Ask A Lawyer: Do I Pay Her Rent And Bills Plus Child Support?


My wife and I are thinking very seriously about getting a divorce. We’ve been married for almost three years and have a daughter of twenty-two months. We currently live in New York City, and she has been unemployed since May 2008. She keeps saying that she can’t find a job.

Her family lives in Texas, but she doesn’t want to go there because I won’t be able to see my daughter. Our current rent is $2000 a month and I wanted to know what will happen if we separate. Do I have to pay for her rent and bills plus child support?  My salary is not that large, and there is no way I can afford all of these expenses.



Starting with the rent issue, if you have a long-term lease then the lease obligation would need to be addressed prior to, or as part of, any divorce.  The divorce does not change the obligation to the landlord, only the responsibilities between the spouses to each other as to covering the obligation.  If the two of you are going to be liable for a lease, then you will need to evaluate how the payment will be handled.  If you are on a month-to-month rental that you can terminate, you should expect for both of you to have to find post-divorce housing that will be affordable in light of your respective incomes and support obligations.

As your wife is employable, she will have an obligation to support herself.  Her exact obligation will depend upon her employment history, job skills, employment options, finances, and assuming that, if needed, daycare for your daughter is an affordable option.  Assuming you are going to continue working in New York City post-divorce, you may be faced with being put in a position of either temporarily supporting your wife to some degree, as well as supporting your child, in order for your wife to be able to stay in the area, or your wife moving to Texas (or some other location) in order to find more affordable costs of living, resulting in an issue as to which of you will have the primary residence for your daughter.

As you advise that a divorce is something both of you are considering, the best first step would be for both of you to review your probable post-divorce finances toward convincing your wife to obtain suitable, full-time employment in the New York area to avoid the complications of a custody dispute due to her having to relocate.  You would need to review these issues with an experienced domestic litigation attorney licensed in your state.      


Richard Coffee is a Litigation Manager in the Belleville Illinois office of Cordell & Cordell. He is an experienced divorce attorney whose practice is devoted to domestic litigation. He is licensed in the State of Illinois and is admitted to practice law in the U.S. District Courts for Northern, Central and Southern Illinois.

Mr. Coffee has extensive domestic litigation trial experience representing clients in courts throughout Illinois on all aspects of domestic litigation, including the representation of clients who are current or retired military personnel with issues under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, clients involved in state court jurisdictional disputes due to the relocation of one or both parties from or to Illinois, and clients with government or private pension benefit valuation and division issues. 

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