Once you're out of limbo - that odd and occasionally cathartic period between separation and divorce, which in my case lasted an excruciating 469 days - well, you're supposed to be done. Divorced and fairly angst-free. You indulge in occasional conversations with the ex that run along the lines of, "Hey, can we trade weekends this month," and "Dude, sorry I forgot to pack pants for the five-year-old." But that's it. Free and clear and living your own life, footloose and ex-free.
Except it doesn't work that way.
And it's not even about the kids. Because once you get into a routine, you can handle the kids. Most of the time.
No, it's about the money.
You'd think it would be easy. Shared marital assets? Sell them and split the proceeds. Or divvy them up fair and square. Shared debt? You can't sell it. So you do your best to divvy. You each take responsibility for your own bits and pieces and write it all down on paper, neatly notarized and approved by the judge.
Except the banks disagree. Once you co-sign something that isn't a mortgage and therefore can't be settled and sold, you are apparently co-signed for life. Or at least for the life of the loan. Which means that even if your divorce decree states: "Do you, Mr. Ex-Husband, take this debt, to love, honor and cherish till death do you part?" and he completely agrees that yes, he will take that debt, the bank says, "Uh, no way man. That debt's still married to your ex-wife."
Your debt ties you to your ex as much as your children do. You brought it into the world together, so you share responsibility for it until it's fully grown and able to live on its own. Until then, it gets to eat you out of house and home and keep you from getting the great, low-rate refi you so richly deserve.
I just hope I don't have to send the damn thing to college.
Lesson learned: Mind your money, honey.