Dear Jody

By Jody Valley

Swimming in plastic

Q: I have a big problem that I don't know how to handle. I am writing to you because I have no one else I can turn to, that I can trust. Rather than beat around the bush about it I will just come out and say it. I am head over heels in debt and I don't know how to get out. It has gotten so bad I don't even answer my phone or open up my mail. At any time, I think they could come and take me and everything away. I don't know if I could go to jail for not paying or what, but I can tell you the people I owe have gotten pretty nasty about it.
I am just 2 years out of college and feel like I have totally ruined my life. I will never see the light of day. It began in college when I kept getting loans that I didn't have to pay back until I was out of school. And then, on top of that, I got all these credit cards that had low interest and it just seemed like a good idea, and I thought I would pay it back later. Then when I graduated and got a good job, I had to move and set up an apartment and get a new car and all that goes along with a new life, so I charged some more. Now I don't have enough money to pay it back and, if my boss finds out, I could lose my job. What should I do to get my life under control again? I am so desperate I will do what ever you say.

A: Well, for starters you need to stop all the charging. Get rid of your cards and then sit down and make a budget about how much it costs you to live each month. After you do your budget, figure out what is not necessary and what you can live without–like, a cable TV is not a necessity. Then figure out what you have to pay on your credit cards or loans. Write to the credit card companies and places you have loans with and let them know what you can do. Also, there are places out there that you can get credit counseling, the not for profit ones are usually less costly such as Green Path Debt Solutions. If all else fails, you can talk with a bankruptcy attorney. They can let you know if you qualify and what the ramifications of bankruptcy would be.

Get counsel and be prepared

Q: Jody, I just don't know what to do with my 2 children. I have been divorced for about 2 years. I got the divorce because my wife caught me with a good friend of ours in a compromising position, if you know what I mean. She did not want to stay married to me even though I promised nothing like that would ever happen again. Anyway, I moved out, but still kept a lot of contact with my family, I would even include my former wife from time to time. I see my children at least once a week and they stay with me on weekends. They are 8 and 14. We live in the same neighborhood, so it really doesn't affect their friends, schools or outside activities.
My former wife has been saying that she likes me having them so much because it gives her time to pursue her art work, which she has never had time for before. So up until now, it was working out as well as it could given the divorce. The problem came because I started going out and dating some men in the last few weeks and apparently she heard about it. She said that I promised it would never happen again, otherwise she would have never agreed to my having contact with my children. I only said it would never happen again in my marriage, but now I am not married any more. She said she didn't mind if I date women, it's just that she doesn't want my kids exposed to my perversion. She is threatening to not let my kids come over anymore. I told her if she does that, I will stop paying child support. I just don't know if I can stop dating for the next 10 years until my kids are grown. What should I do? I see my options as giving in and not dating, getting a lawyer and having a battle over the kids, or just giving up and moving away so I can have my own life. What would you advise?

A: I don't know if you have seen a lawyer, but that would be the first thing I would do. He can advise you on what your legal rights are and how to best handle things. Don't stop paying child support. That money is for your children and the courts don't look favorably on people who quit their payments because they are fighting with their former partner. You didn't say whether or not you have told your children about your sexual orientation. If not, you may need to because of what their mother may say to them or what they may hear from others. It's always better to tell people on your own terms and in your own way, than to be forced into telling them in the spur of the moment. Good luck, and let me know how things turn out.

(Jody Valley spent 12 years as a clinical social worker. She worked with the LGBT community both as a counselor and a workshop leader in the areas of coming out, self-esteem and relationship issues. The "Dear Jody" column appears weekly.)>