“My Abusive Ex-Husand Won’t Pay the Alimony and Child Support He Owes”

I have been divorced a few years now. (We got a divorce because he left me for another woman.) I gave up my career to be a homemaker at mostly his insistence as he wouldn’t support my working. (For example, before I quit, if I was running late, finishing projects or meetings, he’d blow up my phone and threaten to divorce me.) He was extremely verbally and emotionally abusive — when I was in labor for 35 hours and the OB finally said we were going to have to consider a C-section, which he was adamantly opposed to, he told me it was my fault for not being able to suck up the pain and needing an epidural so that my labor slowed. I have now cut off all contact with him except for the bare necessities related to our three kids.

He was supposed to pay child support and alimony for a fixed period of time as well as the kids’ expenses, but it has been a battle to get him to pay me (he took me back to court to reduce the payments but was unsuccessful) as he always pays late and refuses to pay for the extra expenses he’s supposed to pay for, like our son’s occupational therapy.

Making requests for payments though my attorney has only resulted in nasty texts and attorney fees that got me nowhere. So now he hasn’t paid alimony since November and is behind on child support. I have gone back to work, but I have to start at the bottom and I don’t make enough to cover all the kids’ expenses. I am also primarily responsible for the kids on weekdays until about six, including all childcare arrangements and doctor and dentist appointments, which makes working full-time even harder. I am currently trying to cover everything with savings, but they are dwindling.

I have consulted with an attorney, but the problem is that my ex-husband terrifies me and I am scared of his reaction (like texts and emails he might send) and what effect it will have on the kids if I keep fighting him for the money he owes me. Any help to deal with this is appreciated. I am at the end of my rope. — End of My Rope

I am sorry you’re going through this. You were incredibly brave to leave your abusive husband, especially when you had no job and three kids to care for, and you continue to be brave and strong as you provide the very best for them that you can with your limited resources. I wish I had better advice for you, but the best way to deal with the lingering fear and trauma you experience as a result of having been married to an abusive asshole for years is to seek all the support you are entitled to and can afford. That means: therapy, family counseling, and applying for government assistance to help as you continue growing your earning potential and your children continue growing their independence.

You are not alone in the predicament you find yourself in. In an article published last month in Dame magazine, a single mother wrote:

“In America, noncustodial parents owe their children over $114.6 billion in child support debt.

Every day in America, over 70 percent of single mothers do not receive any child support at all. For those who receive payments, it’s often a fraction of what is owed. Nearly 37 percent of single-mom families live in poverty, a rate that is almost five times that of married couples.

And so we begin to see an epidemic of forgotten mothers and children. These moms—80 percent of custodial parents are mothers—are forced to make survival decisions each day, on top of everyday parenting decisions.


After my children’s father took off to live like Timothy Leary in the woods of Northern California, CSS would occasionally locate him. He would throw a hundred or two our way to avoid jail. Meanwhile, his balance kept growing. The kids kept growing. The bills kept coming. Money, of course, is never just money. There’s a daily weight of poverty, the guilt of barely being able to provide shoes, the exhaustion of working two jobs but never catching up on bills, the embarrassment of your kids being the only ones who can’t go to the movies because you can’t afford it.”

You are not alone in your exhaustion and your fear and all the other feelings you must have around the situation you so unfairly find yourself in, but I know that is cold comfort. And I know it’s probably cold comfort to tell you that your kids are going to be ok, that you will be ok — all of you will survive this. It will be a struggle, and there will be a lot you’ll have to sacrifice and do without, and the anxiety may not ease up for a long time, but you will get through this.

We have some family attorneys who are regular DW readers and commenters and maybe they will weigh in with additional advice, but in the meantime I will say: Keep fighting when you have the strength, but not at the risk of your emotional well-being. Get the therapy you need to process the pain you endured under the abuse of your ex. Lean on loved ones. Lean on whatever social supports are in place to help people like you. And keep your chin up and know you are doing the very best you can for yourself and your children and they are so lucky to have you.

This guy and I were talking for quite some time. We had been intimate many times but never entered into a relationship becuase he was not ready for one. We got into an argument and stopped talking for a little bit. During that time he slept with some girl one time and she ended up pregnant. He wanted her to have an abortion, but she said no and that she didn’t need him around for the baby and she would raise the baby on her own. Mind you, she has another child at home with no father. So I think she set him up just to get pregnant. Fast forward to the baby being nine months old and his finally getting a DNA test and finding out the child is his.

He is now going to be a part of this child’s life and is going to start giving this woman money every month. We have been on and off talking during this whole time and he has kept me attuned of everything that has been going on, but I just don’t know if I could ever been with someone who has a baby with someone else. It breaks my heart that the man I thought I would spend my life with and have babies with now has a child with another woman. — I am Torn.


I’m confused by what you mean when you say this other woman “set up” your fuck buddy or whatever you want to call him to get her pregnant. How do you set someone up to get you pregnant? Are you insinuating she lied about being on birth control? Or do you think that your fuck buddy didn’t know how babies were made, thatit was the woman’s job to explain to him the pregnancy risk associated with sex, and that, since she didn’t, she must have been deliberately setting him up to knock her up, because if there’s one thing a single mother wants is another baby with a man who isn’t committed to her. Collecting child support, as evidenced in the above example, is always SO easy when you’re dealing with men who don’t want to be a dads…

I think you should probably move on. You don’t sound mature enough to handle the challenges that might come up being involved with a man who has a baby with another woman. Not only that, but it’s a little strange that you’ve imagined spending your life and having babies with a man who, thus far, has only committed to giving you occasional sex and nothing more. I hope you’ve been using protection! If not, you might find yourself being accused of setting this guy up to have another baby, unwittingly, and trying to get child support from a guy who most likely won’t want to pay it.

Related: “My Younger Lover Knocked Up Another Woman” and “My Husband Keeps Having Babies With Another Woman!”


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.


  1. Juliecatharine says:

    LW 1 I’m so sorry your ex is such a piece of shit. Just remember that no matter how hard it is it’s a small price to pay for not being under that whack job’s thumb. My advice is to keep every single text and email he sends you and file for a restraining order. Definitely keep fighting for what he owes you. Hopefully someone can advise if it’s possible to get your legal fees paid for by him since he is 100% responsible for them. Save every receipt, track mileage, document everything having to do with his obligations. You may want to try posting to r/legaladvice on reddit or a divorce/child support subreddit. The folks over there can be really helpful. I would try r/personalfinance also—that sub is great for nitty gritty advice on making tough financial times better. Good luck to you and your kiddos.

  2. I have known women to get pregnant on purpose, although at the end of the day the man is response for the birth control too, especially if it’s a one night stand so there isn’t trust, knowledge of her actually being on birth control. I agree though, you’re thinking of raising kids with someone you have nothing more than a sexual relationship with? Being with him because he has kids is a non issue because you aren’t with him. Plenty of people don’t want to be with someone with kids, it’s not the end of the world. You don’t want to, and he isn’t offering up a relationship anyway so this one is already solved.

  3. Juliecatharine says:

    It is truly amazing how many one night stands result in pregnancy! Maybe the novelty gives sperm something akin to a nitro boost? Scientists should really start studying this.

    1. Made me think of the Friends episode when Phoebe is trying to get pregnant for her brother and he says “why don’t you just get drunk, that worked for a lot of girls in my high school”.

      1. Juliecatharine says:

        Hmmmm…Iwonder if alcohol + one night stand = guaranteed pregnancy. That must be how soooo many unsuspecting men get trapped. Is anyone a biologist? We need science to weigh in ASAP. This epidemic must be stopped.

      2. I know a couple who got pregnant every time they went to Hawaii. Also worth looking into.

    2. LisforLeslie says:

      I have a relative who married an awful woman. He threatened divorce with her three times. They have three children. Schmuck.

  4. LW1, can’t the state garnish your ex’s wages? I’m not a lawyer but I would think that if you can prove you aren’t getting your court-ordered child support and alimony payments, the state can get involved and he won’t have a choice.

    1. Ya this should be fairly standard. My bosses wife got the state to do so after one, one day late payment, because he thought it was the 31st but it was actually the first. She just called, filled out paperwork. Really simple.

      1. I should mention how “special” she is ?

    2. This was absolutely my first thought. Don’t trust the SOB.

    3. My ex boyfriend owned his own business. So there was no real paycheck. He had to go into a state website and pay online weekly/bimonthly whatever they had set up, I don’t remember. There was no state garnishing wages for him.

      1. Same with my boss. Which is funny she is having his wages garnished when he pays his own wages. Best part is due to it having to go through the state it took a week longer. She realized quickly and said she would cancel it and he just said oh no no no. I know not ONE other payment was late as I wrote every check myself. She’s a special breed though in many ways.

    4. That’s what I was thinking…that she should go through Child Support Enforcement. Although some States are much better at following through with enforcement than others. My husband’s ex was in FL and they were all over him if he was ever late (he paid his off a while back) but my ex lives in FL and I am in GA…he still owes me thousands. (My daughter is 21 now) child support enforcement was not as helpful here. I will have to go to court and file contempt…State of GA does not go after arrears only cases, but FL does and very aggressively.

  5. Bacon Mistress says:

    I dont think LW is necessarily immature. I just think she is hurt right now. She doesnt want a life with a guy who fathered a child with someone else but was starting to invest in this guy. The pointed accusation that the other woman “set him up” is just pain lashing out at a scapegoat… unfairly, but matters of the heart can momentarily render someone crazy.

    LET GO, girl! You guys dont really have THAT much going on for you to be thinking of helping him with this shitty baggage. Also, this guy slept with someone else after an argument. Relationship or not that just reeks of spitefulness and insecurity. Find someone better.

  6. The unlikely one shot super sperm strikes again!

    LW 2, it is extremely unlikely that your ex was the victim of bad luck (or perfidy). He has had an ongoing sexual relationship with her and after getting her pregnant, copped to the least incriminating lie that he could pull off.

  7. Anonymous says:

    LW1 – I am so so sorry you are going through this and so glad you got away from your ex. You do not have to deal with this. Have you contacted your state child support agency? They should be able to garnish his wages – it’s actually the standard in our state (even if there isn’t a payment issue). Let them chase him down. Also, there are sites you can use to coordinate visits and schedules so you don’t have to deal with each other directly. My husband had to go that route because he couldn’t have a conversation with his daughter’s mother without things getting nasty and personal. The one we use is Our Family Wizard – it’s great and takes the emotion out of it.

    LW2 – I actually wrote into Wendy with a similar issue almost 6 years ago (wow!), which is why I’m posting anonymously. The main difference though is that my husband (then boyfriend) was serious and looking for a commitment – he didn’t find out about the baby until we were dating for a couple months (his daughter’s mother was a friend w/ benefits – they went to high school together). And while it’s hard for some people to imagine (and is infuriating when I think of my friends who have trouble conceiving), once is all it takes. His daughter’s mother flat out admitted she lied about birth control – she wanted a baby. Unfortunately it happens, and some guys are just dumb and irresponsible enough to not take precautions. I don’t really understand it either and can’t imagine why a woman would want to have a child in that situation, but it is what it is. In our case, I think she thought he would change his mind about being with her. She’s even alluded to it being a mistake once she realized how hard being a single mom is (duh). We are super happy, and I don’t regret my decision to stick around for a second. HOWEVER, you have no idea what you are in for. Especially since this guy sounds wishy washy, and this woman already has another child. We have gone through more hell than you can possibly imagine and survived only because we have a rock solid foundation and strong communication. We dealt with severe money problems due to the high amount of child support my husband pays, barely seeing each other because of the 80-hour work weeks he had to do, coparenting issues, and not least of all, craziness and drama from his daughter’s mother. She did everything she could to cause problems for us. I had no idea what I was getting into. It was all worth it, but I can’t tell you how hard it was and how much we struggled. And through all of this, there is a child who is completely innocent in all of this caught in the middle. Proceed with caution – this guy doesn’t sound worth it from the little you said.

  8. Avatar photo Guy Friday says:

    Have no fear; Attorney GF, Esq. is here!
    *cape billows in the wind*
    *turns off fan because he realizes what a douche he sounds like*

    No, but seriously, LW1, a few thoughts:
    1.) His texts/calls/etc. are designed to make you think twice about collecting from him. And, really, it seems to be working, because you’re concerned about it. I’m not going to lie and say there’s a fool-proof, 100% guaranteed way for you to get the money without the threats; restraining orders and injunctions are pieces of paper, and someone not scared of criminal prosecution is unlikely to be particularly concerned about stopping the threats. I WILL say, however, that I have yet to meet a family law judge who wouldn’t bring the hammer down against an abuser like that, and my friends who are Domestic Violence prosecutors would eagerly and with great glee run a Violation of Injunction prosecution against your ex to the ends of the earth without breaking a drop of sweat, because when you’re that big of an ass it makes it easy to root against you (him, of course, not you.)

    2.) States — and even courts within states — vary on the issue of whether they’ll award attorney’s fees, but I would say that most courts I’ve been in front of in my state would do so for particularly egregious instances like this one where you never should have had to bring the motion in the first place. But depending on your county there may be non-profits or bar associations that are set up specifically to deal with clients in your situation. While I do a lot of criminal work too, I’d say the major purpose of the non-profit law firm I run, and the bulk of our clientele, are situations exactly like this. And, really, any lawyer who claims this is a ton of work is lying to you, because if you have YOUR documents in order it’s as simple as filing a contempt motion, serving him, and waiting for court to come and him to shoot himself in the foot.

    3.) Again, your mileage may vary, but the legislature in my state has criminalized the willful failure to pay child support (a misdemeanor for each 30 day period, a felony for each 120 day period). That isn’t to say everyone who misses a payment gets charged, but when you have cases like what you’ve described, particularly when minor children are involved, the local District Attorney’s office often does not hesitate to prosecute, again because your ex is being a douche. You might want to call your local Child Support Enforcement office and look into the option, because, honestly, it’s not like you even need to testify at all; it’s all court records and child support documentation that professionals who don’t get rattled on the stand can easily talk about.

    So those are my thoughts. I have no problem making more specific referrals if Wendy wants to connect the two of us off-site, though I may not have a lot of connections if it’s not a state whose laws I’m familiar with.

    1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      Thank you so much for this helpful info!

    2. Ruby Tuesday says:

      As a fellow Esquire, I support this message.

    3. Juliecatharine says:

      *turns fan back on ‘cause capes are cool and you’re so not a douche*

      1. Avatar photo Guy Friday says:

        Aww. *blushes*

      2. Avatar photo Guy Friday says:

        In fairness, I have this “nails on a chalkboard” thing with lawyers who either (a) ask to be identified with their first name’s initial and middle name (ex: “J. Langford Pennyworth”; I’m not talking about people who go by their middle name and then sign the first initial when they HAVE to on legal documents) and/or (b) add “Esq.” to the end of their name like it’s some big deal. I think it’s pretentious like nothing else, like you’re saying “Worship me! I’m a lawyer!” And, yeah, it’s a lot of work being a lawyer, but it doesn’t make me inherently WORTHIER of things than, say, a stonemason or an electrician or anyone else who learned their craft well.

    4. I did have my ex arrested on an abandonment warrant. That was before I filed for divorce. I had him served with divorce papers in jail 🙂

  9. dinoceros says:

    LW2: He’s a grown man. He’s capable of preventing pregnancy as well. Ask him if he’s ever heard of condoms.

    You should just move on. It’s one thing to date a parent, but it’s another when that person is just learning how to be a dad and didn’t even plan on it. Especially when you already don’t think you could handle it. No point in getting more invested in this situation when you know it’s probably not going to work out.

  10. I don’t understand why all these women are so desperate to settle for guys who have no interest in them and loads of baggage… is there a man shortage? I have been married for a while now, but when I was dating there were lots to choose from. LW he isn’t the only one out there MOA!

  11. From the LW:

    “Thank you so much. And thank your readers. I wanted to reply, particularly to the attorney to offered to help me find legal services but was scared of accidentally posting my name. I actually have a good attorney but it was a mental block in dragging him to court. After many of your readers posted so adamantly that I should go after him, it kind of pushed me to understand I am not doing anything wrong. Not a single person seemed to be equivocal. I spoke with my attorney late yesterday and she is going to file a motion for contempt. To clarify, I hadn’t done so before because I was trying to amicably resolve things without taking him to court which is where the legal fees with no results were incurred— letters telling him he was in arrears and attempts at payment plans.

    I will keep you updated and sincerely appreciate everyone’s help. “

    1. So glad Lw wrote and already contacted her attorney. You are owed and deserve this. We can be a blunt group on this site but we are here to give advice and sometimes kick someone in the buns to do what they need to do for themselves. I wish you the best of luck with this. I have all the faith that it’ll be worth it.

    2. Juliecatharine says:

      Nicely done LW! There is no equivocation here. He isn’t paying what he legally owes you and more importantly what he owes your children. Take the gloves off.

    3. I don’t blame you for wanting to amicably resolve things, but honestly, he was an abuser and he was using your desire to maintain direct contact and solve this amicably to keep abusing you.
      You don’t owe your abuser that kind of consideration. Let the lawyer take it from here.

      1. I agree, SpaceySteph. LW, good for you for going after what your children are owed! If he continues to harass you – document, document, document. Save every text and email. There may be some kind of app for saving that info – others more tech-savvy than I am may know! If he calls or harasses you in person, immediately write down the details of the interaction (including time, date, location). You may need all that information later for legal proceedings.

    4. Avatar photo Guy Friday says:

      Hey, I’m ALL for negotiated resolutions. But sometimes you just have to litigate an issue. I always tell my clients “Make sure you can say with a straight face that you tried to be reasonable.” You obviously can, and I suspect if you asked your lawyer how she felt about doing this she’d tell you she has absolutely no problem turning him upside down and shaking out his pockets 🙂

    5. Good job OP! I hope they also find a way to stop him contacting you in such an intimidating way.

  12. LW1 – No one has mentioned this, but there are number of ‘court approved’ texting apps that are designed to help former couples work out all child-related issues. Any texts that are sent between the two parties are also cc’ed to the court. You can work out visitation and child support payments through this, and then block your ex on your regular phone/email. Also, the court doesn’t look to kindly on people who have documented harassment through these texting systems.

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