources. For others, the right answer is to pursue that back support, especially when the other parent has the means to pay and simply refuses to do so.
AlbertAugust 20, 2019
Isn't the fact that the ex-husband is purposefully being deceitful about his payment of child support in order to obtain his Temple Recommend significant on many levels both in his personal life and in his functioning within the Church?