By JoAnne C. Holt, Divorce financial analyst
I’m sounding off in this article so men listen up! A chronic, financially dependent spouse is not created in a vacuum without your participation!
If you find yourself ending a marriage after years of begging your spouse to stop recklessly spending only to be met with deaf ears, you are not alone.
But let’s look into the marriage and determine why this happened, how to mitigate this problem and what to do if you have reached your last straw.
Many men really are very generous and want to provide a nice lifestyle for their spouse and children. They take great pride in making enough money so their spouse does not have to work.
This is a wonderful family structure allowing the stay-at-home parent time to be a hands on parent, schedule the family activities, cook healthy meals and more. While many start out this way, that is not the way it is when they walk into my office.
The picture looks more like this: your spouse has a babysitter on-call so she can play tennis, a housekeeper several times a week to clean and do laundry, does not like to cook, loves you to work extra hours for the additional income and refuses to balance a checkbook let alone take responsibility for paying bills and understanding in-flow versus out-flow.
One day you seem to have an epiphany – where is the balance and why am I here?
Frankly, I believe many couples may do better with a pre-nuptial agreement that addresses not only the financial issues, but also outlines the contracted duties each agrees to perform in the marriage.
Of course I cannot opine as to the effectiveness of this in a court, but clearly you have in writing what you expect if one spouse stays home and does not work and the imposed penalty for breach of contract.
Whether you want to redirect your marriage to a better ‘partnering’ of effort and contribution or you want to end it, you must work to modify your lifestyle before you file for divorce.
If you have a spouse behaving like an out of control teenager, set boundaries like you would a child.
- Set strict limits on the credit cards or cancel them entirely.
- Setup a bank account in your spouse’s name alone.
- Fund the account with an agreed upon amount and an agreed upon budget.
- Set rewards in place for accountability and savings.
If the children are older, encourage and be sincere in your belief that a part-time or full-time career for her would be helpful to the family on many levels.
The additional income can be used for college funds, vacations, luxuries and more. This is also an opportunity for your spouse to be ready should a tragedy befall the family and her income is critical to continued financial stability.
Tragedy is not always death with a fat life insurance policy to set things right. Worse is a disability with money going out and none or less coming in.
This topic was prompted by a mediation I participated in this week. The spouse was complaining that the husband could pay more in alimony if he didn’t take five weeks of vacation a year.
I barked, “Are you kidding? She has 52 weeks a year of vacation!”
The point is that is the lifestyle that evolved in this marriage – husband works, wife plays. Unfortunately, when it comes time to leave the marriage, that attitude does not seem to change.
JoAnne C. Holt is a Florida-based CPA, certified family mediator, and certified divorce financial analyst. She also founded www.standbyhousing.com, an organization that presents alternative housing solutions to fathers going through a divorce. Her columns on finances and divorce run monthly on DadsDivorce.com. Send her an e-mail or visit her website holtcpafirm.com.